Director: J. A Bayona
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Ted Levine, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones, James Cromwell and Jeff Goldblum
Plot: As Isla Nublar, now totally dominated by the dinosaurs, begins to crumble in on itself, humanity needs to make a decision: do they have a moral obligation to save their creations?
The last Jurassic Park movie, rebranded as Jurassic World, was a harsh mix of very, very silly and very intelligent. While most people noted the silly fan servicing of a T. Rex and a Raptor putting aside their differences to beat up a nastier beastie, there was actually a lot of intelligent writing in the movie. The film was actually a metaphor for the relentless demand of a movie audience and what creators had to do to satisfy their cravings. The whole thing was essentially a post-modern demand for a pay rise from Trevorrow. However, licking the outcry from a very split fanbase – personally I loved it, others not so much – Trevorrow kept the theme of mixing smart writing with silly action, but made the smarts more immediate to the story at hand.
Animal rights – from the moment the movie begins, this is the message at hand. Turns out John Hammond not only created a bunch of bloodthirsty prehistoric killers, but he created them on top of an active volcano. The movie opens with international news covering the impending doom of the island and humanity wondering what is to be done. On one hand, this is nature correcting humanity’s mistake. Is this God correcting nature’s timeline? Have the architects of such horrors been given a free pass, the ability to reset the clock? However, as the volcano rumbles, the trapped dinosaurs choking under similar circumstances that wiped them out the first time, animal rights protestors get cold feet – it doesn’t matter how they were created! They are animals and deserve protection from extinction. Led by Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, more down and dirty than the official businesswoman from the last film, a group of charity workers try to raise funds to save the animals. The story takes some predictably ill-thought out turns with guardian angels revealing ulterior motives, but the morals remain the same – animals have lives too. There are moments when J. A Bayona goes above and beyond to hammer home the personalities beating within these dinosaurs. Blue is, of course, the stand-out, the Velociraptor with his own conflicting character arc, continuing to evolve and surprise throughout the movie. There is also a show-stealing turn by a baby Stygimoloch that competes with the T. Rex and Blue for Dino of the Film. However, perhaps the most hard-hitting section of the whole movie is the Brachiosaurus that hits the coastline, but doesn’t make the voyage to safety. If this film is going to coax tears out of you, this moment will be the scene to do it. Whatever the cost, and Bayona’s movie highlights how grave that cost actually is, surely it is a price worth paying.
But Trevorrow and Bayona know that intelligence might lift this movie out of ropey sequel territory, but we need the silly action to make it a Jurassic Park film. Therefore, while the animal rights stuff burns in the background, the rest of the film makes sure that entertainment is the main order of the day. Fallen Kingdom has to be the most action-packed of the Jurassic Park films, forgoing the slow build-up to hit us with the goods right from the off. The very first scene features a group of hapless red shirts crossing both a Mosasaur and the T. Rex, highlighting just how right Bayona is for the job. That one scene boasts the tension, the danger and the cheeky humour that fits so perfectly with a film about killer dinosaurs. It doesn’t let down from there, Fallen Kingdom boasting more dinosaurs than ever before. There is a nail-biting showdown between two characters trapped in a burning room with a deadly Baryonyx. Owen sneaks around a sleeping T. Rex. Turns out when you discuss animal rights and the horrible men that break them, you end up with a movie filled with nasty people primed for a gruesome dino death. And then there is the terrifying Indoraptor. While I wanted the franchise to escape the hybrid dinosaur element, the Indoraptor totally sells himself as a worthy addition to the plot. A dinosaur bred to kill, from the very first moment, when its slender, frightening hands attempt to snatch a young girl, the Indoraptor has you hooked. One scene sees the beast knowingly smile before ambushing an enemy. And when it launches into action, it commands your attention. It’s the claws on the ground, the determination in its eyes, the way it reads a room before charging in. The final battle in a creepy mansion, almost built to be in a horror movie, is a suspense-filled race to the finish. Perhaps the fun takes over the smarts too much. While the animal rights stuff is good, Bayona drops it too easily to have another fun moment. But it is hard to complain too much, when Jurassic Park continues to bring out cracking movies like this one.
Final Verdict: Smart, scary and just plain fun – Fallen Kingdom is going to be a strong contestant for the best Jurassic Park sequel yet.