When the final trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom first debuted, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Lost World. Just like the original Jurassic World aped the original Jurassic Park, it seemed that the soft-reboots sequel would copy the sequel of the original. To an extent, it did. But thankfully Fallen Kingdom is full of a few deviations, most of which are to its benefit.
In this sequel, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are back as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing. Three years after the catastrophe of Jurassic World, the discovery is made that the dormant volcano on Isla Nublar, home of said park, is no longer dormant. The dinosaurs will be wiped out unless the government decides to intervene. Claire is now in charge of an activist group with the mission of rescuing the dinosaurs. When the government decides to do nothing, Claire jumps at the chance to work with John Hammond’s never-before-mentioned partner, Benjamin Lockwood, to bring the dinos to a dinosaur sanctuary. Just like in The Lost World, the corporate suits of the company have ulterior motives, and the dinosaurs are brought to the mainland where things naturally go wrong.
Rounding out the cast is a myriad group of supporting players. Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are two newcomers playing a bold paleoveterinarian and a meek systems analyst, respectively. While the two could’ve come off as mere cliches, each adds a certain human element that makes them stand out. Jeff Goldblum makes his return to the series as Dr. Ian Malcolm, along with B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. Unfortunately, each is delegated to what basically amounts to an extended cameo. Bu, their presence is more than welcome. It wouldn’t surprise me if both return for the next film in the series in more pivotal roles. The obligatory child in this one is Benjamin’s granddaughter, Maisie Lockwood. Played by Isabella Sermon, I found her to be one of the more interesting and less aggravating children to grace the series. The rest of the cast members do the best with what they’re given. Despite including talented actors such as Geraldine Chaplin and Toby Jones, much of them either have little to do or have to contend with hackneyed dialogue.
Whereas Colin Trevorrow directed Jurassic World and co-wrote the screenplay for Fallen Kingdom, J.A. Bayona stepped in to direct this iteration. This change proves to be to the benefit of the series. Bayona’s previous directing credits include horror film The Orphanage and the monster fantasy A Monster Calls. It’s easy to see how the latter would influence Fallen Kingdom, as Bayona has a mastery of showcasing the scale and magnitude of the dinosaurs on display. But it may come as a surprise to know that his experience with The Orphanage is just as relevant, as the film becomes a sort of Gothic horror with dinosaurs after its halfway point. Unlike The Lost World which spends most of its time on Isla Nublar, Fallen Kingdom gets to the mainland comparatively quickly.
While Trevorrow did a solid job of re-staging the original film in Jurassic World, he didn’t quite capture the magic of the original. Bayona doesn’t capture the magic of the original, but rather tries to create his own magic. This makes the film a compromise. The first half on Isla Nublar feels like a direct homage to the originals. While most of the dinosaurs are replicated through CGI, there are quite a few animatronics used. The first half is tried and true Jurassic Park, but there is a sense that the film is doing this more out of obligation than desire. Once we get to the mainland, Bayona comes into his element with the dinosaurs getting transported to a creepy mansion. Each half of the film has its own separate and interesting conceit, but together there is a certain disparate element to them. Each half could have potentially been an interesting film in its own right, and they still work together, but there is a degree of tonal whiplash going from “epic disaster” to “Gothic horror.”
Despite the messiness of the plot, especially compared to Jurassic World, Fallen Kingdom is actually a slight improvement. This sequel manages to be both more thoughtful and more fun than its predecessor. Sure, the villains are one-dimensional and inexplicably evil, but it makes it all the more fun when they get their comeuppance. A certain scene in an auction hall had me laughing gleefully, for example. There are ethical ideas brought up that the series has surprisingly never addressed, but these could have been touched on a bit more. Fallen Kingdom takes risks, and while not all of them pay off, they make for a more interesting film. With the island destroyed, the movie forces the series to try something new.
Even if it in some ways rips off The Lost World, it ensures that the final film in the Jurassic World trilogy will not copy Jurassic Park 3. No, it’ll be a very different film, and seeing how the path has been laid, I’m excited about it.
Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom Review
Dumb fun with some nuggets of thought thrown in
Though hindered by a messy plot, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom actually proves to be a step up from its predecessor. The film sticks to the mold and then breaks it, hard, like a T Rex crashing through a fence.