Looking back at my review for 2015’s Jurassic World, it is clear that though I didn’t fall in love with the film, it provided more than enough action and nostalgia to keep me entertained throughout. Three years down the line and it is time to head back in to the park for another dino disaster, and to tell you the truth, my interest and patience in the franchise was already starting to wear a little thin. Would Jurassic Word: Fallen Kingdom be able to reunite my childhood love for the series, or would it be another nail in the coffin that I’m gradually placing the franchise in in my head.
Oh boy. Nail, nail, nail, nail, nail. Fallen Kingdom picks up a few years after the end of Jurassic World, and follows familiar faces Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) as they re-enter the now overrun park to execute what they believe is a rescue mission for the remaining dinosaurs as an erupting volcano threatens to destroy all inhabitants. Of course, all is not as it seems, and the crew soon realise that their reconnaissance efforts have been not for conversation purposes but for retrieval of assets to be sold at auction to the highest bidders.
The first forty minutes of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom give you everything you are looking for, from the ‘getting the band back together’ satisfaction to the nostalgia of being back in the park to the genuinely exhilarating and visually stimulating action sequences that showcase more dinosaurs than the franchise has ever put on screen before. Sadly, the problems start to come thick and fast once this first act is over. For a film titled Fallen Kingdom, we hardly get to spend any time there at all, moving the action instead to a dark, grey, underwhelming Lara Croft type mansion where the shady dinosaur auctions are set to take place. Rather than being a fun, adventurous ride, the picture turns in to a much darker, more serious and threatening narrative, and there is nothing wrong with that in principal, it’s just that nobody told the filmmakers that they story they were telling gets super tedious, super fast.
When I think of Jurassic Park, I think of swashbuckling adventure, lots of action, a sense of childish wonder and lots of fun to balance out the threat, and where Fallen Kingdom fails hardest is in its inability to project any fun in t the proceedings. A narrative filled with captured, mistreated, abused dinosaurs is far from enjoyable to watch, and the film seems to take delight in falling in to a rhythm of high stakes action sequence followed by manipulative, tear jerking animal death or cruelty. Crucially, it doesn’t inject nearly enough levity in between these emotional moments to make for a balanced and fun experience. I can watch The Land Before Time if I want to be emotionally devastated by dinosaurs, thank you very much, I come to Jurassic Park for rip roaring rollercoasters of silly sci-fi adventure action. And don’t get me wrong, there is definitely silliness to be found, but unfortunately it is the kind of unintentional silliness that inspires laughter from an audience who can see that a plot has gone off the rails and turned almost in to parody (I’m looking directly at you, final few minutes of the movie).
As far as performances go, all the major returning players solidly replicate their efforts from the first time around. Chris Pratt as Owen is still the loveable hunk/nerd from before, a combination that we all know he can play well from his much more impressive turns in the Guardians Of The Galaxy series. Looking back on it, it feels like Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t have that much to do in this sequel, but she still provides a dose of girl power as Claire Dearing. On the whole, much more focus is placed on the large array of dinosaurs in the cast this time around, and the result of that is two adequate but ultimately forgettable turns by the human protagonists.
Child presences are what make both the original Jurassic Park and Jurassic World more fun, and one of the film’s biggest flaws in my opinion is including pretty much the only child character in a side plot that is absolutely unnecessary and, to be honest, ridiculous. Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood gives a solid enough performance as a young girl reacting to the chaos around her, but a specific reveal about her character in the final third of the movie cemented my opinions that the film tries to do too much, and evoke too many attachments and emotions without actually putting in the important groundwork to make such twists effective. It’s already a movie about genetically modified dinosaur hybrids, do we really need to add anything else to the mix?
Overall, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, in my opinion, is a fun forty minutes followed by a tiresome and uninteresting ninety minutes. In trying to incorporate a darker element to the human motivations in the story, the film loses the edge of fun and wonder that made the 1993 original in particular so brilliant. The Jurassic Park franchise has always had a strained relationship with logic, but I’m afraid Fallen Kingdom takes things a little too far for my taste. Honestly, you might be better off watching something like Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus or Sharknado, at least those movies provide spectacle whilst also retaining an air of fun and self awareness.