After deciding that Dinos are old hat in Jurassic World, now it’s time to save them from re-extinction. In the years since its closure via Genetically Modified Genetically Modified Dinosaur, Jurassic
Park World has gone from bad to worse; the awakening of a dormant volcano threatens to destroy the island and kill everything on it. It’s up to ex-manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) to save the Dinos from extinction. Again.
Full disclosure: Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and, to a lesser extent, its sequel, were as formative to my childhood as my own mother and father, leading to a lifelong love of Jeff Goldblum, a dinosaur obsession and wearing leather jackets. Fuller disclosure: I hated 2015’s Jurassic World so much that it made me want to never see another dinosaur or Chris Pratt again. Yes, Jurassic World made me hate Chris Pratt, even in his post-Starlord prime.
Still, there’s enough hangover from my childhood that I will never not watch a Jurassic Park movie, and so I was first in line for Fallen Kingdom, expecting the worst but hoping for the best.
The good news is that Fallen Kingdom is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. While it has no choice but to lug along the worst ideas from Jurassic World (dullards Claire and Owen, a stupid new breed of dinosaur), it is also boosted by the horror movie machinations of director D.J. Bayona and a tighter focus on real emotion and genuine affection for its dinosaurs. Even the Velociraptors, who I thought would never be cool again, after watching a CGI pack of them ride with Chris Pratt through an ugly jungle in the previous flick’s dumbest scene.
While Fallen Kingdom moves too quickly to ever lastingly dent the intellect, this means it rarely has chance to bore. Indeed, by the film’s second half, we’re into relatively uncharted territory for the franchise (not a spoiler – it’s all in the trailer) at a dinosaur auction, hosted by Toby Jones and Rafe Spall. It’s in its villain department where Fallen Kingdom is at its strongest, with Toby Jones, a returning B.D. Wong and a movie-stealing Ted Levine all putting the heroes (and even some of the dinosaurs) to shame.
Bayona’s horror movie bona fides lead to the best set-pieces since The Lost World, peaking during the film’s opening sequence, but always retaining viewer interest. While there’s never that sense of Spielbergian magic, neither does it feel so by-the-numbers as that which preceded it, with Bayona’s Gothic horror sensibilities enlivening the material as much as they work against it.
Make no mistake, Fallen Kingdom is a bad movie; it’s ugly and dumb, with terrible characterisation and predictable plotting. The story is a weird rehash of The Lost World (although the finale is better integrated here), constrained by bad source material and studio interference. But what it does have is just enough, with one excellent villain (Levine), two fun ones (Jones and Wong), a miscast one (sorry Rafe) and a truly horrible one (the iRaptor), set against strong action beats and a surprisingly affecting emotional streak. Fallen Kingdom is a bad movie made a lot better by not being as bad as the one which preceded it.
And worst of all, Jeff Goldblum isn’t even in it, not really.