Director: J. A. Bayona
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith, Jeff Goldblum
Dinosaurs plus human hubris and greed equals disaster. It’s safe to assume that after four iterations, viewers have understood this equation. But Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth film in the Jurassic series, repeats it yet again.
One more time, we have these magnificent beasts running amok because awful, avaricious men see them as cash cows. This film even features a ridiculous auction sequence in which assorted bad guys are bidding for dinos so they can weaponize them. Honestly, it felt like an outtake from a bad ’80s Bollywood film.
Fallen Kingdom has been directed by J. A. Bayona, the man behind the moving disaster drama The Impossible and the masterful horror film The Orphanage. This film plays like a mangled marriage between the two – the first half is set in Isla Nublar, the location of the original Jurassic Park. It involves a lava-spewing volcano, several species of dinosaurs and lots of screaming and running. The second act is set in a gargantuan, haunted-looking mansion in California and also involves many species of dinosaurs and lots of screaming and running.
Bayona has a gift for creating layers of tension – Fallen Kingdom has some suspenseful set pieces. A sequence, in which the island goes up in flames is both thrilling and emotional – it ends with a Brachiosaurus wailing as smoke and lava envelop her. I almost got teary. But there aren’t enough of these signature moments. Mostly, the script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, trudges along predictable beats.
We have the snarling T-Rex, one more monstrous genetically engineered hybrid dinosaur, the close-up of the supposedly sleeping dino’s eye opening, the close-up of the enormous teeth dripping saliva, the raptor chewing up the bad guys. Early in the film, a character says, “I want to see this,” and she steps out of the jeep to look at the Brachiosaurus that glides by like a cruise ship. It’s a throwback to the iconic moment in Jurassic Park when we first saw these creatures and like the characters onscreen, our jaws dropped in astonishment.
But Fallen Kingdom is wholly lacking in that shock and awe. The creatures, a mix of animatronics and CGI, are wonderfully tactile. The most memorable of course is the loyal raptor Blue who has been raised by animal behaviorist Owen, played by Chris Pratt. Their relationship is the emotional center of the film. Pratt has an amiable beefiness about him. He remains watchable even though the script gives him little opportunity to shine. It’s tougher to stay interested in Bryce Dallas Howard, once again playing Claire. They are supposed to be ex-lovers but Owen seems more invested in Blue than her.
Fallen Kingdom springs to life when Jeff Goldblum, as the chaos theory expert and all around rockstar Dr Malcolm, makes an appearance. 25 years ago, in Jurassic Park, he had warned us that this will not end well. Once again, he plays the voice of reason.
Of course we refuse to listen. We can’t because there is one more film to come.