Those who had childhoods growing up during the 1990s would most likely have been among the most enchanted (if a little bit scared) by the wonder of dinosaurs brought to life by blending then-revolutionary CGI and puppetry, as seen in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 epic, “Jurassic Park”. Such was its success for Universal Pictures that it was developed into a film franchise, though after “Jurassic Park III” in 2001 it would not be until 2015 when the saga continued with “Jurassic World”, setting up a new status quo. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a direct sequel to that, and so far, its merits have been hit-and-miss.
Time-wise, both the film in-universe and we, the audience, have seen three years pass since the glorious view of a new and commercially successful dinosaur theme park in “Jurassic World” – and how quickly it all came down due to human hubris, causing the humans to, like in the original film long ago, quit the island and let the cloned ancient beasts live without their intrusion. It probably would have been the end of it but for an ecological event: the formerly dormant volcano on the park’s island sit has gone active, threatening the resident dinosaurs.
Meanwhile, former JW ops manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has started the Dinosaur Protection Group NGO to rally support for getting the dinosaurs off Isla Nublar before the volcano erupts completely. In this she gets help from aged billionaire Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), revealed to be a former partner of John Hammond, founder of Jurassic Park and the InGen genetic think-tank which created the tech for cloning dinosaurs. Through Lockwood’s assistant Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), Claire gets signed on to a presumptive mass relocation mission to bring the dinosaurs to another place, bringing two people from her DPG team, former JW IT tech Webb (Justice Smith) and ex-Marine “paleo-vet” Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda).
But that’s not all. Mills seemed especially insistent that among the possible dinosaur rescues they need Blue, the last surviving JW raptor. This necessitates Claire’s search for Blue’s former wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) before their group gets airlifted to Isla Nublar. But the moment they reach the soon-to-explode island and locate Blue, the whole “rescue” operation takes on an entirely unexpected and sinister undertone. Back in the Lockwood Estate, the old man’s orphaned granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) discovers some dark secrets of her own.
When “Fallen Kingdom” writers Collin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly talked about the film during production last year, they mentioned that this direct sequel to “Jurassic World” will eschew past franchise installments by limiting the time spent on Dinosaur Island and focusing more on the effects of the genetic cloning knowhow that brought them to life to the rest of the world. This was done by an establishing scene with the US government debating on whether to intervene on Nublar, with them being dissuaded by none other than an older Dr. Malcolm from the first two “Jurassic Park” movies, in a cameo performance by Jeff Goldblum.
In execution, the movie did just that. The characters never stayed on the island long (and the special effects of Nublar’s final destruction were both attention-grabbing and tear-jerking). Unfortunately the scene progression was a lot streamlined than expected, with Claire (Owen and the others tagging along) returning to the Lockwood Estate in northern California after departing from there earlier in the movie. In a way that makes the Jurassic World disaster appear to be contained and downplayed. The human antagonists were also too obvious and occasionally bumbling in their actions, with the only real danger being their genetically-engineered new bio-weapon, another customized dinosaur that pushes the envelope for reptile intelligence.
Not all is spoiled though. There are some moments of heartwarming scattered about, such as recorded footage of Owen training Blue and her fellow raptors as babies. Then it takes dark undertones when it is revealed that his training research was used to make the new original “Indoraptor” capable for following orders like an attack dog. Were it not for Blue’s own resilience and undying loyalty to Owen, there would have been a downer ending. And in a way, the actual ending does have some dangerous story hooks for the planned sequel, were it not for just how limited the dinosaurs actually taken from the doomed park are in number.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” tries its hand at showing new things for the audience, only to seem like it was rehashing points and visuals from its predecessor. It is more like the franchise is merely retreading old ground and putting new skins over them, rather than attempt to do like the 1993 progenitor did: be original. Perhaps that will be the task of the next film. At least Pratt/Owen and Howard/Claire are confirmed for it.
Image screenshot courtesy of Nerdist.