To call a blockbuster that is centred around the revival of dinosaurs inane and ridiculous would seem a patent observation, and to subsequently ridicule it on such terms could be considered somewhat unjust. And yet in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – the sequel nobody was quite sure they wanted – the sheer absurdity is unappealing, as a film that is risible at best.
The original, timeless endeavour, which hit our screens back in 1993, always maintained a strand of believability. Well, it was never exactly scientifically on point, but such was the craft and conviction in Spielberg’s storytelling, we invested all the same. But with sequels comes this counter-productive inclination to expand the universe we know, to be bigger and better than its predecessors, and take the story to new depths, constantly striving to outdo what came before. This may certainly be bigger, but it’s by no means better, as a film that really should’ve considered the notion that sometimes less can be so much more.
It’s been four years since the Jurassic World theme park was shut down, and now Isla Nublar is on the brink of combustion, with a dormant volcano ready to erupt. This sends the world into an ethical stand-off – do we save these creatures from a second extinction? Animal rights activists certainly seem to think so. Or do we let nature takes its course, and eradicate any sense of threat they could pose if kept alive.
Naturally, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) sit comfortably in the former camp, and are sent over by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who works under the affluent Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) – a former associate of John Hammonds – to take part in a covert mission to rescue the remaining dinosaur population, and relocate them to a safe, isolated location, away from imminent death. However when the pair set off, they realise not all is quite as it seems.
J.A. Bayona has taken over the helm from the departing Colin Trevorrow (who remains on scriptwriting duties) and his hiring felt like it was a shrewd move for the studio. This is a filmmaker who could’ve filled up a bathtub with the tears collected from his previous two movies The Impossible and A Monster Calls, such was the profound, emotional journey he subjected his viewers too in both features. Yet surprisingly here the supposedly poignant sequences are terribly misjudged, lacking any sense of sincerity or heart.
You would think – and hope – that the film would then thrive more so in its action set-pieces, and yet they too are underwhelming. There’s not one memorable scene, nothing akin to the unrelentingly suspenseful kitchen sequence from the original movie, or the slowly-cracking-glass moment that took our breath away in The Lost World. Instead, all of the perilous moments of conflict just merge into one, tied together in how our characters always seem to escape from the clutches of death in the most contrived fashion imaginable. Though the relentless nature of the final act does have an unwavering commitment to entertainment which can’t be sniffed at – it’s just one after the other and eventually tedium kicks in and takes over.
It does, however, represent a positive shift, as the opening act is verging on dreadful. Lacking character development nor any sense of wit in the abundance of mawkish one-liners, at the very least it certainly allows Fallen Kingdom to take on the form of a real ‘popcorn’ movie in the latter stages. Problem is, by that point we’ve all finished our popcorn and are just wondering how we’re going to get home.
It’s a shame this be the case, and given the entire narrative is built around the notion of extinction, and whether or not we should let the dinosaurs live or die – you find this film taps into our more discreditable traits, for we can’t help but opt for the latter, simply because it means this franchise can come to an end once and for all.
Oh, and if you’re thinking of seeing this movie for the return of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, then reconsider your plans, for he’s in this film for about as long as he’s in the bloody trailer.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out in cinemas now.