“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?”, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) says to Owen (Chris Pratt) partway through Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. “It’s like a miracle”, she says. Clearly the character is appealing to the wonder of seeing these creatures on screen. Yet this isn’t 1993, and the formula, started in that year by the original Jurassic Park, is starting to wear thin in the fifth instalment of the franchise. Yet, for now at least, the film has enough goofy fun and cinematic grandeur to ensure it is an enjoyable, if not especially innovative, summer blockbuster.
The narrative follows Owen and Claire, the heroes from the previous film, as they must return to Isla Nubar, the location of the abandoned ‘Jurassic World’ theme park, to rescue the remaining dinosaurs before a volcanic eruption wipes them out. If that plot sounds slightly ridiculous, it’s because it is; this is a film framed around mad science creating genetically-modified dinosaurs, and an island that is literally exploding, after all. Yet this isn’t a negative point – Fallen Kingdom seems to be self-aware enough that it maintains a fun level throughout.
The film is also a smaller-scale affair than its predecessor, and benefits because of it: the threat is usually towards only the small group of main characters, without throwing thousands of park-goers into the mix. This means the story can focus more on developing characterisation for the lead couple and the supporting characters around them. However, this small-scale doesn’t allow the film to avoid the issue of originality. The first half is very similar to The Lost World and, while later scenes go in a new direction for the series, it doesn’t prove to have a very distinctive message. This doesn’t mean that the actions on-screen are not entertaining, but it’s difficult to see how much further this series can go on essentially making the same films repeatedly.
Fallen Kingdom should be praised for its surprisingly dark elements. The first Jurassic World had plenty of action, but the dinosaurs never felt especially scary. Fallen Kingdom, however, manages to make the creatures truly monstrous and recapture some of the terror last seen in the original trilogy, an effect due largely to J. A. Bayona’s stellar direction as he calls upon his experience of directing horror films like 2007’s The Orphanage. The final act contains shots that seem straight out of the horror genre, and so the dinosaurs become terrifying as well as impressive.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not much of a fresh take on the franchise, and one wonders how long this series can hold up before the ‘humans mess with dinosaurs, it doesn’t go well’ blueprint becomes boring. Yet for now, Fallen Kingdom contains enough popcorn fun, skilled direction and surprisingly dark suspense to be entertaining. Proof that this series is not quite ready to go extinct.