A vast improvement on 2015’s Jurassic World with director J. A. Bayona taking the franchise into new territory, but it’s still weighed down by the same clunky plotting that’s plagued every Jurassic sequel. Warning there be spoilers ahead.
Three years on from the surprise $1.6 billion success of Jurassic World, we return to an island off the coast of Costa Rica for another round of hungry hungry dinousaurs. Kicking off with a thrillingly staged sequence that proves the Mosasaurus should get a spin-off, Fallen Kingdom wastes no time letting you know this is a darker sequel.
Fallen Kingdom suffers the same narrative problems as Spielberg’s sequel The Lost World. A team venture back to the island full of killer dinosaurs for a straightforward rescue mission, naturally there’s an alternative motive behind the simple task, and all manner of hell breaks loose. Returning from Jurassic Wolrd is Bryce Dallas Howard’s former park manager Claire and Chris Pratt’s Raptor trainer and all-round dude bro Owen. Claire is now in charge of a dinosaur rights group (and wears sensible shoes), and Owen (now with an added sensitive side) is building a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Their romantic reunion short-lived, Claire and Owen start the movie as estranged.
However, thanks to the funding of John Hammond’s old business partner Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and a ticking volcano, a rescue mission to relocate these rare animals is underway. Handled by Lockwood’s right-hand man (and not at all totally evil) Eli Mill (Rafe Spall), Claire convinces Owen to help save his super smart Raptor Blue, and dozens of soon to be extinct dinosaur species. At this stage, the Jurassic Park plot checklist gets ticked off with ruthless efficiency. Ted Levine’s seasoned mercenary swiftly sets out that he is a bad guy, he pulls teeth from wounded animals as trophies, he doesn’t listen to our heroes, and he gleefully leaves them both for dead. It’s not Levine’s fault he has such thin material to work with, even Toby Jones struggles to keep his dignity intact spewing hackneyed dialogue with some shockingly big Veneers.
Just over the halfway mark and several impressively staged action scenes later, and the movie takes an unexpected turn, it morphs into a gothic horror full of tension and terror. Having been lied to about the real purpose of rescuing the dinos, Claire and Owen stow away on the ship and once the deboard back in the US follow the convoy back to Lockwood’s mansion. Mill’s is auctioning off the rare specimens to the highest bidder, and the sinister Dr Henry Wu (B.D Wong) has created a new hostile species crossing DNA from the Indominious Rex with a Velociraptor. Yes, they do call it an Indoraptor.
Jeff Goldblum’s highly publicised return as Ian Malcolm will disappoint anybody hoping to see him do more than sit down. Goldblum’s entire screen time is barely three minutes, we’ve seen and heard more than 80% of his role in the movie from the trailers. I would have given this an extra star had Goldblum had more to do, hopefully, Jurassic Wolrd 3: Jurassic Park 6 will remedy that.
For all the improvements J. A. Bayona has made, Jurassic 5 tries very hard to remind us of the magic of Spielberg’s original and occasionally gets a bit confused with what it’s trying to be, a commentary on animal rights? A horror movie? An adventure romp? Then, when you think they couldn’t possibly throw anymore at you, they casually drop that human cloning is a thing with less than ten minutes of movie left. That’s right, Lockwood’s granddaughter is actually a clone of his deceased daughter who died years ago in a car accident. Mic drop. I’ll be honest, this really bothered me. Even if there are plans to pull on this in the already confirmed third instalment, you can’t throw out human cloning so late in the game as it feels like we’ve been short changed.
Unlike Jurassic World, I’m pleased to report that Fallen Kingdom is wildly entertaining with Bayona showing he can handle a big budget franchise, that said, I hope he returns to something smaller for his next project. On a complete side note, one scene late in the movie made me air punch, but it was only because a very talented actress we’ve had the pleasure of working with a few times had a brief scene in the elevator with Toby Jones. Well done Jo.