What is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom?
Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park run by Hammond-like CEO Simon Masrani, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are reunited. Their mission? To head to Isla Nublar and assist a rescue team intent on saving 11 species of dinosaur from a volcanic eruption on the island. Thrown into another hair-raising situation, they discover that they’ve been lied to. And that there’s a far more sinister plan in play threatening humankind, and the entire planet.
The Freshness Issue
The problem facing the Jurassic franchise has always been keeping it fresh. How do you sustain interest in a saga that revolves around dinosaurs eating humans? It’s always going to be the same thing, right? Back in the 1990s, sequels simply tended to amplify the action – and volume – of the original. Story and characterisation took a back seat. Second instalment The Lost World and Jurassic Park III delivered precisely that.
But studios have learned lessons in how to build ongoing franchises, thanks in no small part to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s successes and, to a degree, Star Wars. Fans no longer have to brace themselves for increasingly inferior versions of their favourite film as time marches on, while their enthusiasm for it ebbs away. The age of episodic cinema is upon us, with studios that get it right onto a winner.
2015’s Jurassic World served as a refresh, if not a reset, of the dinosaur saga. With it came renewed interest in — and hope for — its future output. That’s not to say 2 and 3 bombed – they didn’t, despite mixed reviews – and that’s not to say that Jurassic World isn’t without its issues. But in Fallen Kingdom, director JA Bayona was given the chance to make an absorbing follow up that would lead into the third and final climactic instalment of the new trilogy. And, for the most part, he succeeds.
The Implausible Stunts
Fallen Kingdom takes the story to unexpected places, following a thrilling if somewhat familiar first half that brings Owen and Claire back to Isla Nublar – the location of John Hammond’s original park and, later, Masrani’s fully functioning Jurassic World.
Here, they encounter the first of the film’s three big new threats. A volcano. Its imminent eruption is the reason for their visit since it’s set to wipe out the island’s prehistoric population unless something is done. Owen’s trained velociraptor Blue is on that island, and it’s saving her that’s the impetus for Owen’s return.
As a furious Mother Nature spews out her fiery wrath, directing it at the man-made abominations below, she doesn’t bank on the wiles of man to get in the way of her plan to obliterate the once-extinct beasts.
Man wins out, ensuring 11 species make it off the self-destructing island. And the efforts to do so make for some nail-biting – if thoroughly implausible – sequences. There’s that ridiculous plummeting Gyrosphere you may have seen in the trailers, as well as Owen’s close call with some lava and an improbable jeep leap from pier to ship. Well done, Claire, but come on. It’s a shame that such thrills don’t transfer to the sequences in the Lockwood Estate mansion where dino fights and stunts are more by-numbers.
The Evil Machinations
The Lockwood Estate is where the salvaged dinosaurs are headed – into the clutches of the nefarious Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who has enlisted the help of a man named Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones) to sell them off to the highest bidder. All while Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) – John Hammond’s former partner who has entrusted Mills with the running of his estate in his ill-health – lies tucked up in bed on the top floor of his mansion.
But of course, there’s worse to come. In the form of Dr Henry Wu, chief genetic engineer at InGen, the company behind the reanimated dinosaurs. Wu brings plenty of his Gotham character Hugo Strange to the role of Wu, a mad scientist-type with an interest in splicing. He’s the man responsible for building the fearsomely intelligent and exceptionally dangerous Indominus Rex from the previous film. He wants to take things a step further – and Blue is the key. Only, Owen, Claire and newcomer Zia have a significant role to play here.
The New Characters
Zia is the best of the film’s new characters. Played by Daniela Pineda, she brings some humour and capability to the good-guy team. A dino-doctor and member of the Dinosaur Protection Group, she makes a memorable double act with the less well-developed Franklin (Justice Smith), a scaredy-cat systems analyst along for the ride.
Otherwise, the film suffers from its badly drawn villains, the worst of which is Toby Jones’s auctioneer. He’s a caricature played simultaneously for laughs and repugnance, and Jones hams it up to jarring effect. Spall’s Mills is less cartoonish but no better realised. He does have one compelling line though, which draws attention to the fact that both Claire and Owen played their part in what transpires.
Then, of course, there’s young Maisie, the little girl you will have seen in the trailers being terrorised by the new hybrid predator – the film’s second new big threat — while she cowers in bed. She’ll be hugely significant to the future of the franchise and is central to the film’s most astonishing twist. What of the film’s third big threat? We won’t spoil that here.
The Returning Favourites
An expanded role for Claire, meanwhile, addresses criticism of the character from the preceding film. Firstly, she’s developed a maternal instinct and secondly, but no less importantly, she’s learned her lesson about wearing stilettos in life-or-death situations. Mind you, she did cope impressively well in those high heels first time around.
Those of you hoping for more of Jeff Goldblum’s sardonic and eccentric Dr Ian Malcolm, however, will be disappointed. He gets a small role here topping and tailing the movie as he offers prescient words of wisdom to an assembled hearing.
As for the dinosaurs, there are standout moments for the franchise’s significant beasts. Blue takes a starring role, re-establishing her connection with Owen and proving invaluable as a sidekick. Plus, we get to see her backstory via adorable video interactions between Owen and the infant velociraptor. T-Rex gets screen time but it takes a backseat to Blue and the new hybrid, while the stealthy aquatic megabeast mosasaurus is back in a crowd-pleasing appearance.
The Good Humour Balance
In the wake of comedy-laden blockbusters such as Solo and Avengers: Infinity War, Fallen Kingdom refreshingly dials back the one-liners. There’s humour – sometimes unintentionally, which isn’t good – but it comes in the form of a line here and there; a moment, such as Eversoll’s wind-ruffled hair or the opening of a dinosaur’s eye; or Chris Pratt’s natural charm and well-timed delivery.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is entertaining and surprising, even if it doesn’t quite have its act totally together, but its biggest joy is in teasing what’s to come.
Is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Good?
If you go in expecting more of the same, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Taking its story into unpredictable territory, it opens up a host of opportunities for the future of the franchise and sets up a film we’re keen to see.
It does have the effect of relegating itself to little more than a bridge movie, however. And following the somewhat lacklustre action sequences it insists on building into the film’s second half, it lacks a satisfying resolution. But there’s enough here to bring audiences back for more.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits UK screens on June 6, Australian screens on June 21 and US screens on June 22.