Having an exciting director choice like J.A. Bayona (the Spanish filmmaker behind such imaginative titles as The Orphanage and A Monster Calls) behind the camera for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, you’d be forgiven for assuming this latest entrant would present itself as something of a creative product. Sadly, despite some interesting story trajectories in the Colin Trevorrow-Derek Connolly penned script, this overlong next chapter in the Jurassic franchise is unable to overcome its own wild ideas and buries itself underneath near-comical melodrama.
Recalling back to the finale of 2015’s surprisingly robust Jurassic World, the inhabited island of Isla Nublar is nearly as extinct as the dinosaurs that roam its grounds once were, and it stands as Fallen Kingdom‘s first (and only) major set-piece that resembles anything remotely promising. Despite them having tried their best to make her lunch meat, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) – now setting up her stance in combat boots rather than the high heels that seemed to irk many a Jurassic World viewer – wants to save the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar before a not-so-dormant volcano erupts and eradicates them for good.
Everyone’s favourite mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, in the epitome of a glorified cameo appearance) wants the animals to perish, believing nature is correcting the wrongs of Park creator John Hammond, but Claire and her field of dino-experts (a sassy Daniella Pineda and a stereotypically geeky Justice Smith) think not, and once they convince smouldering raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, overloading on his charisma) to travel with them to Isla Nublar, figurative dino excrement hits the fan. The scenes involving their return to the now-defunct theme park are enjoyable in all their typicality, and had the script opted to keep them roaming about, evading the remaining dinosaurs in tightly choreographed stalk sequences, Fallen Kingdom may have been a far more susceptible product; predictable yes, but sometimes what ain’t broke don’t need fixing.
Science, or at least what films have us believe science is capable of, has always been at the forefront of the Jurassic movies, and Fallen Kingdom goes for broke in what smarmy geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) is able to cook up in his labs during the off-season. In Jurassic World it was the Indominus Rex, here it’s the Indoraptor – which basically means they just made a big bad killing machine even more elusive. Snaps for science! Again, the idea of the Indoraptor is somewhat promising, and when the notion of bored, rich people bidding on these creatures for their own personal use is introduced, you could be thinking how potentially messed up that is and that it would make for some fine escapism entertainment, right? Yeah, nah!
By the time the bidding gets underway in the expansive underground lair of obvious villain Eli Mills (Rare Spalls) and the Indoraptor plays hide and seek (and kill) with Owen, Claire and a supremely uninteresting pre-teen, you’ve pretty much had it with Fallen Kingdom‘s insistence on suspending belief; and the accompanying soundtrack that goes heavy on gothic chanting doesn’t help matters either (where’s John Williams when you need him?)
The final moments of Fallen Kingdom very much sets the proposed sequel up for an interesting route, and despite this overblown feature underwhelming me with its supreme lack of faith in the intelligence of today’s movie goers, I can’t help (against my better judgement) but be a little bit interested in seeing where the series goes. We have been assured by the stop-start velvety tones of Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm that “life finds a way”, I can only hope that this series does too as Fallen Kingdom toys dangerously close with wishing further Jurassic adventures would become as extinct as its subject matter.