Franchises always find a way. There should never have been a sequel to Jurassic Park and yet, twenty-five years later, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the fifth. Is the human race that stupid as to make the same mistake again? Worryingly, yes.
Don’t go into J. A. Bayona’s sequel to Jurassic World expecting a radically new experience. Fallen Kingdom has everything you could possibly want from a filmasaurus rex; which is to say: nothing you need whatsoever. The weather on Isla Nublar remains reliably horrendous in scenes requiring a dose of pathetic fallacy, irritating businessmen are fated for an early grave and clever people with glasses will loose their specs and yet still have perfect vision in the final act. Novelty hasn’t been the appeal of this franchise for a long time. Neat set pieces and game cast aside, Fallen Kingdom is a largely familiar affair. It’s also terribly contrived, full of holes and just a little bit corny. Killer lines include: ‘Four million’s a slow Tuesday where I come from’. That said, try coming out the other side not having had a good time – not so easy.
The film is set three years after a high heeled Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) watched her theme park laid to waste by the genetically engineered – and dreadfully named – Indominus Rex. Racked with guilt, she now campaigns to have the dinosaurs saved from a volcano that’s ready to pop on the island. When the US Senate reject a rescue mission, Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) steps forward with a too-good-to-be-true proposal to have the dinosaurs to a mainland sanctuary. The only catch is that the last-surging velociraptor on the island is proving hard to pin down and Lockwood needs Claire and her ex-employee/boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to track it down. What could possibly go wrong? Your clue is Lockwood’s friendly aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) being exceedingly charming.
Most disappointing here is just how perfunctory this all feels. At times, the film descends to check-box cinema. There’s yet another visual cameo for John Hammond and even a random call-back to Jurassic Park’s goat. Bayona handles his camera with an admirable panache but is only occasionally able to deflect the pervading accusation of style over substance. One sequence that sees characters fleeing molten lava alongside terrified diplodocuses and triceratopses is so rip-roaringly entertaining that its absurdity only hits home in hindsight. Pratt and Howard remain amiable company, whilst newcomer Isabella Sermon is the best of the new additions, playing a character who’s likely to be important next time around. Not that this plot will be well remembered.
Heavier than before, Fallen Kingdom lacks a lightness of touch enough to make it as joyful an experience as its direct predecessor, nor the original. It does, however, boast solid direction and the odd pleasingly icky massacre.