After the gargantuan box-office success of 2015’s Jurassic World, it is unsurprising that Universal Pictures would be clambering to repeat the dose with its successor. Although Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is pretty much locked on a wash-rinse-repeat cycle, it isn’t entirely a mirror image of its predecessor. Yes, it is silly, predictable, and trite—the kind of blockbuster hokum that quickly falls out of your brain soon after you leave the cinema. But it also has some top-notch moments of chair clutching thrills.
Monsters lurking in corridors is a cinematic trope that has always given me the heebee geebees, and there’s plenty of that here. Ever since Spielberg got the ball rolling with his prowling raptors in the original Jurassic Park, I’ve had an irrational fear of what lies just around the corner. The film’s director J.A. Bayona, who helmed the excellent psychological allegory A Monster Calls, knows a thing or two about fear. His ability to tap into my primal weakness with some thrilling dino-teeth-snapping sequences successfully distracted me from what is otherwise a fairly average blockbuster.
Stylistically, it operates like a fifties b-grade schlock horror with plenty of jump-scares and gruesome deaths. The island we left in 2015’s Jurassic World is revisited here. Now over-run by dinosaurs, the volcanic island is blowing its top and a bunch of animal activists sympathetic to the stranded beasts want the creatures re-located to a new remote island. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) heads up such an organisation and her efforts to locate some of the more difficult-to-find creatures (including, yes you guessed it, Blue, the raptor from the previous film) requires the backing of multi-millionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). Of course, you can’t catch Blue without her trainer … enter Chris Pratt. And while Lockwood’s millions provide the means to do the relocation, his assistant, Eli (Rafe Spall), has more nefarious ideas about what the dinosaurs are worth and where they should go.
*sigh* Aside from the plot, which is as predictable as a rainy Auckland winter, the film falls down in a few other areas. Most notably, there is an unsavoury whiff of tokenism in the makeup of its multifaceted cast (but hey, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t) which also lead to roles that operate purely functional to the film’s plot machinations.
One such character is Maisie Lockwood, played by newcomer Isabella Sermon. Despite being given ample screen-time, her intriguing character is disappointingly fleshed out. Instead, she operates as a means to set up some (admittedly very good) scare sequences and also provide the film its get-out-of-jail-card (for reasons I can’t spoil here) to the final moral impasse.
There are plenty more faults I could jab and prod at, but perhaps I’m being too harsh on a film that is only purporting to be as light and fluffy as the popcorn you buy with it. Surprisingly, it does have a subtext (of sorts) on the moral worth of genetically manufactured creatures, but its message is very confused and non-conclusive.
Ultimately, the awe and heart of the franchise’s original have long since escaped its cage. And for this reason, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will no doubt garner plenty of disdain from the original’s adoring masses. In time, I will no-doubt subscribe to such sentiments, but for now, I’m still buzzing over some of the film’s scary action set-pieces … I’m just sucker for monsters and corridors.
See my reviews for Witchdoctor here.