TL;DR – It really pains me to say that this film was a real disappointment with its story.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit scene but you do not have to stay for it
So well hmmm. Look when it comes to dinosaurs I am the easiest person to convince. I have loved them since I was a kid, the favourite book in my library is my first edition Dinotopia novel, and I have loved every one of the previous Jurassic Park films, yes even Jurassic Park III. However, as I walked out of the cinemas here I can’t help but think I just watched something that had an opportunity to do something different but decided to go the safest predictable route imaginable and just re-tread things from the last film, and overall just became a bit of a disappointment.
So to set the scene, at the end of the last film Jurassic World (see review) Isla Nublar was completely abandoned over the next three years allowing all the dinosaurs to roam, breed, and create a new ecosystem. However, while there are still those that are lured by the promise of dinosaurs, and we open on a team of mercenaries opening the gates into the lagoon. A submersible scours the floor until they find the skeleton of Indominus rex and grab a sample of its ribs, before the lagoon’s resident Mosasaurus who had kept itself alive over the three years samples the submarine. Flash forward some time and the worse possible news happens, the volcano at the heart of the island which everyone thought was dormant is actually active and is getting ready to erupt, so the question remains, do you save the dinosaurs or let nature take its course. Well, Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) Hammond’s former business partner and his assistant Eli (Rafe Spall) will not let them die even if governments have given up on them. So they call on Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help them with the tracking system and Owen (Chris Pratt) to help them capture Blue who is eluding them and along with Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith) they make the flight to the island to save as many as they can. But it is all a trap because they are not saving the dinosaurs to move to a sanctuary, but to sell them off to the highest bidder. Now because of how the film is structured, it is a bit hard to not get into details without hitting some reveals, so with that in mind, there will be some [SPOILERS] from this point onwards.
Okay, now while I will get to the disappoint bits in a moment, the first thing I want to do is talk about the fantastic things because there are still some amazing moments in the film. The first really big plus is all the work director J. A. Bayona and cinematographer Óscar Faura have done to make this one of the best-looking films in the series. Now I don’t make that claim lightly but there are so many moments in this film where I was just blown away by how beautiful that they were. There is the opening fight with the T-Rex or that last moment when you still see the Brachiosaurus waiting on the docks to be rescued as the ash cloud envelopes them. They have a beautiful eye for the interplay of light that really makes this film stand out in places. As well as this, the action set pieces are all really interesting when they are going in a new direction, which you can see with the Baryonyx fight, or when the Stygimoloch is wrecking up the auction.
All of the dinosaurs have been painstakingly created by ILM and are truly a wonder to behold. It was great to see some new dinosaurs that we have not seen so far in the series like the Allosaurus and Sinoceratops. As well as this, it is clear that they have used more mechanical dinosaurs this time around because they have a bit more weight and substance to them. Oh and also, I do think all the acting is really good, they are all giving great performances, I mean when has James Cromwell given a bad performance. Now, there were some moments that made it clear that some of the character beats did not make it to the final cut, it does all still work from a character motivation perspective.
However, here we reach the moment where the issues start to line up and unfortunately we can locate all of them in the film’s lacklustre story. Now, the story has never really been a huge issue because in the case of JP1 & JW it was look at the park, isn’t it all nice, oops something happened now run for your life, and JP2 & JP3 was whoops you got trapped I hope you make it to safety before the dinosaurs get you. However, here they are trying to do something new but the film misses many opportunities. So in the film I did find the first act when they were escaping the volcano to be a really exciting time and then it is over and nothing quite works from there. For one the fact that they were being betrayed you could see coming a mile away even if they had not completely spoiled it in the trailers, but also when we get onto the mainland it is another human-made dinosaur v old-timey dinosaur arc which basically treads the same plot points from the first film again. As well as this, it felt like I was just sitting through a film that exists only to set up the next film and while you can pull that off sometimes, hello Empire Strikes Back, it didn’t work here. There was one interesting thing with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) but you can see it coming, and then the eventual reveal was ‘really that’s how you are going to do it?’
For a moment I just want to posit something, imagine for a moment that you had a story where the volcano was going to erupt, and they had to go back to save as many of the dinosaurs that they could, and that is all the movie. You have the ticking clock of the volcano, you have the challenges of capturing as many of the animals as possible. You still have that same guy who is trying to capture them to sell them off, and that leads to people getting stuck as the volcano erupts, and the big act three action set piece is escaping the eruption. Finally, imagine that the when everyone gets onto the ark with all the dinosaurs and escape the volcano at the last second that scene with the Brachiosaurus plays out showing that they could not save everyone, I think that would have been the much better film.
In the end, do we recommend Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? I honestly don’t know if I can, unfortunately. There are some parts of the film which are superb, and frankly, I know who I want to direct that Dinotopia film. However, the story that both is trying something new but does so by repeating itself, and it just felt like a real missed opportunity at best.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Directed by – J. A. Bayona
Written by – Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly
Based on – Characters created by Michael Crichton
Music by – Michael Giacchino
Cinematography by – Óscar Faura
Edited by – Bernat Vilaplana
Starring – Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, B. D. Wong, Geraldine Chaplin & Jeff Goldblum
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13