Following the truly monumental success of Jurassic World (2015), audiences are undoubtedly expecting these films to continually up-the-ante as this franchise’s rebirth is well underway. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom absolutely attempts to do that – with bigger explosions, deadlier monsters, and greater stakes – but even will all of these components, it misses the mark on combining the classic elements that make these franchise films the wondrous adventure that they should be.
Directed by Spaniard J. A. Bayona, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the fifth film in the Jurassic franchise and the sequel to Jurassic World (2015). It continues the story of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s previous managing director and Owen Harding (Chris Pratt) a rugged man’s-man and expert in animal training – as they go back to the dinosaur infested volcanic island to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
If there’s one thing the Jurassic franchise has been consistently good at, it has been keeping the momentum of its entertainment at a stable level through the use of its nail-biting tension, thrills, or great character chemistry. One could argue that these were all lost during Jurassic World; upon seeing Fallen Kingdom it has become clear that this is where the original films ideas of what is entertaining depart from the franchise entirely – with more reliance on stimulation than building a solidly constructed film. The film is not as catastrophic as the volcanic eruption on the island, but it sits symbolically alongside many of the dinosaurs that get smothered in the ash cloud. No, this film hasn’t killed the franchise, nor has it done dishonour to the previous titles – it simply committed the same crime as many other large blockbuster these days do; focusing too much on designing a film that will entertain as broad of an audience as possible without finding its own identity. Throwing every movie formula that has worked previously into a pot and mixing it up furiously in the hopes for a financially successful film with sprout.
The film provided a steady pace toward the beginning, I got the feeling the film could be full of some surprises, until sadly all of these surprises reveal themselves to be dead ends from a storytelling perspective, building up a certain plot point for it to ultimately not matter in the end. There was certainly potential in the story, and where this film falters is at those crucial moments where a twist could have been either fantastic or bland, sadly it takes the latter.
We get Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt back into their standard roles – the film decided it was necessary to rebuild their relationship all over again instead of working with the complex task of a romance in a blockbuster that is already established. Pratt and Howard bring no real emotion to the table in this blockbuster, and when it’s a Jurassic film, there are few excuses. The child actress that was chosen to take the younger audience’s perspective had her ups and downs, struggling to pull out real fear like young actor Ty Simpkins of Jurassic World (2015) offered up. If only we had seen the leads of Owen and Claire form a sort of proto-parental relationship with the child then it could’ve been easier to form a bond with these characters.
The VFX however, look fantastic – particularly during many of the island sequences in which the volcano is tragically erupting and engulfing many of the dinosaur species. The lighting throughout this film was a consistent struggle as you get many moments that felt artificial and studio-made; however darkly-lit moments provide the powerful atmosphere these films were missing – I truly wish lighting was used more often as a horror device in these films, when they work, they work. The production design however stood on top, even surpassing the previous film for location choices and set design – from bunkers to beaches and mansions to boats, there is simply such a wide variety of interesting locations in this film that it rivals even the first film. The score is melodramatic for the most part, but the theme is used appropriately and evokes emotion at the pivotal moments.
J. A. Bayona has very little vision with this film; if you’d say that the name “Fallen Kingdom” is ironically representative of this franchise, then I wouldn’t blame you. I found it difficult to see the wonderment in this sequel and have my doubts that age will assist it like it has the originals. The box office will decide in the end. Falling short in letting out an impressive roar – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom struggles to provide the wonderment or scares that it suggests, functioning long enough for 2 hours before ultimately falling prey to the nasty bite of the blockbuster Hollywood disease.