Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

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Jurassic World. Three years later, the island’s active volcano threatens to wipeout the abandoned dinosaurs. Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) billionaire CEO of the Lockwood Foundation launches a rescue mission that reunites the park’s former manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and of course genetically modified dino mayhem breaks loose again.             

We open on darkness. Out of the deep gloom of the ocean, a tiny submarine appears with its searchlight sweeping over the sea floor, now a graveyard of dinosaur bones beneath the abandoned mega theme park… Jurassic World. The submariners locate the huge skeleton of the Indominus Rex – the rampaging super-dino that munched its way through bus loads of tourists and pretty much everything else on the island. The sundodgers hack off one of its razor-sharp teeth, sending it to the surface via balloon. As the Mosasaurus – a fishy crocodile, the size of a football stadium – swallows them whole. Proving somethings are best left alone.                   

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, kicked off in spectacular fashion by the godfather of the modern blockbuster Steven Spielberg. Jumping into the director’s chair this time around is J.A. Bayona, who is an inspired choice, his filmography proves he can handle disaster, suspense, and monsters, i.e – The Impossible (2012), The Orphanage (2007), A Monster Calls (2016). The key ingredients for any great trip back to the park.               

Isla Nublar. The home of the iconic dino theme park with more holiday insurance claims against it than a half-built hotel resort in Tenerife, is on the verge of destruction. The once dormant volcano at the island’s centre is about to erupt and wipeout the abandoned dinosaurs, all roaming happily across its lush green lands. And a familiar face pops up, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in front of a congressional hearing, wrestling with the ethical ramifications of saving the cloned dinosaurs, “Shouldn’t they be offered the same protection as other endangered species…?” As the park’s former manager, turned dinosaur rights activist, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her young team, techie Franklin (Justice Smith) and doctor (Zia Rodriguez), campaign passionately to rescue the dinosaurs before it’s too late. Claire’s efforts catch the attention of Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) the reptilian-like CEO of the Lockwood Foundation. He has more than enough money and resources to help, and helping himself is what he does best.                  

Naturally, if you’re going to tangle with a T-Rex again. You’re going to need someone who knows a thing or two about them. But sadly, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) now an unemployed raptor wrangler and full-time hunk, is all dinosaured out after escaping the mayhem of Jurassic World. And he’s still a little sore over Claire dumping him – a life stuck in his old camper van just wasn’t for her. Shocker.

Screenwriters Colin Trevorrow (yes, the bloke who directed Jurassic World) and Derek Connolly take the daring and left field step of showing the bond between Owen and Blue (a raptor bred for military weaponisation) in an old training video, which establishes an almost father and daughter relationship between them. Heart strings pulled, Owen jumps on-board the rescue mission, he’s going to save his dino daughter and get his girl back – natural disasters or otherwise have saved countless onscreen relationships just ask Raymond Gaines in San Andreas (2015).             

Wide sweeping vistas, untouched flora, and a majestic diplodocus, dazzles the intrepid-ish heroes, rolling across the ruined island in a heavy-duty truck convoy, commanded by big game hunter Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), backed up by a band of grizzled mercenaries. The double cross is so obvious, as Owen tracks down Blue in the shadow of the erupting volcano, Wheatley and his men wound the colourful dino, lashing her to the back of a getaway truck. Kicking off a literally earth shaking action sequence of molten lava, stampeding dinosaurs and a Gyrosphere sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Without a doubt, it’s the best moment of dinosaur mayhem in the film.              

Then. The story goes small. Really, small. Almost to the scale of a Hammer horror film. Again another daring choice, but one that gets muddled by a subplot involving Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former business partner of John Hammond (the owner of the very first Jurassic Park, just so you know), together they created InGen back in the day, but had a parting of the ways over the ethics of cloning. As Dr. Ian Malcolm would say “Life, uh, finds a way”. Yeah, it sure does. And the revelation about a character’s past (no spoilers) is an intriguing one. Perhaps more intriguing now than dinosaurs runamuck, which is a problem in a Jurassic Park film. 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom asks the most daring question of the franchise so far. Can you feel true empathy for a CGI dinosaur?… The answer. No, not really. I am afraid. It’s admirable that Blue’s given a personality, but all the cute head nods, soft growls and smirks in the world, doesn’t change the fact she’s a cold blooded killing machine. And a friendly dinosaur is getting a little bit too close to The Flintstones (1994). Not a good look. 

There’s no denying J.A. Bayona is a skilful filmmaker – watching an indoraptor stalking into a little girl’s bedroom is probably the creepiest thing you’ll see in a blockbuster this year. He cranks up the horror and suspense to Spielbergian levels, which is a refreshing change from the bloodless Marvel superhero romps playing in cinemas this summer. And yet, it’s somehow less engaging. Despite Trevorrow and Connolly’s best efforts to write a more character focused and philosophically edged dino adventure, the sameyness of roaring T-Rexs, greedy corporations and terrified children, ends up being kind of “meh”. As for the leading actors, they add a certain spunkiness to the schlocky material. Chris Pratt is a charming bulldozer, and Bryce Dallas Howard looks surprised. All of the time. They do play well together, and the rampant sexism in their relationship has been addressed. Claire gets to wear boots this time… 

We’re creating the future with pieces from the past” states the Trumpesque auctioneer Gunnar Eversol (Tony Jones) amidst a dinosaur auction packed to the rafters with drug companies, warlords, and dictators. And probably fast-food chains, hell who wouldn’t want to eat a T-Rex quarter pounder with cheese? It’s a telling line of dialogue, which kind of sums up Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the Jurassic Park film franchise as a whole.    

For all the film’s big ideas about genetic power, animal rights and shifting human evolution – in the end it’s still just about two genetically modified dinos battling to the death in a stately home (no that isn’t a spoiler. It’s in the trailer). So, less Fallen Kingdom, more Jurassic Abby… And that’s about as fresh as the prehistoric mosquito on the end of John Hammond’s cain. With the next instalment seemingly going to Las Vegas, it really isn’t too far of a stretch to imagine the dinos getting their own Cirque Du Soleil show, which of course goes horribly wrong. Great.                

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