UK Release Date: 6th June 2018
Runtime: 128 minutes
Director: JA Bayona
Writer: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Toby Jones
Synopsis: With the island’s volcano due to erupt any day, former park manager Claire and trainer Owen mount an ambitious plan to rescue the dinosaurs before they die out forever.
Since the Jurassic Park franchise returned in 2015 – busting a surprising number of blocks in the process and becoming the third highest-grossing movie of all time shortly after its release – there has been a constant refrain from fans, critics and well… everybody. Get out of the bloody park. That wish is comprehensively fulfilled in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which spends enough time on Isla Nublar to meet the adventure quotient, but it’s also a shady business thriller and a gothic horror movie to boot.
Incoming director JA Bayona brings with him a gift for juggling tones, though Fallen Kingdom notably lacks the emotional gut punches of either The Impossible or A Monster Calls. His first act is as zippy as a toddler on a Fanta drip and the result is an unfocused and disjointed opening to the story, pushing and pulling the audience in various directions.
The gist is that, three years after the Indominus Rex went on the rampage, the volcano on Isla Nublar is no longer dormant, endangering the dinosaurs that have been quarantined there. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is campaigning for the animals to be rescued, while Dr Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) tells a government hearing that he thinks they should be allowed to die, righting humanity’s interference in the natural order.
Eli (Rafe Spall), handpicked heir to park co-founder Lockwood, approaches Claire with the idea of rescuing the dinosaurs and transporting them to a specially created island sanctuary. Eli is particularly keen to save trained velociraptor Blue, which leads Claire to recruit Owen (Chris Pratt) to assist in the mission. It’s no spoiler – particularly given the plot-heavy trailers – to say that all is not as it seems, particularly when the sinister Eversol (Toby Jones) shows up with a bulging wallet and some dubious morals.
This leads the plot of Fallen Kingdom back to Isla Nublar, which gives the movie its central backbone. A rescue mission quickly becomes a fiery fight for survival and the first opportunity for some of the movie’s surprisingly crunchy set pieces. Anyone concerned that a family-friendly blockbuster can’t show the full range of a dinosaur’s deadly abilities need not worry, as Bayona seldom holds back in his scenes of shocking violence – whether dino on dino or dino on human. These are seriously bad beasts.
The centrepiece of the marketing this time around has been the newly created Indoraptor – a heartless killing machine engineered to be the perfect weapon. When the third act leads the story into the environs of a gothic mansion, the creature is set loose and immediately sets about prowling the halls like an even toothier Nosferatu – a character explicitly homaged in one shadow-casting sequence. The Indoraptor is a compelling creation and a viable threat even in a franchise that has built a reputation on one-upping its own monsters.
There’s no such one-upping on the human front, with the dynamic between Howard’s suit-turned-activist and Pratt’s quippy Han Solo meets Steve Irwin almost exactly as it was last time around. There hasn’t been a great deal of personal growth for these characters and Bayona’s movie isn’t interested in providing it. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Fallen Kingdom is a film in which the dinosaurs are far more rounded than the humans. This also applies to the villains, who are decidedly one-note, with the considerable talent of Toby Jones wasted on a floppy Donald Trump wig. There is a laugh earned, though, when an equally Trump-esque military man drops a “nasty woman” line seemingly nicked directly from the mouth of the current commander-in-chief. Justice Smith also shines as a tech whizz kid with an impressive talent for a high-pitched scream.
But nobody has come to a Jurassic Park movie for the humans and Bayona knows that. It’s in the action and the adventure that this movie sings a delightful tune, placing the characters in a very inventive selection of tight spots, assisted by the drooling jaws of innumerable prehistoric beasties. There’s plenty here for fans of Bayona’s disaster movie fare when the volcanic island is drenched in glowing lava and more than enough to induce shudders for devotees of The Orphanage. There are punch-the-air moments littered throughout, though Michael Giacchino’s score often soft-pedals on providing the full, cathartic delight of that iconic John Williams theme.
The most daring element of all this, though, is that Fallen Kingdom sets the table for a far more interesting and unshackled franchise. For the first time, it feels as if there’s an impetus for a sequel that could exceed what has come before it, rather than simply provide another injection of moolah into the bloated coffers of its studio. Bayona hasn’t only delivered a widely enjoyable summer blockbuster; he has blown the doors off the formula that contained the series’ full potential. This franchise, it seems, finds a way.
Pop or Poop?
With compelling, violent dino action and a selection of memorable set pieces, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fitting addition to a legendary franchise. JA Bayona brings a new tone and a new sensibility to this universe and, in the process, changes up the way these movies will look in the future.
The human characters are something of a disappointment and there’s not nearly enough Goldblum, but this delivers as a straightforward cinematic thrill ride… with big CGI dinosaurs.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.