Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review - Extinction might have been better than this fun but formulaic sequel
Twenty-five years ago, everyone’s favourite chaotician Dr Ian Malcolm pointed out that the scientists who helped found Jurassic Park ‘were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should’. It’s an ironic sentiment really, because it seems like it’s the one thing everyone at Universal studios failed to consider themselves before greedily opting to issue four more sequels. You see, while Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original is largely considered a cinematic classic, almost all of the follow-up films have left somewhat of a sour taste in fans' mouths. Firstly, there was The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which while engaging was little more than frivolous fun. Then came Jurassic Park III (2001), a critical and commercial flop that included second-rate CGI and one of the most annoying ringtones ever put to screen. And what about 2015’s Jurassic World? Which was hailed a reinvention of the genre 20 years later but delivered… well… an almost scene-for-scene retelling of the original. And so, we come to the latest offering, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), a film that serves as an entertaining ride, but once again, does little more than rehash the tried and true methods of old. Honestly, why does no-one ever listen to Malcolm?
Picking up three years after the crew’s dismal second attempt at a theme park, this time around we are brought news that Isla Nublar and its dino-inhabitants are about to go boom, thanks to a giant volcano (which, let’s be honest, was never so much as alluded to in any of the previous films). With a potential second extinction looming, one of John Hammond’s old colleagues, Mr Lockwood (who again, we haven’t really heard of until this point,) puts his hand up to fund a daring rescue effort to save nearly a dozen species. Recruiting Claire and Owen, under the guise of saving their old friend Blue, the velociraptor, it’s not long before everyone is back on the island and double crosses are springing left, right and centre. Oh, but they said they were going to save the dinosaurs and move them to a new sanctuary? They couldn’t possibly be scheming to sell them to the highest bidder as weapons or game animals, right? Well, those naive thoughts are from the days when the Jurassic series was innocent and pure. So once again it is up to our protagonists to thwart the evil wrongdoers, as a fantastic volcanic explosion, a newly modified monster and a third act set in a creepy mansion in the woods, rounds out the movie and provides about every cliché the action genre affords.
Frankly, it’s frustrating to see the same formulaic dilemmas appear yet again, in a film that could arguably have been a break from tradition. We’ve got a new genetically-engineered dinosaur that – wait for it – causes huge problems for our main cast. Then there’s the ethics of whether man has the right to play God by saving or creating dinosaurs. We’ve got the geneticist who is willing to produce the monsters but needs some time to develop them. And let’s not forget the dangers of bringing the once extinct animals onto the mainland, let alone including a Tyrannosaurus Rex among them. Or what about having a child hide from the beasts in a small space that requires them to pull down a vertical hatch? Add in a dose of an underdog velociraptor saving the day from the bigger, badder foe, as well as characters such as the cute grandchild, hacker, and games keeper who takes trophies from his hunt, and I think we have pretty much covered every movie, right? Honestly, did the writers actually discuss the script? Because it's almost painful to see the studio repeat the mistakes of their past.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its redeeming moments though, with the first half a relatively-convincing adventure flick, full of volcanoes and the same goofy and cute Claire and Owen dynamic we have come to know and love. Touching ‘documentary style’ footage of the former raptor keeper bonding with a young Blue will also warm even the coldest of reptilian hearts. And then there is the series most heart-breaking moment, as a lone brachiosaur tries valiantly to escape the oncoming explosion. Amidst the chaos and confusion of the scene there is a profound sense of sadness, as director J.A. Bayona pays homage to fans of the original, before finally letting the series break free of its island constraints. But for all the social commentary and moving moments (a particularly noteworthy ‘nasty women’ comment springs to mind), there is just as many aspects that drag us back. In particular, a sloppy scene that presents the idea of cloning something other than a dinosaur, before relegating it to little more than the next logical step in genetics. Since when were dinosaurs (real, live, freaking dinosaurs) not enough for these films?
For the most part the acting is also solid, with Chris Pratt delivering the same charismatic turn as most of his post Parks and Recreation (2009 - 2015) roles. Bryce Dallas Howard gets a good run too, sans the high heels this time, while Rafe Spall and Toby Jones join the show as the stereotypical villains (what is it with Brits being devious?). Sadly, both deliver very little substance for their efforts. Justice Smith is by far the best of the new crop though, pitched as the comic relief, and is backed up by the tough-but-somewhat-forgettable Daniella Pineda. As for the child role (C’mon, what is a Jurassic movie without a kid? Am I right?), stepping into those shoes is actress Isabella Sermon, as the granddaughter of James Cromwell’s mysterious Mr Lockwood. She’s got the cutes, the accent and the attitude to stand alone and has made a decent mark in her first on-screen appearance. But for a film heralding the return of Dr Malcolm himself, it is downright criminal the lack of screen time Jeff Goldblum is given. Surely there was more he could do than sit in a courtroom, right? That’s like, I don’t know, having Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe award winning actress Laura Dern phone-in her role… oh wait…
Perhaps the most frustrating part of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), is that it’s legacy was one of enthralling, terrifying and awe-inspiring spectacle. Of moments of pure dread and once-extinct creatures that screamed to life. Elements that have slowly been sucked away by the franchise’s numerous chapters. Five instalments in and it’s hard to see how the series does little more than make us feel like we’ve been stomped all over. Going extinct might actually have been the answers to our problem. But, if there’s one shining light in the darkness it comes in the film’s closing moments, which while setting audiences up for yet another offering (a 2021 release has already been nailed down), finally suggests we could be given a fresh road to go down.
Rating: 2 Fed-Up Malcolms out of 5
Jurassic World Review - The claws are out as tried and tested prehistoric plots are let loose in this blockbuster
It’s been 22 years since the first film and 14 years since the last movie was released, but finally the Park is open. And once again, they’re not about to make the same mistakes, they’re going to make all new ones. Richard Hammond would be proud. Isla Nublar, the original site A from Jurassic Park is the now fully transformed Jurassic World, a theme-park commoditised around dinosaurs. There are rides on baby triceratops, giant aquariums with mosasaurs, and even gyrospheres to give you an up-close experience with the once extinct creatures. But in today’s consumer driven society, people are no longer content with just seeing dinosaurs. The once extinct animals are just not ‘wow’ enough anymore. People are demanding something newer, bigger, better, scarier, and basically has, well, more teeth. So the good old scientists, led by B.D. Wong reprising his role as Dr Henry Wu, alongside the corporate machine that runs the show, decide that the way to increase attendance is to cook up a genetically modified dinosaur.
So, what could possibly go wrong? In the words of Dr Ian Malcolm; “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming.” Jurassic World (2015) brings the same old tried-and-tested concept as its precursors, and unfortunately little else. The park is for once running smoothly (no one is getting eaten) but losing interest from the public, so the scientists, keen to up the ante, go and play God, creating a smarter, bigger and all round more pissed off dinosaur, that, as animals do, falls prey to its basic instincts to figure out its place in the food chain (hint its up there at the top). Subsequent dino-escape scene and cue the havoc.
The once daring and revolutionary formula of the original is instead disenchanting and overused here, plainly stated throughout the film and its casting. Instead of Sam Neill as the gruff child-hating palaeontologist, we get Chris Pratt (in fine form both literally and figuratively) as raptor-wrangler Owen Grady, a gruff-but-comedic Indiana Jones like character, who rides a motorcycle, wears a leather vest, and for some reason gained experience to work with dinosaurs by being in the navy? Similarly Bryce Dallas Howard takes the reins as female lead Claire, who is not quite as spunky as Laura Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler, or as daring as Julianne Moore’s Sarah Harding. Instead she is a bland authoritarian hell-bent on preserving her femininity in the face of all the chaos by remaining clad in high heel shoes despite being chased by a T-Rex. Rounding out the protagonists are Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as brothers Gray and Zach, the nephews of Park Manager Claire, and the stock-standard link for children to the movie.
Such a formula has so much potential, if it was executed on the same level as the original. Instead, the characters fall into one-dimensional frames, the neurotic business woman, the sexy animal whisperer, the teenager more concerned with looking at girls than at the once extinct creatures around him. Despite fantastic acting on the parts of Howard, Pratt and Simpkins, only Owen crosses the line as a character you want to root for, representing a more normal, less chaos-y, and sexier looking Jeff Goldblum. The rest are caricatures to the ‘making a transformation’ trope that adventure films rely on, and lack any real chemistry or connection with each other and the audience. Why Owen and Claire are painted as love interests baffles, considering the complete lack of build-up or passion, with their backstory being reduced to a single line informing audiences that they have only ever been on one date (which she micro-managed and drew out an itinerary for). The villainous character of Hoskins, whilst effectively brought to life by Vincent D’Onofrio, somehow manages to conjure even more one-dimensionality, introducing a sub-plot about using dinosaurs as weapons, which shifts so far from the virtuous themes about humans playing God that made Jurassic Park the defining film it is, that it almost lands the film back on the mainland and away from any semblance of sophistication.
What Jurassic World does do however, it does well. What would a good dinosaur movie be without a bit of mayhem, and Jurassic World certainly serves it up. There are more dinosaurs, more action, and a stunning use of animatronics that damn-near brings a tear to the eye. The eye-level-hunting dinosaur scenes that made the first film the success it was, and guaranteed the T-Rex a place in nightmares the world over, are used to great effect. The fear is absolutely palpable when you see just how big the Indominus teeth are. The dinosaur fight scenes are also slick and ferocious, like the beasts themselves. The final clash in particular is executed so wonderfully, that it is a fitting pay-off for making it through the film, and a great nod to the ending of the first film. Whilst the CGI raptors don’t always look convincing here, they are finally utilised for something other than the traditional villains’, and it’s a refreshing change.
Above all, the film is a clear homage to Spielberg and his 1993 classic, and a satisfying addition for fans. From classic soundtracks that drift in and out of the movie, to long lost banners, night-vision goggles, and beloved beast cameos, there has been care taken to tell the audience that we are still a part of the world Spielberg created all those years ago. Whilst Spielberg took back seat for this movie as executive producer, handing the reins over to relative newcomer Colin Trevorrow, whose most stand-out film to date was the impressive Safety Not Guaranteed; it is easy to see his influence stampeding throughout. From scenes that fundamentally mirror moments from the first film; such as the glorious entrance through the Jurassic World gates, through to life-like animatronic dinosaurs suffering as humans look on; Spielberg is constantly reminding us that it is he that is the true king of dinosaurs. It’s a shame therefore that he didn’t direct. Whilst Trevorrow has crafted an interesting, and entertaining film, that certainly keeps the adrenaline pumping and the eyes open, it’s a shame that with a film like Jurassic Park as its precursor, it instead chooses to rest on the laurels of that great, instead of pushing past it to become its own masterpiece.
Rating: 3.5 Dino-Footprints out of 5
Film and TV Reviews
Film and television reviews of everything from independent movies to Disney and superhero flicks.
All video and photo content used on this site is sourced and all credit must go to the original owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright © 2019. CINEMATICISM.
All Rights Reserved.
Owned by Kirby Spencer.