- Best on the island, the pace slowing in the latter half
- Indoraptor not as terrifying or formidable as Indominous Rex
- Not particularly scary (perhaps for a family audience), but still balances just enough tension
- Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard still good together with Howard a more interesting character
- Newcomer Isabella Sermon incredible for her first performance
- No stand-out villain in a film with so many antagonists
- Stepping-stone to a probably more exciting next film
When the Jurassic series was rebooted in 2015 with Jurassic World, it was a no-brainer that such a successful and enjoyable film would reignite the franchise – obviously a sequel would be heading our way. And, judging from the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I wouldn’t mind betting a third one will be coming a few years down the line too. Though perhaps cynical in an age dominated by sequels, spin-offs and reboots, audiences seemed to have welcomed the return of Jurassic Park/World – because who doesn’t love a good dinosaur film? Fortunately, even though we’re saturated by many sub-par additions to existing franchises, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is still the enjoyable dino-horror film we wanted it to be.
Leading on from the catastrophic events in the 2015 film which saw the Jurassic World theme park closed, the world is still grappling with the ethical and moral dilemmas of the re-existence of these creatures. But when the volcano on Isla Nublar threatens to erupt, opinions vary on whether the dinosaurs should be saved or left to their fate. Determined to save the dinosaurs and take them to a new paradise, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) requests Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) to return to the island to help them, particularly so they can save Owen’s old velociraptor friend, Blue. Accompanied by tech-expert Franklin (Justice Smith) and paleoveterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda), things soon take an unfortunate turn once Wheatley (Ted Levine) gets involved and they find themselves in a race against time to escape the volcanic eruption and save the dinosaurs from the fate that awaits them from across the sea…
By far the most interesting part of the film is the first third when they return to Isla Nublar and deal with the multitude of rampant dinosaurs and approaching lava from the volcano. If going back to the theme park and seeing how it’s been taken over by wild dinosaurs isn’t interesting enough, then running side-by-side by every dinosaur you’ve heard of while running away from an erupting volcano, gas and lava slowly engulfing the inhabitants… That’s certainly the highlight of the film; classic Jurassic action with the new added element of an explosive volcano. After departing the island, interest continues to be rather high; after all, they’re taking dinosaurs from Jurassic World to the mainland, the real world, a prospect brimming with the promise of something we haven’t quite seen before. Sadly, I can’t help but feel the film would have been stronger if they had stayed on the island for most of the screentime, since the pace slows and soon becomes a paint-by-numbers, predictable film. It may be interesting to see how humanity would react to dinosaurs available in our society, but this looks like it will be gone into more depth in the next film (almost inevitable). This is a shame as Fallen Kingdom therefore comes across as more of a stepping stone to a better film next time, than a great film in its own right.
On top of that, in the latter half, there wasn’t a formidable dinosaur to run from; not the T-Rex, not the Indominous Rex – but the Indoraptor, whose similarity to the Indominous Rex on which it’s based is almost invisible, coming across as more of a generic raptor. Perhaps this is just symptomatic of a society that is no longer wowed by seeing extinct animals alive on a giant screen, but nevertheless, if they’re creating a new dinosaur (again!), it feels like a cop out to have a less interesting dinosaur than the former. Perhaps its also just because we’re inundated with threat and violence, becoming nearly immune, but a stampede of dinosaurs doesn’t seem particularly scary in the film nor does an escaped bloodthirsty raptor bred to be a killing machine. Naturally if this were to happen in real life, I’m sure our reactions would be massively different. This isn’t to say that the dinosaurs are boring or not scary at all, but I can’t help but feel this is targeted to be a family film to the point where the terror is substituted for a rating that draws in a larger audience. Still, there’s enough tension for it to still be interesting, but part of me wants a gory version for adults. But, hey, maybe that’s the horror fan in me…
One aspect that was fortunately changed from the original was the footwear of Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, who many pitied and laughed at for wearing high heels while running from the famed T-Rex, among other fearsome beasts. From a close up on comfortable, sensible boots (which must have been a deliberate choice) to the rest of Howard’s performance, Claire has changed from the first time we see her in Jurassic World, but continues to be likeable and able to hold her own even in a film where there are noticeably more male characters. Able to run away from and outwit dinosaurs as well as anyone else, she’s not a damsel in distress and arguably takes the lead in the film. But that comes with stiff competition against Chris Pratt, who seems like an unstoppable Hollywood star since Guardians of the Galaxy. Less quipping that Star Lord, Owen is still a strange mix of deadly serious and warm-hearted joking, which Pratt only just manages to balance enough to come across well, able to fight dinosaurs and still retain chemistry with Dallas Howard. (Side-note: the seriousness in him and way he carries himself in action scenes makes me think he could make a decent Indiana Jones if Harrison Ford is ever re-cast – you heard the prediction here first!). Although still more about muscle and masculinity than a clearly defined character, Pratt delivers his trademark charm and is still heads and shoulders more likeable than the slightly irritating Franklin. Not that I have anything against Justice Smith or his performance, but the character is pointless and represents a missed opportunity. Assuming he was meant to be the adventure-film-comic-relief similar to John Hannah in The Mummy films, it could have been good to have the anti-Owen, a cowardly male character who the audience could laugh with/at and enjoy. Instead he comes across as more annoying, barely adding anything of substance to the plot. Something similar could be said for Daniella Pineda’s “nasty woman” Zia, who lacks the screentime her promising character deserved.
On the other hand, just the right amount of screentime is given to newcomer Isabella Sermon, a huge film for her first credit. Hers is one of the standout performances in the film, even when not factoring in her age. Sweet and innocent, but not an irritating pushover, she commands her scenes in such a major film with confidence and competence – it’ll be exciting to see where she goes next. It’s just a shame her character was brushed over and ultimately unnecessary… As for the bad guys (and how many there are), Levine’s arrogant, trigger-friendly Wheatley’s is suitably consistently infuriating, as is Wong’s retuning Dr Wu; Toby Jones with Trump-esque hair continues the subtle anti-Trump sentiment of the film (seen also in the “nasty woman” quotation), very sneering and detestable. Keeping Toby Jones company as an English actor putting on an American accent is Rafe Spall as Eli Mills, arguably the main antagonist. Although I’m still convinced he’s too friendly and comical to be taken seriously as a villain, his greed and ignorance still sells the character enough… It’s just a shame that for a film with so many bad guys behind the murderous dinosaurs, there isn’t a particular one that stands out.
Though it may come with its own set of problems, we don’t have dinosaur fatigue and, overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a very enjoyable film, although it doesn’t quite have the magic of the first film still, barely even including the masterful theme tune (though Giacchino – who I’m still convinced will become the natural successor to all John Williams theme tunes – does do a decent enough job). It might not be quite as exciting as the first (as is the way with sequels), without a clearly defined antagonist or particularly terrifying dinosaur, but it’s still great fun watching a movie about dinosaurs and asking ourselves the question, what if…? If this film was indeed meant as a stepping stone, I’m even more excited for the third entry which will hopefully deliver on the promise of this otherwise enjoyable enough film.