It’s amazing as for how massive the Jurassic Park/World franchise is that there has been no properly great sequel. The original Jurassic Park is a classic, we all agree that. But nothing as ever matched it. The Lost World is way too long and plodding, Jurassic Park 3 never justified it’s own existence and even though I don’t mind Jurassic World, the characters were unlikable for many. But yet despite the fact it hasn’t given us a reason to care about the franchise since the early 90s, we still get excited for the next one. Can Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom be the sequel that is worth our excitement?
The theme park Jurassic World may have shut down but many dinosaurs still live on the island. However with an active volcano erupting, they may not be living there much longer. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help) and a reluctant Owen (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy) head to the island to save the dinosaurs but seen find that those helping them may not just be saving these creatures out of the good of their hearts.
Because of the doubt a lot of people have about this movie, it needs to get off to a good star. Luckily it does. After the set-up, which includes a scene very reminiscent of the opening of Jurassic Park which is different enough to be a homage rather than a rip-off, and we get to the island, the movie is actually pretty good. Not amazing, but there’s a lot of fun to be had. Seeing the wrecked park is pretty cool and there is an ominous tone where it does feel like a dinosaur could come out and eat everyone on screen. And when the volcano actually erupts, it ticks up to excellent. The director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) knows how to do this sort of disaster after making the sadly forgotten but great The Impossible and he really does ramp up the intensity here with a barrage of impressive set pieces. At the end of it he might even get some tears out of you with a really evocative image. Certainly made the girl behind me in the cinema bawl her eyes out.
And everything just looks better. The dinosaurs are better looking in this one than the last film, there is at least some effort to disguise them in darkness or the woods at times, even if they still don’t look quite as good as the original. How that is possible I don’t know but hey ho. And I’m really glad that there is proper use of models rather than just saying there were going to do it like last time. There is a rather fun scene with Owen and Claire trying to get blood out of a sedated T-Rex and it’s probably one of the better scenes in the movie because you can see that the T-Rex is really there. So when it moves its head and traps Owen, it looks and feels real because the head moves as you’d expect it to rather than how a computer would expect it to. Plus as Bayona is a much better director than Colin Trevorrow, there are some really impressive shots which rank as some of the best in the franchise.
There are some new characters as well that I suppose we can enjoy. Well actually, there’s one new one we can enjoy. I really enjoyed Zia (Daniella Pineda, The Vampire Diaries) as a paleo-vet who has basically just had enough of everything. She just wants to save dinosaurs and not have any rubbish in her way while she is doing it. Quite honestly I love her and her annoyed with everything view of the world will definitely hit home for some. Unfortunately she comes along with Franklin (Justice Smith, Paper Towns). You know how irritating screamers are in horror movies? Like how they make you want to claw your eardrums out? Well guess what, they come in male form now. Which I suppose is a step for equality but one I don’t think anyone really wanted. Can’t we just get rid of all the screamers? Both end up disappearing about halfway through the movie though which is a mixed bag as it means less Xia but also means less Franklin.
And I don’t know who they focus grouped to come up with the story but why on earth did they go all in on the military sub-plot? My biggest annoyance with Jurassic World was the pointless military sub-plot with a very boring Vincent D’Onofrio being a bit dim and eventually going out tamely to velociraptor. And yet now the military wanting to train dinosaurs is the big thing and guess what, I care about it the same as I did when you presented the idea in the first film. Not very much. You come to Jurassic World movies because you want to see dinosaurs run amok but when the movie gets bogged down in this corporate/military stuff, it just gets boring quick. I know this was in the original but it was in the background and enhancing the lore. But push it to the forefront and I lose focus because all I want to see is dinosaurs.
It makes things even worse because it makes the actual set pieces worse. This movie starts with a volcanic eruption and ends with dinosaurs in a corridor. It reminds me of how World War Z started had a massive wall of zombies and ended up finishing off in a lab in Wales. Traditionally, you ramp everything up to a big climax because it’s more exciting that way. But this movie goes the opposite way with poor results and it means a very boring end to the film. Owen and Claire run away from a large hybrid velociraptor thing in a big house and it’s not exactly the most thrilling thing in the world. Especially when you started with the aforementioned volcanic eruption. Yes there is a big moment towards the end, which is a stupid way to get to what could be a cool sequel, but it doesn’t make up for the dinosaurs in corridors conclusion.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is probably not as bad as you are expecting. A great first half with some properly exciting moments makes sure it doesn’t end up like all those naff SyFy dinosaur movies. But it still isn’t as good as we want this franchise to be. We want these movies to be about dinosaurs, basically a more sophisticated monster movie. But we’ve ended up with another movie that’s far more interested in conspiracy than it is dinosaurs even though the audience are here for the latter. Please, get the military out of Jurassic World and let the dinosaurs run amok. That’s all I ask.