For some, the Jurassic World reboot was a fun revival of a classic series that had fizzled out years before, and the huge box office return certainly indicated that there was a hunger for more dinosaur disaster fare. For others, however, it was a disappointing, soulless rehash of a beloved property. Everyone else just had a problem with Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels.
But like it or not, money equals more, and so, like with Star Wars and Avengers films, we’ll be living with Jurassic World movies from now until we all perish. Does Fallen Kingdom make that prospect enticing? Yes and no.
Years have passed since the closure of the new park and, with the island’s volcano about to erupt, the world is locked in a debate over whether the dinosaurs should be saved or left alone in an attempt to rectify the man-made mistake of reviving the species. Desperate to stop them from being wiped out, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) agrees to go on a rescue mission organised by dodgy billionaire Eli Mills (Rafe Spall).
In order to capture Blue, Claire convinces Owen to accompany them, and tech Franklin (Justice Smith) and vet Zia (Daniella Pineda) come along to provide the jolt of youth usually provided by annoying child actors.
Chris Pratt’s Owen is heaps better than last time. While the first film bafflingly tried to force the primarily comedic actor into a serious, brooding hole that came off alarmingly misogynistic and generally douchey, here he just gets to be Chris Pratt in a Jurassic Park movie – which is all anyone wanted, anyway.
Dallas Howard, a few shoe jokes aside, also gets to be a better realised character that isn’t saddled with a ‘women should want babies or they’re somehow repressed’ story arc. We’re told that following the disaster at the park the pair got together but have since split because of genuine incompatibility, and Claire has become a dino-rights activist dedicated to righting the wrongs she helped create.
In fact, all of those intriguing ideas and moral questions that were introduced in Jurassic World are explored in much more interesting ways here. The film isn’t reinventing the wheel – as proven by the extended cameo of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and his iconic stance on man playing God – but any time a big, dumb blockbuster can manage to engage the brain it’s a welcome novelty.
That said, the very concept of trained raptors is still absolutely ludicrous and completely unnecessary, and this film tries and fails to make the creatures frightening again by presenting us with an Uber Raptor. It may have been more effective if the franchise hadn’t done the exact same thing last time.
There was always going to be things to complain about for the historic Jurassic Park fan, but Fallen Kingdom is actually much better than it has a right to be. It’s a film that knows its ridiculous and is also aware of what its audience have come to the cinema for. And so we whizz through the exposition and otherwise ‘boring’ scene-setting and get right to the part where movie stars are running from ever-more convincing CGI dinosaurs.
The 1993 film is a perfect film, in this writer’s opinion, and comparing this to that is like comparing apples to oranges. They may be part of the same world, but that’s where the similarities end. The first Jurassic World suffered for trying to connect the dots with too much reverence, so it’s a relief to see Fallen Kingdom throw that away and embrace its new identity as a stupid popcorn movie.
That said, the commitment waivers towards the end when one particularly silly reveal takes hold and the film limps towards a finale that could either be the dumbest or smartest thing the franchise has ever done.
Still, the biggest problem with the film is the decentisising nature of throwing more and dinosaurs at the screen in search of that same ‘wow’ factor that the original captured. The less is more approach of the first film may have been as much about budget as it was about Steven Spielberg’s lessons learned on Jaws, but at some point the creatures become part of scenery.
That’s only around the 90-minute mark, however, and before that the film manages to inject some of that old awe and visual splendor. Fallen Kingdom contains some of the most striking images and genuinely thrilling sequences of the entire franchise, and it’s also really, really scary for the little ones. Whether it’s the casual violence, obligatory f-word or horror beats, think twice before subjecting very young or sensitive kids to this.
By leaning into the comedy and horror elements that separates this series from its peers, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom beats the odds and manages to be a good time at the movies. It’s length aside, this is a more assured, thoughtful reboot than its predecessor, and leaves the franchise in a place that will at least force it’s (sorry, Westworld reference) violent delights into new and even more violent ends.