“Save the dinosaurs on an island that’s about to explode – what could possibly go wrong?”
This line uttered by Chris Pratt’s returning dino handler Owen speaks volumes to the simplicity of what the latest Jurassic Park movie should be doing, but which somehow manages to fail due to a script that feels rote and a sense of wonder that’s missing in a series of action sequences that don’t quite light up the screen.
Four years after Isla Nublar’s Jurassic World was shut down, there’s a debate going on whether to save the dinosaurs from extinction after the once-dormant volcano explodes into life.
Pulled into the debate by a philanthropist is Dallas Howard’s Claire (returning this time less in high heels, more in combat boots). Offered the chance to save the animals as part of a military expedition, she heads to recruit ex Owen (Pratt, in a curiously muted and downbeat turn) to try and ensure that beloved raptor Blue makes it back out alive.
However, it turns out all those involved higher up aren’t exactly on the level….
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a curious beast, and even in the hands of The Orphanage and The Impossible director JA Bayona, it never quite manages to bridge the gap between sequel to become its own thing and its need to set up for the threequel.
Clearly, Bayona can handle the CGI action early on on the island, with flying debris and creatures cluttering the screen with relative ease – complete with obligatory T-Rex roaring as something chaotic happens in the background.
But it’s the human element that suffers, and with the creatures not feeling as fresh as before, there’s a terrible sense of deja vu that hits Fallen Kingdom, crippling what becomes of its second half.
The series has always delighted in the humans, the folly of science gone mad, and the small intimate touches that bonded us to their plight. Think back to the first film and how the kids forced Sam Neill and Laura Dern together into becoming a nuclear family, with the long-suppressed survival instinct thrust to the fore.
This is not what Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom wants to achieve.
Its flaws in logic, its desire to set the back half into a horror movie and its nostalgic touches (that wing mirror moment, a few echoed sequences from the first film) mean the Fallen Kingdom lacks the tension it needs.
That’s not to say there aren’t effective scenes, familiar to Bayona’s wheelhouse.
A sequence involving a child in a bed, stalked by a creature and its talons is nightmarish, riffing on many a childish fear that monsters are coming for you at night, is tremendously effective. And Bayona makes fantastic fist of shadows and flashes of light, giving what is a rote cliche of the horror genre a fresher and compelling touch.
But it’s not enough in a script which sees characters acting deliberately stupidly as the slasher/stalker movie goes on. And it’s certainly not enough in a film series whose MO is to evoke wonder -marvel made real, dazzling and terrifying back in 1993.
That’s sorely missing this time around.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas-Howard, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong
Director: JA Bayona