It’s been 25 years since the original Jurassic Park was released and it still remains one of the most loved and well-made films many people have ever seen. It is a childhood favourite of many and you really can’t say a bad word against it to most people. Something I found out recently during one of my quite normal tirades against Steven Spielberg. I love more than a few of his films but, I have to admit, he is something of a hack these days. It was after I’d seen Ready Player One and I was pissed about it. So I happened to mention to a work friend that, even though I love Jurassic Park, it isn’t a perfect film. I mean, yes, there is technical brilliance and some super memorable visual moments but there is some of shit there. It’s just that the rest of it is so good that the bad bits don’t matter. Suffice it to say that nobody was willing to even listen to my argument so I gave up. What cannot be denied, of course, is that the subsequent films have all been going downhill. Even dropping the word “park” from the title hasn’t done much. Jurassic World was an entertaining enough film but it could never live up to the original. So my hopes for the second in the World part of the franchise weren’t necessarily high. I mean, yeah, I was still desperate to see it but I kind of expected it to be shit. Until, another work friend came back from the cinema using the phrase “better than the first”. Well, I just had to check it out now.
If Solo‘s underwhelming performance at the box office goes to show, Star Wars fans won’t pay the big bucks to see any old addition to the franchise. The same, obviously, can’t be said for fans of the Jurassic Park franchise. The sequel to 2015 hit has made a buttload of money despite a mediocre critical reaction. But what do the critics know anyway? Just look at The Last Jedi. It seems that fans still get super excited about seeing fake dinosaurs chasing after helpless actors. And with the much publicised return of fan favourite Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) this film suddenly became even more unmissable. Malcolm hasn’t been seen since the first sequel in the franchise, The Lost World, and we all know how disappointing that film was. Offering promises of dinosaurs in the real world but never really delivering. From the looks of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom the franchise was finally ready to deliver on those promises.
Although, it becomes apparent very quickly that we’re going to be treading very familiar ground. When the dormant volcano on Isla Nublar suddenly becomes active the question of what to do with the now free dinosaurs is raised. There are those who believe, as an endangered species, they must be protected whilst there are those, like Ian Malcolm, who believe this is the way of things. For the sake of the narrative, an interested party plots a rescue party and seeks the help of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to round up the specimens. The mission is funded by Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) the ex-business partner of Richard Hammond but is being managed by his sketchy right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall). So you know there’s something underhanded going on. Something Claire and Owen find out as they are making their way to an underground dino auction in Lockwood’s manor house. Being sold as deadly weapons, Mills is set to make a pretty pile of cash from desperate countries. Especially when he unleashes his new hybrid.
So it’s all very similar to both The Lost World and Jurassic World but with the added bonus of trying to make the dinosaurs the good guys. This flip of the narrative is an interesting aspect but it never really reaches its potential. At the start of the film Claire is the head of a non-profit aiming to help the creatures about to be covered in lava but the whole concept of human responsibility becomes much less subtle as time goes on. It’s a morality lesson that is kind of lost in the midst of all the grisly death and epic action. This whole film ends up feeling a little too disjointed the more it tries to become a political satire. I’m all for female empowerment but there are moments when it feels like Fallen Kingdom is trying a little too hard. Yes, Claire and her fellow women are the obvious good guys but the reference to one being a “nasty woman” just had me rolling my eyes. Plenty of good-intentions but, perhaps, a little too on the nose.
Still, there is plenty of action and terror to distract from these feeble attempts. Partly because the script is so weak. The characters end up saying very little, thankfully, but most of what they do say leaves a lot to be desired. The whole thing is far too bland and underwritten that we end up not caring about anyone. Any time a character is in danger of being eaten you have to really ask why you should care. It doesn’t give either the actors or the director any room to do their best work. Chris Pratt has one outstanding moments of physical comedy but, after that, he is mainly expected to look broody and heroic. Bryce Dallas Howard is relegated to the caring but generally terrified woman who might, eventually, help save the day. It’s all just boring and uninspiring.
It means any potential greatness there might have been from having J.A. Bayona direct is lost. Not that he does bad work it’s just that he doesn’t do enough great work. The director, best known for his ability to create tense and terrifying moments, manages to get his signature style in where he can but it isn’t something the script allows. There are several stand out and, genuinely, frightening moments but it could have been so much more. When I first watched Jurassic Park as a kid I couldn’t sleep I was so scared. I imagine I wold have felt the same at that age if I’d watched this but, really, I was hoping I, at 30 years of age, would have been terrified now. Most of the time I was a bit bored.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom screams of a film that was made with the knowledge that fans would give up their money no matter what happened. It’s a paint by numbers scenario in which we see dramatic set pieces of dinosaurs running, people hiding, door hinges being opened, and an all too familiar T Rex saving the day again and again and again. There are brilliant moments where you can see the kind of film that this sequel could have been but it’s not enough to make it seem worthwhile. Yes, there is some interest in where it finishes but it all feels pointless. In an age where fans get so outraged about the sanctity of original films (see those Star Wars fans again) I’m shocked that so many people have praised this film. It is midly enteraining but, as far as I can see, a sense of nostalgia and some sparse moments of brilliance are the only thing it has going for it.
Oh, and it needed more Goldblum! Much more Goldblum.