Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Isabella Sermon
When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. (Source: IMDb)
Despite being fairly poorly received by critics, Jurassic World went on to break box office records, and it proved that the Jurassic series was far from extinct. With go-to action guy Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard returning once again, and J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) in the directors chair, the questions everyone wanted to know were: would it be as incredibly popular as the first film was, and would it manage to convince the critics this time around.
The latter is a bit of an even split, and the former still remains to be seen, although at the moment it appears it won’t quite match its predecessor on this. The film itself is everything you would expect from a Jurassic film now; the effects are amazing, the characters make incredibly dumb decisions, and it is a hell of a lot of fun.
Split into two distinctive parts, it is in the second half that this film comes into its own. The first half is pretty generic action movie fare with the heroes being tasked with trying to save the dinos from their potentially fiery fate. There’s a couple of great moments, and a surprisingly emotional bit that really tugged at the heartstrings. There’s moments of genuine peril, and an underwater sequence that is pretty terrifying. Of course, we know our heroes will emerge unscathed so the peril is not prolonged, but it is there, and that was something which was felt to be missing from the first film.
In the second half of the film, it becomes very clear who is directing it, and J.A. Bayona returns to his gothic horror roots with glorious results. Nothing in the Jurassic franchise has been able to replicate the “raptors in the kitchen” from Jurassic Park, but Fallen Kingdom almost gets there with a truly terrifying sequence involving the new Indoraptor in the bedroom of Maisie (newcomer Isabella Sermon). The use of shadows, and the perfectly struck balance of sound and silence is expertly executed and to terrifying effect. Didn’t think a 12a/PG-13 film could evoke the spirit of Nosferatu? Well think again!
Fallen Kingdom is far from perfect, and there are some pretty major drawbacks. It is dumb. Like really, really dumb. The characters make increasingly dumb decisions and you can spot each story beat a mile away; the foreshadowing looms over the film constantly, and crashes into view with all the grace of a T-Rex on roller-skates (side note: would pay to see that).
There is also the unfortunate sense that this franchise is being drawn out. Jurassic World left some pretty big hints at what was to come as the series progressed, and Fallen Kingdom in many ways just feels like it is leading your hand gently and slowly to the (again) inevitable conclusion. It is not entirely without merit and purpose, but it still feels like the next installment will be the better one, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if many people were left at the end of this film saying “yeah we know, now what?”
I saw this movie and you should too. With all of that being said, this movie is a lot of fun, and despite its numerous and lumbering flaws, it is enjoyable popcorn blockbuster fare. Bayona brings a certain directorial flair to proceedings, particularly in the latter half, and it does at least feel like the series is progressing instead of just being a carbon copy of the original film. This series is far from extinct but if it hasn’t won you over yet, I’m not sure it ever will. The best you can do is accept they’re flawed, try not to think about it too much, and just enjoy the ride!