Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This week I’m reviewing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which was released in theatres back in June and went on to make over $1.3billion at the box office.

Hold on to your butts.

Why now?

Fallen Kingdom was released on DVD and Blu Ray this week.

In a nutshell

Isla Nublar, the island on which the Jurassic World theme park was built and then abandoned after the events of the previous film, is about to be destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has established the Dinosaur Protection Group (DPG), is invited by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to return to the island and help relocate a number of dinosaurs to a secure preserve, including the velociraptor Blue. This brings Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) back into the equation, and together they set off for the park to rescue the animals. However, as you might expect, all is not as it seems…

Who’s it for?

Fallen Kingdom is rated 12 in the UK and would be suitable for anyone of that age and above. It’s pretty dark in a few places though so parents should err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to let kids watch it.

Who’s in it?

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard resume their lead roles as Owen and Claire. Supporting them are James Cromwell as John Hammond’s former business partner, Rafe Spall as Lockwood’s assistant Eli Mills, Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda as members of the DPG, B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu, and Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood. Jeff Goldblum also makes a welcome, albeit brief, return as a bearded Ian Malcolm. The cast is actually fairly small and you’ll recognise pretty much all of them from somewhere.

The good stuff

I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park series and always want to draw positives from these movies. Fallen Kingdom is a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s plenty of good stuff to be had if you’re willing to overlook the obvious negative points.

First of all, the direction is excellent. Spanish horror director J.A. Bayona takes the reins from Colin Trevorrow and does a brilliant job injecting the JP series with a fresh dose of darkness that had been largely missing from the more family-friendly Jurassic World. The more the film goes on, the more Bayona flexes his horror movie muscle, layering threat and suspense throughout Fallen Kingdom and, at times, majorly toying with your emotions. His use of light and the homages he throws into the previous films in the series are wonderful, too. I’m always drawn to direction more than anything else in a film, and I loved how Bayona handled what he’d been given to work with here, especially on the second viewing.

Pratt and Howard have great on-screen chemistry, as they did in the first film, and the movie really springs to life as soon as they’re reunited. Howard’s character Claire has progressed significantly since Jurassic World and there are a couple of direct nods to things that she was derided for in the first film (fancy a run from a T-Rex in high heels, anyone?). Pratt is, of course, oozing with wit and charm all the way through and effectively carries the film for large portions of its 128-minute runtime. I also really liked Pineda as Zia Rodriguez and thought she shone in her brief scenes.

Isabella Sermon is also great as Maisie Lockwood. All Jurassic Park movies feature a kid who represents the wonder and awe we all feel when we see the dinosaurs for the first time (“Ooo, ahh, that’s how it always starts…”), and Isabella nails that sentiment perfectly. Her character arc feels tacked-on at times, but without it there’d be a lot less depth to the second half of the film.

The special effects and action sequences are big, noisy, and stunning to look at, while the CGI for the dinosaurs is top notch. This movie forces you to become more emotionally invested in the animals this time – the Indoraptor is genuinely scary, the pinnacle of Bayona’s influence here; you’ll also find yourself inwardly chuckling, cheering and, in one harrowing shot that I won’t talk about for fear of tearing-up (only a slight exaggeration, too), swallowing hard against the lump in your throat during certain scenes. I enjoyed the first Jurassic World but I cared about the computer-generated dinosaurs more in this one.

Finally, for me, the opening scene in this movie captures the true essence of the Jurassic Park films. An expendable guy in a yellow slicker runs screaming through the pounding rain on a long-abandoned dock while a ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex easily shunts a car out of the way as it bears down on him. It’s exactly what I wanted to see in this movie and I was almost thrilled by it, except…

The not so good stuff

…the acting is just so bad. On my second viewing of the movie, I was reminded afresh how key the acting ability of even minor dino-fodder characters can be. Think about the opening scene in the very first Jurassic Park, and how the performance of that soon-to-be-eaten gatekeeper really captured the essence of horror that permeated the rest of the film. I was left frustrated that, despite looking really good and being a great way to start the film, a bit of bad acting sucks any sense of urgency out of it.

The storyline also isn’t great. One major criticism from reviewers is that Fallen Kingdom doesn’t really progress the overall JP narrative. Yes, the dinosaurs get off the island (some of them, anyway) and yes, the park is destroyed, effectively killing off a ‘character’ who had existed from the beginning, but by the time the film ends you sort of shrug your shoulders and think ‘is that it?’, which is unfortunate. For me, it felt like the premise just wasn’t strong enough, and was largely all about moving the characters and animals into a confined setting where the true horror could be unleashed – not the worst idea in the world, perhaps, but also not enough to leave you totally satisfied when the credits roll.

The bottom line

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom felt like a missed opportunity for me. I adore the JP films and genuinely enjoyed watching this one, but I know it has a number of weaknesses and would have loved to have seen it do more than it did. I have no idea what Trevorrow will do with the final movie in the trilogy (the ending sets it up while also leaving things pretty wide open), but I’ll be very excited for it when the time comes.

If you’re a JP fan, I imagine you’ll enjoy this as much as I did. Watch it with a big pinch of salt and take it for what it is – a good Jurassic Park film that could have been great, had a little more thought been put into how it was written.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Posted by
David McIlroy

Freelance writer/contributor based in Northern Ireland. Degrees in English, Film and Youth Work. Married to the beautiful Christine. My main things: God, family, movies, reading, and Liverpool FC.