As you may have gathered from the somewhat revealing final trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Isla Nublar, much like The Fresh Prince, is about to go boom.
It’s falls to Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to travel to the island on the dollar of dying old geneticist Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), an old pal and colleague of John Hammond, who, through his protégé Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) bankrolls Claire’s mission to save the island’s last remaining species from the brink of extinction. Of course, she must convince her ex-boyfriend Owen (Chris Pratt) to come along for the ride as Mills believes Owen is the only one can successfully capture his old pet raptor Blue, the last of her kind and an indispensable ‘asset’. In Owen’s own words, “What could possibly go wrong?”.
As Nicolas Cage so eloquently put it in Con Air, “My first thought would be, a lot.”
Much like The Lost World, Mills is a regurgitated Peter Ludlow with his own Postlethwaite in Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). Their diabolical scheme? Get the dinosaurs off the island so they can sell them for weapons to the highest bidder under the guise of protecting them for furutre generations. “Lies! It was all lies!” Claire will so aptly yell later. If this sounds like a bad idea, that’s because of course it is. It’s always a bad idea. But the corporate type never seems to learn and here we are yet again.
As Jurassic Park‘s dire first sequel proved, taking dinosaurs off the island and transplanting them into modern suburbia can send a Jurassic Park movie south quicker than Vince Vaughn. Luckily, director J.A. Bayona is no fool. Once off the island, we’re in Bayona territory (and thank the lord almighty because the vision of dinosaurs tearing round a city again King Kong style would have been vomit inducing) as the remainder of the film plays out in a towering, gothic estate that smacks of Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ and nods less to the Jurassic Park franchise than it does to the pantheon of classic Hammer Horror and Universal monster pictures.
It’s a more contained and claustrophobic offering than Trevorrow’s grander, sweeping adventure, reanimating the tense sequences in Spielberg’s original that saw Ellie Sattler get us “back in business” and Lex and Tim evade the raptors in the kitchen. The now infamous tap of the raptors knife-like toenail is exaggerated in the IndoRaptor and employed to great effect. It becomes the film’s equivalent to the moving bleep as Dallas crawls through the air shafts in Alien. It’s spooky too, less swashbuckling, employing expressionist flashes that momentarily illuminate the IndoRaptor’s stalking advances.
Characters are essentially left to wander through a house of horrors and it’s here Bayona comes into his own and the film is at its best. At its worst, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom can be predictable, treading familiar old ground. Abdication of parental responsibility. The inevitable dire consequences of messing with nature. The ethics of genetic power.
Disappointingly, we don’t really get anymore insight into our leading protagonists or what’s happened since thew incidents in Jurassic World. Everything happens a bit too fast. Claire’s new job at a non-profit, established to protect the dinosaurs from extinction, feels loose and unbelievable. No real impression is given of how she got there or how it might have impacted on her relationship with Owen who, again, is building a home and living in a van. Their relationship feels lazy.
Perhaps interesting is the positioning of Owen as the paternal figure of the piece. He is the Ripley to the film’s Newt in Maisie, brought to life by newcomer Isabelle Sermon. Bayona also manages to deliver a heart wrenching moment that has been missing in the series since the dying Triceratops. It’s a moment that allows Howard to lend some credibility to Claire’s new found career and for us to try to ponder the truth of extinction in the face of natural disaster.
There are great turns from the film’s suppoeting cast, notably Toby Young’s greedy, flamboyant and borderline psychotic auctioneer Gunnar Eversol. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm is shockingly underused and may as well not have appeared at all. While it’s certainly nice to have seen him, his inclusion is more like product placement than a supporting cast member.
In 2015, Colin Trevorrow and team did a tremendous job of capturing the atmosphere and tone of the universally adored Jurassic Park. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not that film. It is however a credible sequel and a far better caper than the extremely misguided Lost Word. It does however feel dictated and therefore less scary than it could have been. There are elements of Bayona here which flourish, but it also gets stuck in tropes and throwbacks that give it the overall impression of being simply the connecting part between Trevorrow’s first and third instalment. One wonders how scary it could have been had the director been given complete freedom without the looming shadow of Spielberg and Trevorrow.