Do these animals deserve the same protection given to other species? Or should they just be left to die?
I don’t want to flavour your enjoyment of this review, but I hated Jurassic World (2015). It seems to be more generally accepted now that it wasn’t the masterpiece everyone claimed it was at the time – but, boy did I have some arguments defending my position at the time. Ultimately, the film just felt like a trashy remake of the original, with irritating little squirts taking the bizarrely central role, despite being genuinely unlikable and ultimately pointless.
But, to be honest, it was the smaller details that really irritated me. Notably, the use of the iconic John Williams’ score, not when the majesty of prehistoric creatures reveal themselves, no, but when a small boy sits on a train. There was nothing to be impressed about. All it did was make idiots sit up and go gooey eyed at the idea of sitting in a cinema, watching another Jurassic Park film. What’s more, Jurassic World was notably the first film where I noticed that I didn’t actually know the characters names. Instead of people, the characters were little more than cardboard trope-fillers; the clueless but feisty redhead and the rugged scoundrel.
The point I’m making is that I held high hopes for Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom (2018), directed by J.A. Bayona. Sure, it’s going to be following on from a story I had no investment in, and yes the overall tone is a bit janky, but hey, we’re over the nostalgia thing now – let’s get on and tell a fresh new story! Hell, it worked for Star Wars – love it or hate it, The Last Jedi certainly went in a different direction.
When Will I Learn?
Set three years after the events of Jurassic World, which saw the multi-billion dollar dinosaur brought to its knees by the release of a genetically modified supersaur, the Indominus Rex, and the world has a decision to make. A once dormant volcano on Isla Nublar has bubbled to life, threatening to wipe out all life on the island – specifically, the entire population of resurrected dinosaurs.
While the debate rages behind closed doors, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has taken it upon herself to front an eco-activist organisation known as the Dinosaur Protection Group, hoping to evacuate the remaining creatures from the island and save them from extinction all over again. When things look bleak, Claire is encouraged with an invite to visit Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his cut-throat employee Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) in order to discuss an opportunity to save as many of the dinosaurs as possible, with the plan to transport them to another island – named in passing as Sanctuary. A chance for the surviving species to live free and wild, without interference from tourists.
Mills stresses the importance of rescuing Blue – a unique specimen, and the lead Velociraptor from the first film. To find her, though, Claire is going to need to enlist her ex-boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and convince him to return to the island to save Blue. What follows is an almost shot-for-shot remake of their meeting in the first Jurassic World, with awkward, but leading conversation between the two. This was my first real eye-rolling moment. Why, after spending an entire film setting up a relationship, does this film feel the need to regurgitate this will-they-won’t-they dynamic?
It’s all pointless anyway, because obviously Owen decides to come along for the trip, and soon the pair are back off to the island – accompanied by shamelessly cliche hipster sidekicks, the feisty paleoveterinarian Dr Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), and comedy hacker-nerd, Franklin Webb (Justice Smith).
To its credit, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets us to the island at a breakneck pace, and soon we find our crew arriving on the island, meeting with a suspiciously Lost World-y group of mercenaries under the command of Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), employed to carry out the not-strictly-legal rescue operation.
With Claire and Franklin taking command centre duties, Owen and Zia head out with the mercenaries to track down Blue. They find him, obviously, but – and this is not a spoiler to anyone who has watched the trailer – soon find that they are betrayed. Far from wanting to rescue and protect the animals from the island, the mercenaries snatch and kidnap whatever they can find – soon abandoning our heroes to their fate – except for Zia, who they keep to keep Blue in good health after she is injured during her capture.
Soon, the volcano erupts. Big time. After reunited, Claire, Owen and Franklin flee the island – only just managing to escape on the mercenary freighter loaded up with dinosaurs after a series of prolonged set pieces. This does, however, lead to hands-down the most effective and heart breaking scene possibly in the entire Jurassic Park franchise. For all the watch-glancing boredom I was feeling, this is a moment that really got to me – and for that reason I don’t spoil it. It really is, genuinely, perfect. In a way it’s frustrating to see such potential in this franchise – only to be snatched away so cruelly with the next seventeen hours of misery that follows.
See, the real plot is that Mills, frustrated at the lack of momentum in Sir Lockwood’s estate, has decided to auction off the last surviving species – while working closely with Dr Henry Wu (B. D. Wong) – the de facto misunderstood villain of the franchise, apparently. With our heroes stowed away with the dinosaurs, it is only a matter of time before they, too, are able to confront Mills and co., soon discovering the truth that, like before, a new form of life has been created – this time, the Indominus Raptor, a dinosaur hybrid thing that looks straight out of a video game. And it SMILES.
With all the characters in one place, the story becomes a race to stop the new monster from leaving the Lockwood Estate, I… think?
It all gets a bit confusing at this stage. The lack of tension at this stage was palpable. Sure, there were enough set pieces to enjoy, but when you don’t give a toss about any of the characters or what stakes they are fighting for, then, well, it all gets a little samey. Some of the best moments, in fact, were more or less shot for shot remakes from the original Jurassic Park (1993). Let’s not even discuss the completely pointless character of Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), you’ll just have to experience that yourself (although, did you notice she seems to have the exact same scream as Newt, from Aliens?).
To its credit, the gothic horror vibe present through this entire sequence was a nice change of pace, but I didn’t feel like it was really enough. I would say that everything looks great – the inclusion of more practical effects and puppets was genuinely noticeable, and a welcome sight to see – but I just couldn’t see what it was in service to.
In conclusion, then.
It all felt like a big waste of time. Just as the story gets interesting, the movie just sort of, ends. The performances felt strained at best, and wooden at worst. Chris Pratt, in particular, looked completely bored throughout most of the film. Bryce Dallas Howard, who I wouldn’t normally say a word against, seemed similarly downbeat and unused, while the throwaway villains such as Mills, Wheatley and the exceptionally talented Toby Jones get away with some trace of character. I did, however, love the relationship established between Owen and Blue – which certainly made me appreciate my dog a hell of a lot more than usual when I got home.
But, anyway. Bland film gets bland sequel. I would say more, but Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is so forgettable, I’m already starting to replace it in my mind with more interesting things, such as what I should have for lunch tomorrow.
Yours, A P Tyler