Out with the old, in with the…old?
Fallen Kingdom splits itself 30/70 between the beloved, colourful tropical home of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World’s genetically engineered dinosaurs, Isla Nublar, and the dark and shadowy Californian mansion home of James Cromwell’s Lockwood, the former partner in crime to the Park’s founder, John Hammond. Like The Lost World, only far more compact, and with considerably less interesting characters, it divides its time over two locations. Firstly it brings an often exhilarating (and always explosive) dino rescue mission on Isla Nublar, courtesy of its formerly dormant (and now very much not so) volcano; a rushed farewell to the island, even if its final shot will go down as one of the franchise’s most moving. Before moving into more tense, horror-filled territory as the surviving dinosaurs are relocated and then swiftly escape into the Lockwood Estate.
On paper the latter might sound like an exciting direction for the series, particularly under the eye of director J. A. Bayona, whose past work includes The Orphanage and A Monster Calls, and yet in execution it becomes too bogged down with wholly uninteresting dinosaur hybridisation and half-hearted talk of the weaponisation of the prehistoric beasts to gain any real traction. Ideas that the film itself seems to get bored of before it ever really explores them in any depth. Instead, these elements feel as though they only serve as momentary clutter before it reverts back to recycling scenes from the franchise’s past in search of nostalgia. Yet, when it’s stripped to its basics it delivers some series-best level dino-fuelled carnage. An opening salvo to recover DNA from the depths of a dino-infested lake. A race against volcanic fireballs and snapping dinosaurs. A claustrophobic encounter with a t-rex. Great sequences which highlight exactly why these movies are so well loved. There just aren’t enough of these moments to go around.
It does, however, improve on Jurassic World in a few ways:
- This is the best that the dinosaurs have looked since Jurassic Park. An impressive blend of puppetry and CGI wizardry work to create believable, textured and tactile “living creatures”. This is how it should have been done last time, and all the right lessons seem to have been learned from how the animals were brought to life in Spielberg’s original (something which couldn’t be said of Jurassic World).
- Significant efforts are made to make the highly intelligent velociraptor Blue, so central to the plot of both Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, actually worth caring about. And it pays off well, turning her into perhaps the film’s best character.
- There are bundles of gorgeous visuals on offer. Bayona and his cinematographer Óscar Faura play with shadows to impressive, poignant and horrifying effect.
Beyond this though, Fallen Kingdom feels like its spinning its wheels. There’s a reason that the movie’s two leads Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) haven’t been mentioned up to this point, and that’s because they’re passengers in their own movie to an extent. Their relationship barely progresses. Claire evolved over the previous film, but not so much here, and Owen is the exact same by the end of Fallen Kingdom as he was at the beginning of Jurassic World. Both of them are perfectly fine, but they’re not a touch on the real stars of the show, Blue and her fellow dinosaurs.
It’s a serving of the same dish we’ve been chowing down on since 1993. But while back then it was a refined, Michelin star level meal, it’s full on fast food now. Satisfying enough to consume, but lacking in substance.
Rating (out of 5):