Chris Pratt comes face-to-face with an old friend in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: JA Bayona
Cast: Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire Dearing), Rafe Spall (Eli Mills), Justice Smith (Franklin Webb), Daniella Pineda (Zia Rodriguez), James Cromwell (Sir Benjamin Lockwood), Toby Jones (Gunnar Eversol), Ted Levine (Ken Wheatley), BD Wong (Dr Henry Wu), Isabella Sermon (Maisie Lockwood), Geraldine Chaplin (Iris), Jeff Goldblum (Dr Ian Malcolm)
I don’t care how old I get. I still love those dinosaurs. Doesn’t everyone? And of course what’s better than seeing dinosaurs munch down on them what deserves it? Well you got plenty of that in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which throws everything it can at the screen and is enjoyable enough, even if it feels a little like one for the money.
It’s been five years since the events of the first film, and the old Jurassic Park is now abandoned and the whole island given over to the control of the dinosaurs. In what you have to say is a pretty damning indictment of InGen’s planning (but then they really planned nothing well on this whole project) turns out the whole island is actually a volcano and, yup, she’s gonna blow. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is leading a campaign to win government support for saving the dinosaurs, when she is recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), chair of a charity foundation set up by ageing businessman and park co-founder Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to lead a ‘Noah’s Ark’ mission to the island. But they need the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to find Blue the last surviving member of his Velociraptor pack. Arriving on the island howeer, they find not everyone can be trusted.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom plays like a remix of events and moments from each of the earlier films. So you more or less get exactly what you might expect, and the film never really surprises you at all. You have a dangerous mission on the abandoned island (Jurassic Park III), dangerous chases in a lab (Jurassic Park), a bioengineered super dinosaur running riot (Jurassic World), dinosaurs on the main land (The Lost World) and businessmen with ulterior motives (all of them). None of the sly wit and the relatively patient build-up of Jurassic World is really present here: instead we are almost immediately thrown into an island literally exploding, and the film gets bigger and bigger from there (even if it doesn’t get better).
JA Bayona directs this with a breezy professionalism, with a decent sense of pace and some well-constructed tension sequences. There are some decent call-back jokes, not least to Claire’s far more appropriate choice of footwear. The film also gets some decent material out of exploring the back story of Owen’s bond with the velociraptor back, not least his parental bond with lead velociraptor Blue. It makes for some interesting emotional material, but it’s a shame that this never really feels like it plays back into any broader theme in the movie. There is some stuff in there about parental bonds (Lockwood and his granddaughter, Wu’s plans to have Blue “mother” his latest super dinosaur abomination) but it doesn’t go anywhere.
That’s part of the problem of this film: it goes nowhere we haven’t really been before. Even the beats of wonder as people go “oh wow that’s a dinosaur” feel repeated and tired – the first moment even revolves around a brachiosaurus, just as the same moment did in the first film. Bayona does however draw some heart rendering material from the dinosaurs running vainly from death in the volcanic eruption – most notably from a brachiosaurus tragically bellowing in despair as it is engulfed in volcanic gas.
But it’s all pretty samey. And the plot moves at such a lick that it actually starts to feel a little bit silly. So of course Owen and Claire are persuaded in minutes to go back to the island. Of course they are betrayed in the first few minutes. Of course the island starts to erupt almost as soon as they arrived. Everything happens at this crackerjack pace, that actually starts to make things feel even more cartoonish than a film about a load of man-made dinosaurs feels like to start with.
That’s on the top of the fact that none of the new characters make any real impact – most of them might as well have “Trope” or “Plot Device” written on their faces. The villain stands out a mile away the instant he appears. His main henchman is so nakedly untrustworthy, you marvel Claire and Owen even consider going on the mission with him. The comic relief character is insanely annoying. Countering this, Chris Pratt plays off his charisma extremely well to remain a very magnetic hero, and I think Bryce Dallas Howard gets much more to play with here as a Claire far more plugged in and competent than in the first film.
But the atmosphere of affectionate nostalgia, and delight that powers the first film so well and makes it (for my generation) such a huge joy to watch, with its tongue-in-cheek but also smart and not-overly-done fanboy style, is missing here. This feels more like a film assembled by people who have seen all the films and basically wanted to box tick everything you might expect to see. It’s not really trying to do something different, it’s just treading water.
But despite all that, it’s still quite good fun. That’s the odd thing. Yes people in it behave with staggering stupidity and the film doesn’t offer any surprises (the dinosaurs have clearly read the script when planning their meals). Yes it’s derivative and unoriginal. But I still rather enjoyed it. It’s lacking in any inspiration or (you feel) the sort of genuine affection Colin Trevorrow brought to it, but you know it’s good enough. Whether good enough is good enough is of course another question.