“Do you remember when you first saw a dinosaur?” Claire Deering (Bryce Dallas Howard) asks in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I do. I remember the sense of awe and wonder it invoked in me when I first saw Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbuster. In fact, every time I re-watch ‘Jurassic Park’ I find I still feel like that.
Watching the newest instalment in the franchise, however, I didn’t really feel very much at all. To be honest, I didn’t expect this film to be on the same level as the original film: few films are. However, I did expect to enjoy it a lot more than I did. I came out of the cinema genuinely asking myself if the problem was me. Maybe I’m just an old cynic now, worn out on franchises.
The thing is, this is not any over-wrought, over-monetised franchise. The premise of the original film is brilliant. But when Claire asked that question it just made me realise that the premise alone has never been enough. Everything that is great about the Jurassic films is that they invite audiences to emotionally invest in this fictional world. It’s not enough to just ask ‘what would happen if we brought dinosaurs to life?’ - it has to take you on an emotional journey from that point. You have to believe in it. You have to care about the characters - dinosaur or human - within this world and experience it through their eyes.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a strange film because it re-treads so much ground but misses the essence of what is truly great about the original film.
Fallen Kingdom sees several of the principle characters of Jurassic World return to take on a doomed dinosaur rescue mission that is full of action and tension. The very crux of the film is a point of tension itself: should the dinosaurs simply be allowed to die out?
Director J.A Bayona and writer Colin Trevorrow explore this tension well and there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in the first quarter of the film. Seeing the dinosaurs in disarray and panic when the humans are calm and in control is an entertaining switch up from the usual set up, but the film never goes beyond this in really showing us anything new. Instead, the film becomes little more than a series of action set pieces, without anything of substance in between. There are few interesting, relatable characters and little by way of things to care about beyond the idea that dinosaurs are cool and scary. It could’ve been so much more. There are some interesting Easter eggs for loyal fans of the franchise, but the substance of the film is unfortunately not much more than that. Visually pleasing but oh so hollow.
Not only does the film lack a compelling emotional anchor, but even its most engaging characters lack lustre. Owen and Claire meet-cute all over again, but with seemingly less chemistry. We also have the villainous trigger-happy dinosaur hater and the corporate bad guys (all they care about is money. Let’s hiss at them). Caged dinosaurs are fed goats and an outraged t-rex roars into the night sky. But the most interesting moments involving human characters are totally underplayed and the lack of screen time to explore their motivations for their actions makes for an all too familiar set of pantomime villains and tick-box moments.
“Do you remember when you first saw a dinosaur?” Yes, I do. And it was much better than this.
Rating - 5/10
Review written by Dave Howarth