I was the kid who was obsessed with dinosaurs growing up. I knew their names and what period they came from and which were herbivores and which were carnivores. When ‘Jurassic Park’ screened in cinemas 25 years ago, I was awestruck at the sight of them on the big screen, framed by the legendary Steven Spielberg.
It was a cinematic experience that still doesn’t get old. I can watch that movie over and over and I’d still get chills the first time the iconic John Williams scores kicks in when you see the brachiosaurus for the first time. Chills.
The cinematic landscape has changed so much since then. Dinosaurs have been replaced by dragons and epic battles by superheroes. When ‘Jurassic World’ came out three years ago, the magic was still there but to a far lesser degree. That film grossed over a billion dollars worldwide but the majesty of the dinosaurs were lost somehow amidst the special effects and the training of the velociraptors by the up-and-coming superstar (at the time) Chris Pratt.
What director J. A. Bayona delivers in ‘Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom’ is a return of that majesty. The wonder and the fascination with the dinosaurs are captured in this film as the island of Isla Nublar, where the theme park has always been, is doomed by the volcano on the island going active.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, who are tasked by a wealthy old man with ties to the park to rescue the dinosaurs that the world has decided to abandon to their fate. Owen and Claire must return to the island, long abandoned since the events of ‘Jurassic World’ with a brand new team to rescue as many species of dinosaurs that they can to put in an enclosed island called Sanctuary where they can roam free, without tourists.
What director J. A. Bayona delivers is an exciting romp with fabulous visuals and action sequences from dinosaur wrangling to a stampede, all the while set to an island slowly being engulfed by molten lava.
If there’s anything, the film is a fun ride. It’s action-packed and filled with thrills and spills and genuinely surprising moments. Bayona is excellent at creating moments of dread and terror and composing grand scenes that its predecessor lacked.
And most especially, is an intimate love and admiration for the dinosaurs.
What completely brings the film down is the weak script by Colin Trevorrow and Derrick Connolly. There’s barely any real character growth with Owen and Claire and all the new characters of ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ are flat and uninteresting. There’s a computer hacker who doesn’t want to be there and a paleo-veterinarian who play out more like plot devices than actual characters.
And there’s a whole second act and third act that goes further than what you see in the trailer, which seems like a rehash of similar themes from all the earlier films including ‘Jurassic Park: The Lost World’ and ‘Jurassic Park III.’ Rather than playing out like an update or reimagination of these themes and elements, they seem more like taking it straight off the Jurassic Park playbook.
Except for Bayona’s fun and exciting direction and the care he puts in making the dinosaurs worthy of both fear and awe, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ does nothing new with the franchise that hasn’t been done before.
At the end of the movie, you may have had a hell of a time but you leave with nothing really new, nothing you didn’t know before.