Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom , 2018.
Directed by J.A. Bayona.
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Ted Wheatley, and Jeff Goldblum.
Four years have passed since the Jurassic World theme park was closed, but now a volcano on Isla Nublar has become active and it’s threatening to wipe out the remaining dinosaurs. Owen Grady and Claire Dearing are re-united in an effort to save the creatures but find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that could threaten the entire planet.
Twenty five years have passed since the original Jurassic Park changed special effects – and, indeed, dinosaurs – for ever. Now we’ve reached the fifth instalment, also the second of the Jurassic World spin-offs. So what’s left for them to say? In truth, not much.
OK, there’s the dinosaurs, there’s action and there’s adventure in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And there’s J.A. Bayona at the helm, which holds the promise of something different. But in the very first minute it’s obvious where the film is headed – when the pilot of the submersible arriving on the sea bed at Isla Nublar utters the immortal words, “Anything that used to live here must be dead by now.” Oh, yeah? That predictability runs through the entire storyline, one that has so many instances of the prehistoric beasts creeping up behind the humans that you expect somebody in the audience to shout “It’s behind you!” It’s Jurassic Panto by another name.
You already know two things from the trailer. A volcano erupts on Isla Nublar and Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm. True, but only a scant half of the film is actually set on the site of the former dinosaur park. The rest of it takes place in the grounds of the mansion belonging to multi-millionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell reprising his Prince Philip from The Queen, but with a straggly beard). Our heroes from the first instalment, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, in more practical footwear this time, as a lingering shot makes a point of showing) and Owen (Chris Pratt, monopolising and milking all the one-liners) have, as far as they’re concerned, rescued the dinosaurs from certain death on the island. What they’ve actually done is deliver them into the hands of mercenary business tycoon Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who is hell-bent on making money out of them.
As for Goldblum, he bookends the film, with a minute near the start and another one close to the end. So don’t get your hopes up. All he’s there to do is deliver the film’s message, inevitably an environmental one about how man is going to have to live with these creatures. They were here first, after all. For a scientist, he’s slightly missed the point: the original dinosaurs were here first, but these monsters are man made …..
When the action moves to the mansion, things turn rather nicely gothic, with melodramatic music, night-time scenes a-plenty, a child in peril and a dinosaur climbing the roof in the pouring rain. There’s definitely an air of Frankenstein about it – or should that be Frankendino? – and Bayona’s horror pedigree gives the action a welcome shot in the arm. But it’s all too temporary, and it’s back to the panto, with Toby Jones sporting some hideous teeth and an even worse syrup as arch-villain Gunnar Eversol (a name to conjure with, if ever there was one) who attempts to auction off the dinosaurs to the highest bidder. It’s embarrassing.
Not, then, a film to be taken too seriously. Or, indeed, at all. As a piece of fun, it just about passes muster, but the moment it starts getting preachy, it loses the audience. There’s nothing wrong in making a film that’s pure entertainment, but let’s not dress it up as a serious piece of environmental commentary. That’s disingenuous and, worse still, insults the audience’s intelligence. It’s transparently obvious in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the franchise has run out of steam, so what on earth will the third and, by all accounts, final instalment hold? Like the monsters, the whole thing has ground to a halt and its heyday is long gone. Or, put another way, “they’re behind you!”
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.