I was skeptical and lacked any excitement when I heard the Jurassic Park franchise would be re-imagined for a new trilogy. Ignoring the last two, Jurassic World was a sequel to the original making Fallen Kingdom the second attempt at a third sequential film. Jurassic World managed to set up a new story in the same universe with a group of fun characters so this film surely must do something different than The Lost World right?
Synopsis: It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles. When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith
Writers: Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow
Director: J.A. Bayona
Rating: PG (Canada)
Running Time: 128 mins
Right off the bat, Fallen Kingdom is more similar to the aforementioned The Lost World than intended. Dealing with a rescue op to get the dinosaurs off the island they inhabit, everything goes wrong for Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Howard), resulting in dinosaurs find themselves released into populated areas (although this time it’s Northern California instead of San Diego).
This isn’t even the biggest similarity between the two films as they both have an eerily similar group of characters: a cynic brought back to the island to do the right thing (Owen/Malcolm) by an idealistic love interest (Claire/Sarah) who are surrounded by smart-mouthed (Zia/Nick) and fearful (Franklin/Eddie) companions. Even some of the action sequences play out exactly like Jurassic Park, The Lost World and Jurassic World posing the question: is there anything that hasn’t already been done in a dinosaur film?
However, that’s just what it is: a dinosaur film. There’s no pressing need for groundbreaking storytelling or hugely emotional and thought-provoking themes as long as the film is filled with terrifying dinosaur-filled action sequences, which is exactly what Fallen Kingdom offers. Surprisingly it’s able to offer a bit more than that. Director J.A. Bayona dives into the moral dilemmas surrounding dinosaur rights and whether or not they deserve to be protected or lost to history giving this story some much needed heart. This shines through in many sequences that give different personalities to these creatures resulting in some unexpectedly emotional and poignant moments.
The story is enjoyable through the first and third acts as each gives us the best that this franchise has to offer. The first act returns us to the atmosphere of Isla Nublar as the human characters attempt to save these glorious creatures; the third act sees the horror elements boil over and create a thrilling, tension-filled conclusion. However, beyond that the script fails on many aspects. The second act drags on in an exposition-heavy section that seems more focused on setting up a third film rather than finishing its own self-contained story.
The tone shifts dramatically from the moral dilemma of dinosaur rights to focus on evil corporations and the weaponization of dinosaurs completely disregarding the original themes rather than embracing them. It becomes a bridge film that pushes us from the original idea of Jurassic World to the plot of the finale by fluffing up the half hour story into a two hour film with dinosaur danger and absolutely no stakes.
While the former is entertaining enough to warrant a full feature film, the story could have been a little more daring. No main characters life was truly in peril and many times the big name actors avoid their demise with ease which ruins the effectiveness of the horror elements. These movies need to live in their shock and awe moments and hopefully the finale embraces that.
The characters of this film are mostly enjoyable thanks in part to the cast. Pratt and Howard as well as Smith and Daniella Pineda as Franklin and Zia respectively all deliver decent performances making our journey with them a little more enjoyable, although it’s unfortunate that their relationships are less interesting than their bonds with the dinosaurs.
While the good guys were decent, the villains brought nothing to the table. In fact, you would need to look up the cast to remember how many there were as these bland, one-dimensional characters could have easily been combined to create a truly menacing antagonist. And if you’re planning to see this movie for Jeff Goldblum’s return to the franchise you might as well just watch the trailers because that’s the only part he’s in.
Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an entertaining sci-fi adventure that treads in familiar territory for a little too long. While the middle shifts tone into a dragging, dull mess, the performances paired with the themes and horror elements help this story rekindle parts of that Jurassic magic. It is the definition of a safe summer sequel, but it delivers exactly what we want: good old fashioned dino destruction.
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