Thu, 21 Jun 2018
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (12A)
Running time 2hr 4min
TWENTY-five years and four films after THAT dino-rampage, you’d have thought folks would’ve figured out stuffing a resort with de-extinct critters wasn’t such a good idea after all. On account of this, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom does something different – it moves the action out of the park and into the wider world. Raptors Take Manhattan, if you will, though the film totally eschews the prospect of having T-Rex run amok in London, Tokyo and Paris. In other words, it’s far less fluid, in terms of scale and ambition, than you’d expect of a franchise this beloved.
While it proceeds at a riotous, unstoppable pace after an extended first-act scene-setter (boasting, among other neat details, a fun Jeff Goldblum cameo), a cloud of inconsistency hangs constantly over Fallen Kingdom – it comes across more than a little, well, lost in the light of the barnstorming Jurassic World, which papered over a relative lack of imagination (it was a remake of the first movie in all but name) with epic set pieces and cute touches (dinosaur training, futuristic tech). As with the Star Wars reboot, I’m uncertain as to where this thing’s going, and that ambiguity deeply troubles me.
Unlike in Star Wars’ case, of course, engaging, multifaceted storytelling has never been THE POINT of the Jurassic Park franchise – aside from the promise of prehistoric adventure, the draw of a new movie has always been the simple, decidedly hackneyed moral fable running all the way through the series. It’s a Day-Glo reprise of the Biblical saga of the Fall, as mankind’s own curiosity, dedication and genius leads it to annihilation at the hands (or rather claws) of the scaly monsters it elected to raise from the dead.
This point is hammered home very explicitly in Fallen Kingdom, which picks up some years after the events of the last film. Following the abandonment of Jurassic World (like Jurassic Park, but bigger), a (very silly) public debate has ensued over the fate of the dinosaurs that have overrun the island, due to be wiped out by a volcanic eruption. Initially, however, it would appear the film is set upon subverting the formula a little – former park employees Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are hired by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), dashing protégé of the ailing Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), one of the original dinosaur reanimators. He commissions them to rescue Isla Nublar’s inhabitants, in an apparent stroke of philanthropic goodwill. All the way through this detour to the abandoned island (including a very Revenant-esque run-in between Owen and a velociraptor), we’re led to believe Jurassic Park has finally renounced its foundational misanthropy – maybe reviving the dinos wasn’t such a misguided, ‘unholy’ act after all.
Of course, the triceratops slobber hits the fan when our heroes discover that Mills is harbouring a shadowy agenda, intending to flog the ‘salvaged’ dinosaurs to International Rich Dudes for his own monetary gain. Following this revelation, Fallen Kingdom descends into a weirdly intimate jaunt around Lockwood’s mansion, a sort of haunted house adventure minus the ghosts. Beyond a visually impressive (if substantially banal) finale that eats up much of the third act, the action represents a step DOWN from the jumbo-sized thrills of previous entries – the dinosaurs are (with one noteworthy exception) smaller, the fights are of the ‘four guys in a small room punching each other’ variety, and there’s little in the way of the darker little sequences that allowed previous Jurassic Park films court adult audiences in that uniquely Spielbergian way (though the prologue comes close).
The madcap sense of unbridled chaos that lay behind these movies’ appeal is gone, and it’s not yet clear what the team behind Jurassic World intend to replace it with – Fallen Kingdom contrasts awkwardly (if not painfully) with its predecessors, being a more conventional, moreself-possessed, if not altogether intolerable actioner.