It’s possible that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom peaks too soon.
The introduction, which follows a dubious mission to the bottom of the murky lagoon on the abandoned Jurassic World theme park, is a ripper and certainly confirms that the dinosaurs are very much alive and far from friendly.
There are also echoes of Jurassics past in some of the action-packed early scenes on the exploding Isla Nublar where the park is located. But the second half of the film has a distinctly different, more claustrophobic feel, reflecting new director JA Bayona’s love of gothic suspense.
Set three years after the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom sees the dinosaur theme park lying abandoned after the hybrid mutant dinosaur Indominus Rex caused widespread death and destruction.
The remaining dinosaurs have been left to roam free. Now, however, the eruption of a previously dormant volcano on the island threatens to make them extinct once more.
While a US Senate hearing is considering whether the animals should be saved or left to die, ex-park manager Claire Denning (Bryce Dallas Howard) is enlisted by the ageing Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) – one half the team responsible for the original dinosaur-cloning project – to help with a secret rescue mission to get as many of them as possible off the island and relocated to a safe haven.
Along for the ride are two colleagues from the dinosaur protection group Clair now leads, as well as her former beau, raptor-wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt).
It’s no spoiler to reveal that, just as Owen predicted, the rescue mission goes badly wrong.
Like much of the action in the previous Jurassic films, the island scenes were filmed amid the lush landscapes of Hawaii. It’s when the action moves to Lockwood’s UK estate that the film becomes less family-friendly adventure, more haunted-house-style gothic thriller.
Bayona, whose previous films include Spanish horror The Orphanage and the dark fantasy A Monster Calls, has spoken in interviews about the influence that movies such as 1979’s Dracula have had on him, and his choice of the confined setting does succeed in heightening tension. Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack, which dominates throughout, also sounds at times like it has come direct from a Hitchcock film.
Yet the dinosaurs seem less frightening, and while we’re clearly meant to view the human bad guys as the real monsters – cue themes of corporate greed and ethically irresponsible scientific experimentation – they aren’t entirely convincing, either.
Fallen Kingdom ends up feeling like two films in one, and many long-time fans of the Jurassic franchise are likely to find it less satisfying than the earlier Jurassic World, although the return of Pratt and Howard as the likeable protagonists does help things along.
Jeff Goldblum also returns in a cameo as Dr Ian Malcolm, a character he first played in 1993’s Jurassic Park, telling the Senate hearing: “These creatures were here before us … and if we’re not careful, they’re gonna be here after…”
Despite his prophetic warning, the way is inevitably left open for a third movie in the JW franchise, this time to be directed by Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow. It’s scheduled for release in 2021.
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