It’s been 25 years since Steven Spielberg’s biggest ever movie hit the theatres, but the shadow of Jurassic Park has always loomed large on the films that followed in its ominous, water-rippling footsteps. The fifth in the series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom brings back old and new cast members, but fails to recreate that magic.
2015’s Jurassic World was a worldwide smash. It hit the reboot movie sweet spot: familiar enough to service your nostalgia, but new enough to avoid retreading worn ground. Its sequel, Fallen Kingdom, attempts the same trick with a storyline very similar to the “Something Has Survived” plot of 1997’s The Lost World.
Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) return to the ruins of Jurassic World to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from an active volcano. Naturally, trouble is waiting for them when they get there, both in the form of a wonky plot as well as the giant lizards.
Things get strange very quickly, with our hastily assembled group of heroes intermittently debating the existence of dinosaurs and running away from them. Characters and common sense are neglected in favour of action, and even that begins to dwindle as the plot moves to a secluded mansion and becomes preposterous. It’s not hard to follow what’s happening, but it is difficult to understand why.
There’s something underneath the layers of CGI resembling a moral grounding. As with past films, it’s the evil corporations that are trying to harness the dinosaurs for their own gain, while the good guys are out to set them free. It’s a complicated argument (should we really let dinosaurs roam the countryside?), but not one that the film takes much time to think about. It’s far too busy setting up another anxious dino encounter, or genetically splicing an entirely new creature that’s nowhere near as fun or iconic as the T-Rex.
Pratt bounds through the film like a puppy, making the most of a horrendous subplot involving his paternal connection with a raptor. Howard tries to provide an emotional centre to all the chaos, and as with the last film is much more than a damsel in distress (although there’s no fighting in high heels this time). The stars have enough presence and chemistry to survive most of what the plot throws at them, but the same can’t be said for newer characters. Rafe Spall is hamstrung as the film’s bad guy, a twisted businessman who does little but talk about money, while Isabella Sermon plays a young girl who doesn’t seem to have much to do at all besides look scared.
Unsure as to where to go after the park is destroyed, director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) twists and turns but ends up drowning in plot holes. There may be enough to please casual viewers, but this weak new instalment is all roar and no bite.