It took 22 years for there to be a truly satisfying sequel to the brilliant, groundbreaking Jurassic Park. When Jurassic World arrived in 2015, it had been 14 years since Jurassic Park III – and it smartly avoided the ‘going back to the island’, repetitive chase structure that the previous two sequels had fallen into. The elapsed time was also long enough for people to be nostalgic about the series in general – and this was cleverly implemented in the new film. With the sequels to the 1993 classic falling into repetition and not really knowing where to take the story, would the same fate befall the sequel to Jurassic World?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a film of two halves, not unlike one of Henry Wu’s hybrid creations (spoilers are going to be plentiful here, by the way – if that’s important to you, it’s probably best to skip to the final three paragraphs now!). Though trailers seemed to indicate that things would be taking a turn very similar to The Lost World, with characters going back to the island on a mission of conservation, the second half of the film takes a very different turn indeed – with the focus being on an auction of captured dinosaurs to various unsavoury, uber-wealthy individuals.
As in The Lost World, the conservation mission to the island isn’t quite what it seems at first. A returning Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard – reforming from the businesswoman role in the first film, here being part of a dinosaur rights group) are manipulated into returning, in order to secure the lone remaining velociraptor from Jurassic World’s Raptor Squad: Blue. It transpires that Henry Wu has been messing with dinosaur hybridisation again – and is looking to use Blue’s DNA to improve the formula for his newest creation: the Indoraptor.
Naturally, things go very, very wrong.
There’s a lot of good stuff here. A brilliant opening sequence featuring some well staged waterborne action gives us something we’ve not really seen before in the series, for starters.
We also see filmed flashbacks to Owen bonding with the infant Raptor Squad, forming a special bond with Blue – these sell the relationship between trainer and dinosaur perfectly.
There’s a great, albeit brief, cameo from Jeff Goldblum, with Ian Malcolm being called upon to give his view on whether or not the animals on Isla Nublar should be saved – with an impending volcanic eruption threatening to cause their extinction once more.
The Indoraptor is a superbly designed creature; dark skin and a gold stripe give it a unique look, even aside from the general physical characteristics it displays. Its enormous, very sharp claws are deployed effectively in a number of scenes, to often terrifyingly threatening effect.
There’s an absolutely heartbreaking sequence of a Brachiosaurus left behind on the island, seemingly calling to be saved. It’s played to perfection; beautifully shot and scored, it’s a sad demise for the glorious creature. It’s a haunting, tragic scene; the image of the anguished dinosaur’s silhouette, engulfed by flames and smoke, is a real gut punch that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
The film as a whole is visually very striking – and the dinosaurs are probably the most consistently convincing that they’ve been since the original Jurassic Park; there’s little of the CGI wobbles that happened a few times even in Jurassic World, for example, which suffered from being set – mostly – on a clear, sunny day in the theme park. Checking out the ‘making of’ features reveals a surprising amount of animatronic and puppetry work too, which helps a great deal.
A few comedic scenes deserve some mention too; one that features Owen trying to avoid a lava flow while paralysed is a great bit of physical comedy (despite the approaching lava behaving a little too conveniently), and a recurring joke that sees Justice Smith’s nerdy tech guru roped in to a variety of henchman roles is played for laughs too, very effectively. There’s even a brief moment of dark humour with the Indoraptor, toying with the ever-reliable Ted Levine’s callous mercenary character before he gets his just desserts.
The film does falter with the extended auction scenes, however. It feels like there’s an awful lot of time spent setting up and then watching dinosaurs being sold to arms dealers, with the animals themselves caged and sidelined – the commentary on the super-rich being able to simply do whatever the hell they please, regardless of the consequences, is particularly unsubtle (and a ‘Nasty woman’ line is an obvious dig at Trump-era ‘acceptable’ misogyny/fragile masculinity) – but lots of nasty people getting their comeuppance in a variety of ways does eventually give us some pay off. Isla Sorna is not once mentioned as a potential sanctuary for the animals, which is particularly odd considering its proximity to Isla Nublar and the fact that dinosaurs are already living – and presumably thriving – there (you can understand why they wouldn’t want to mention it, but it still fe like a glaring oversight). A subplot involving a cloned human feels shoehorned in and near enough unnecessary too – though it feeds into a vital decision made in the climax; one which changes everything for the series.
Speaking of that epilogue, it’s a very ballsy one that gives us an incredibly interesting set up for the third film of the ‘World’ trilogy (due out in June 2021, currently in production). Goldblum’s final speech is goosebump-inducing and leads us perfectly towards the next chapter.
Though far from perfect, Fallen Kingdom is a better film than I remember it being. The bait-and-switch of the marketing campaign – where the vast majority of the action was shown to be on the island and the film was assumed to be closely following The Lost World’s template – isn’t an issue once you know what you’re in for, and watching it in such close proximity to the other films (particularly the very underwhelming second film – and the franchise’s current worst entry, Jurassic Park III) gave me a new appreciation for the direction that Fallen Kingdom takes the franchise.
The safe, almost comfortingly familiar reintroduction to the series (via Jurassic World) led to a very different beast indeed with the sequel; darker, scarier and with some real heart – thanks to the sympathy shown for the plight of the dinosaurs, as well as Owen’s well documented, lifelong bond with Blue. Though the housebound setting isn’t entirely successful in the second half, it is at least a unique one for the series – and sets us up for what should be a very satisfying final chapter to the second trilogy.
So that wraps up my look at the entire series (so far!) of Jurassic Park movies. It’s been a blast rediscovering the films, even when they’ve underwhelmed – each of them have memorable scenes at the very least (even Jurassic Park III has the excellently creepy Pteranodon bridge sequence) and I’ve even re-evaluated how I feel about both The Lost World (worse than I recall) and Fallen Kingdom (better than I remember).
This all came about with Jurassic World: Evolution being given away as one of the games in December’s Games with Gold on Xbox; it made me want to revisit the whole series and I’m very glad I did (cross media promotion works, people!). It’s not quite my last word on the series; I’ll be giving my verdicts on each film in a TL;DR format later this week – and of course, I’ll be keeping an eye on the development of the next film throughout the year. This is the first time I’ve ever stuck to my promise of covering a whole series (previous attempts have stalled for various reasons, but will resume at some point), so it feels like a big achievement for me. Thank you for reading!
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