“Life finds a way.”
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a supremely dumb film. It’s the sort of film where people can outrun the pyroclastic flow of an erupting volcano and someone replies to complicated computer jargon with ‘English, please?’. But if you go in expecting anything else from a Jurassic Park sequel then the blame falls squarely on yourself. All the sequels are stupider and more inferior to the original but if you accept that then there’s a hell of a lot of fun to be had here – perhaps more so than any of the other sequels so far.
If you were to rank the Jurassic sequels, Spielberg’s sophomore effort – The Lost World – would fall right down at the bottom. Despite being the only Jurassic Park film except the original to be directed by Spielberg (and the one with the most Goldblum) it’s a messy and stupid film with a couple of cool set pieces and ridiculous third act. So when I say Fallen Kingdom is more like this film than any of the others, you might begin to have your doubts. If anything, the three acts of Fallen Kingdom are sometimes even more disparate than even The Lost World. But worry not, because while Fallen Kingdom is perhaps even dumber and messier than The Lost World, it also has the one thing a Jurassic Park sequel needs – it’s tongue firmly in its cheek. It’s schlock, but everyone involved in the film seems to know it is. From the genetically engineered, radio controlled super-dino to Ted Levine’s tooth collecting great white hunter, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom knows exactly what type of movie it is.
Director J.A. Bayona is perhaps the biggest reason for the films success as, even when the film threatens to buckle under its own ridiculousness, he reigns it in with some of the franchises absolute best direction (and that’s high praise for a franchise where 20% of it has been directed by one of the world’s greatest living directors). And while it’s a bit shoehorned in, Bayona even gets to show off the gothic horror skills he honed on the sets of his Spanish horrors in Fallen Kingdom’s rip-roaring final act. Jurassic Park doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the world of haunted house horror but Bayona supplies us with a franchise-best sequence, as our heroes are stalked through a gothic mansion by the super-deadly Indoraptor. It’s silly sure, but from a particularly over the top BD Wong performance to Toby Jone’s Trump-esque hairpiece blowing in the Indoraptor’s roar, Bayona knows exactly what type of film he’s making. He even manages to sneak in an extended Nosferatu sequence that’s as delightful as it is silly. But the film has stellar direction all the way throughout; the action set piece on Isla Nublar is another particular highlight, one I would have watched 10-15 minutes more of. And the haunting shot that ends this sequence will remain in the minds of even the hardiest cinema-goers for weeks to come. I’m still not over it.
The cast is back with the same charismatic performances that buoyed the first Jurassic World film. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire has done a complete 180 since her introduction in the last film as a child-hating businesswoman stereotype; she now runs a non-profit dedicated to saving the remaining dinos from the park. Yeah sure, it’s a little far-fetched but it’s a better fit for Howard, who seems much more comfortable as the kind-hearted but still equally-badass Claire. She doesn’t get a moment to match the awesome flare scene from the first World, but she does have a number of cheer-worthy moments throughout Fallen Kingdom. Opposite Howard is everyone’s favourite franchise star, Crisp Rat (Chris Pratt). He bring’s his usual charm to the role, even if he’s not really got anything new to do. He’s still got love for his raptor, Blue, plus gets a good number of comedy and action set pieces. His slapstick escape from an oncoming lave flow is especially hilarious. Newcomer Justice Smith gets most of the laughs though with his character Franklin, whose resentment towards doing anything always raised a chuckle. BD Wong’s camp Dr Wu is consistently hilarious too, as is Toby Jone’s as the comically evil dino auctioneer. The always reliable James Cromwell makes an appearance too, and in the process manages to expand upon some of the world’s lore with a mention or too of the late Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond. Shame then that Cromwell’s part as billionaire Benjamin Lockwood involves the films flimsiest plotline about his granddaughter and a slightly worrying hint of what’s to come.
So, all in all, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not what most would call a masterpiece. It’s mixed scores on IMDB and RottenTomatoes are indicative of what many would see as a mess of a film. But it’s one I personally loved – more than any of the other World sequels. The script crackles with humour and even has a few tear-jerking moments here and there. The cast is also fantastic, as always, especially the supporting cast of regular ‘that guy’ actors. But the real reason it stands out as the best Jurassic sequel is because of Bayona’s frequently stunning direction. The film is three disparate acts, all only sort of successful in blending together. But the care and precision put into these setpieces is second to only Spielberg’s original effort in the franchise. Bayona creates three wonderful acts that quickly make you overlook the film’s strange flow. By the time the indo-raptor is stalking the cast through the old Lockwood estate, you’ll have forgotten all about the film’s problems. The film’s ending will divide audiences too, although if you’re still on board with the film at this point I’m sure you won’t mind.