By Marty Mulrooney
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the second film in the Jurassic World trilogy and a direct sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World. Helmed this time round by Spanish director J. A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls), Fallen Kingdom sees Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) returning to Isla Nublar to rescue the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has one of the best – if not the best – opening sequences in a Jurassic film. In the midst of a tropical storm (shortly after the events of the previous film), a small mercenary team infiltrates Isla Nublar to collect DNA from the skeleton of the Indominus Rex.
The contrast between the relative serenity of the underwater submarine exploring the abandoned theme park’s lagoon and the violent storm raging above is beautifully choreographed and orchestrated. The tension ramps up with every crash of thunder and flash of lightening, culminating in a pulse-pounding attack by the Tyrannosaurus.
Once viewers have managed to catch their collective breath the film jumps forward to the present day, where it’s revealed that Isla Nublar is on the brink of being wiped out by a volcanic eruption. The result of this would be the re-extinction of the dinosaurs.
Claire Dearing is no longer the stuffy operations manager of Jurassic World; she now heads the Dinosaur Protection Group, which seeks to ensure the safety and protection of these animals. So of course, she jumps at the opportunity to relocate them with the help of John Hammond’s suspiciously never mentioned before (retconned) former partner, Sir Benjamin Lockwood.
Owen Grady, on the other hand, has chosen a life of solitude. Building a house in the American woods, he only allows himself to be drawn back into the plot due to his relationship with Blue, the last living Velociraptor (and of course, although he’d never care to admit it, his failed relationship with Claire). Yet, not everyone agrees about saving the dinosaurs.
In a wonderful cameo, Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as Ian Malcolm to argue for the re-extinction of the dinosaurs in a courtroom setting. He does so much with so little, delivering his wonderfully written lines with such underplayed aplomb, that you’ll wish he could come along for the ride. Perhaps in the next film?
Jurassic World is a film of two halves. The first half is classic Jurassic, with Owen, Claire and a team of experts and mercenaries travelling to Isla Nublar to evacuate the dinosaurs. The action sequences are superb, with one of the highlights being a dinosaur stampede that ends in a genuinely nail-biting underwater sequence. Things go wrong as they always do, but the film does a very good job of making you feel for the dinosaurs.
There’s a moment involving a distressed Brachiosaurus, calling out to sea as it’s engulfed in smoke, that is absolutely heartbreaking. Any dinosaur lover will undoubtedly agree that this moment will become the enduring image of Fallen Kingdom in years to come.
The second half of the film is 100% J. A. Bayona, with the action transferred to a creepy gothic mansion at the Lockwood Estate in Northern California. It shouldn’t really work, but the filmmakers just about get away with it. Fallen Kingdom’s new dinosaur/hybrid is called the Indoraptor and it’s genuinely creepy as it races through the mansion’s corridors and hovers over the bed of Lockwood’s terrified granddaughter Masie – who is also kind of creepy, effectively played by newcomer Isabella Sermon. All will be revealed…
The specific effects are excellent, whether they’re CGI or animatronics – the latter of which make a welcome comeback in Fallen Kingdom. There’s a scene where Owen and Claire must take blood from a sedated Tyrannosaurus that mixes the two techniques seamlessly. If the idea was to make the viewer stop seeing the special effects and consider the dinosaurs real, the filmmakers have succeeded… for the most part. There are still some moments where the dinosaurs don’t ring true, but thankfully they’re few and far between.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a highly entertaining trip to the cinema, especially in IMAX 3D where the dinosaurs are at their most awe-inspiring. Admittedly, it isn’t as well-rounded as Jurassic World (despite that exquisite opening sequence), but perhaps that’s because it refuses to play things safe. J. A. Bayona tries out a lot of new ideas and while most of them work, some of them don’t. The supporting cast members are also excellent – especially Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) as a seasoned mercenary – despite limited screen time, but only Claire and Owen feel fully fleshed out as a result of their development in the previous film (and to a lesser extent, B.D. Wong as Henry Wu).
How Fallen Kingdom – and its cliffhanger ending – will ultimately be remembered, in years to come, will depend on how everything wraps up in the final part of the Jurassic World trilogy; it will undoubtedly be an interesting film to revisit. Until then, this middle instalment is definitely a bigger sequel, with more teeth. Judging by the recent news that it has crossed $1 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office, it looks like evolving the established formula – rather than playing it safe – was the right call after all.
8 OUT OF 10
All Images © 2018 Universal Studios & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.