Benjamin Smart reviews Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
After the colossal box-office success of the first Jurassic World (2015), a follow up was bound to happen. With returning star power and the promise of more realistic (and less CGI) dinosaurs than any film of the Jurassic franchise, you’d think Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom would be a recipe for success. Unfortunately, it doesn’t entirely pay off.
Fallen Kingdom is arguably at its weakest when trying to function as a sequel to the original Jurassic World. The opening act follows a rescue mission to retrieve surviving dinosaurs from the remains of the theme park, all whilst fighting against the clock of an impending volcanic eruption. The set pieces are massive in scale and according to velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt), the stakes have never been higher… Yet they really aren’t.
These early scenes simply retread the success of the prior film and, if you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ll already know that they make it off the island in one piece. There’s a forced sense of urgency to the events that dilute the acting on display making the beginning little more than a canvas to showcase special effects. The destruction on display does look great but it’s entirely hollow. Fallen Kingdom falls victim to the increasingly common problem of marketing material ruining the best portions of the film. Whilst there are still some twists and turns left for the viewer to uncover naturally, the majority of the story - including a cameo from everyone’s favourite chaos theorist from the previous films, Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) - has already been revealed. This leaves little room for surprise.
Despite the film largely being a CGI schlock fest, there are some moments of greatness embedded throughout. Most of these moments come when delving into the scarier side of genetic experimentation. Director J.A. Bayona is able to channel horror genre expertise in scenes that take place on the Lockwood Estate. Not only does it provide a much-needed break from the adrenaline overdose of the film’s opening act, but it changes the tone of the film entirely without betraying the traditions of the Jurassic franchise.
Fallen Kingdom is arguably at its weakest when trying to function as a sequel to the original Jurassic World.
With the change in setting, Bayona incorporates aesthetic elements that are reminiscent of his feature debut, The Orphanage (2007). The colour palate becomes darker, the visuals more twisted and the Lockwood Estate becomes its own character. Playing with horror genre conventions of haunted houses, the grand décor casts distorted shadows that play tricks on the viewer and add a sense of unease that is rarely found in a blockbuster release. It is during these scenes that Fallen Kingdom steps out of the shadow of its predecessor and is elevated, due to Bayona’s original style, above its competition.
Yet, at the end of the day, it is still a Jurassic movie and must abide by the summer blockbuster conventions the franchise itself helped to establish. This chapter largely sticks to this mould, with the breathtaking Bayona moments of originality interjected only few and far between.
For every fresh idea that is included in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it manages to set itself back by rehashing the franchise’s overworked formula. This is a by-the-books Jurassic movie complete with dodgy dialogue, obnoxious child actors and an abundance of CGI. Whilst more of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s tiresome when compared to the fleeting and far more interesting moments added to the story by J.A. Bayona’s ingenious direction.
Featured Image: Twitter / Jurassic World