“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?”
Before Claire Dearing speaks the question deep within Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, audiences should ask themselves the same question before sitting down in the theatre. Why, you ask? Like many others, my first experience with dinosaurs comes from Fallen Kingdom‘s distant predecessor, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 masterpiece Jurassic Park. My fandom of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic novels and the films based on them has burned hot since my childhood days.
However, I learned an important lesson regarding expectations and acceptance after 2015’s Jurassic World. The lesson is simple: View the Jurassic World series for what it actually is, and not through the lens of the trilogy that came before it. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
Fallen Kingdom picks up after the events of Jurassic World. Isla Nublar sits abandoned and the dinosaurs are roaming free among the park ruins. However, volcanic activity on the island prompts the US government to hold hearings on whether or not they should intervene in the rescue of the creatures. Claire (Bryce Dallas-Howard), now runs a dinosaur protection agency advocating for the safe transfer of the animals to a safe location. When the government ultimately decides to let nature run it’s course and leave the island alone, Claire takes action.
Approached by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the founding partner of original Jurassic Park/InGen owner John Hammond, Claire joins a rescue operation to Isla Nublar. She recruits a reluctant Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help, but not is all as it seems once they reach the island. From there, a chain of events unfolds that may ultimately change human life as we know it forever. As Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) so elegantly warns, “Welcome to Jurassic World”.
“The first ten minutes of the film are pure Jurassic Park gold that can only be found comparatively in Spielberg’s 1993 original. Yes, it’s that good.”
From the opening credits, it’s apparent J.A. Bayona’s direction of Fallen Kingdom is exponentially better than Colin Trevorrow’s effort in it’s predecessor. This film is shot beautifully, even visually stunning at times. Without giving too much away, the first ten minutes of the film are pure Jurassic Park gold that can only be found comparatively in Spielberg’s 1993 original. Yes, it’s that good. Bayona mastered control of his vision of Fallen Kingdom and it translated clearly to the final product. Scenes felt very contained, even claustrophobic at times.
The director has a gift for creating a tense and scary atmosphere, which was evident in sequences both at the island and Lockwood’s mansion. Bayona also made an excellent decision opting to use the most animatronic dinosaurs since Jurassic Park. The animals are visually spectacular, even when CGI is used (for the most part). The attention to detail is apparent and very much appreciated.
The directorial effort doesn’t come without flaws, however. There’s one particular moment in the film that Bayona obviously wished to establish sympathy for the dinosaurs in their predicament. The shot lingered for an unnerving amount of time, so much so that it likely altered my own DNA to emotionally scar me, my future children, and my future grandchildren. The overkill (no pun intended) of the scene was not in spirit with the film and it threw off my concentration for several minutes.
My appreciation for Bayona’s direction in Fallen Kingdom is further highlighted by the script he had to work with. There is no getting around it, Trevorrow and Connolly’s screenplay is underwhelming. While Jurassic World‘s writing didn’t deserve any Oscars, the quality level dropped even further here. The film’s script felt as though it was tailored specifically for the 5 year old and under crowd. The jokes are bad. The dialogue is extremely bad, aside from Ian Malcolm and perhaps Lockwood. Justice Smith’s character, park technician Franklin Webb, seems to only exist for humorous(?), repeated screams.
“Despite it’s weaknesses, the story moves along at a good pace, with several well-crafted sequences scattered throughout.”
The biggest failure of Fallen Kingdom’s screenplay is the second half. The later inclusion of yet another “hybrid” dinosaur felt completely unnecessary to the plot, other than to perhaps set up the next movie. A hybrid dinosaur that smirks when fooling it’s prey, no less. Even worse, the film’s cliches are unbearable. Yes, the big bad men in suits and uniforms get their just rewards by becoming dino dinner, turning them into sniveling shells of themselves.
Insert a few political undertones and straight in-your-face lines that I’m sure audiences crave in their theatre escape from reality. The T-Rex has her own job to do (several times in fact), saving the good humans from danger. Lastly, we have the raptor Blue, again showing up at just the right time to save the day.
Despite most of the screenplay being poor, not all is lost. There are multiple “easter eggs” calling back to Fallen Kingdom’s predecessors that fans will absolutely love. The film does a fantastic job including as much Jurassic Park lore in the story as possible without seeming too gratuitous. Some science and technology is sprinkled throughout the film, which was desperately needed among the simplistic plot.
As mentioned before, Ian Malcolm‘s return to the franchise, though brief, was fantastic and true to his character. Claire and Owen have a few genuinely funny lines. Claire’s mental tug-of-war between doing what is right and making amends for her role in the park disaster makes for an interesting character arc. Despite it’s weaknesses, the story moves along at a good pace, with several well-crafted sequences scattered throughout.
“Even with a poor script, Bayona’s stunning directing, and enough Jurassic Park lore sprinkled throughout make Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom one of the best in the franchise.”
It’s here where I circle back to my lesson on expectations. The original film was based off of Michael Crichton’s science/thriller novel. Many don’t know this, but the author actually penned the screenplay for Jurassic Park with the help of a few others. Therein lies what fans must accept. Crichton sadly died in 2008, and the science and horror that made Jurassic Park what it was died with him. What we are left with, in terms of the story, is a more simplistic summer blockbuster-esque style of writing.
The filmmakers are clearly focusing on bringing a new generation into the Jurassic “world” that we grew up in. The sooner us older fans accept this, the sooner we can enjoy it along with them. Even with a poor script, Bayona’s stunning directing, and enough Jurassic Park lore sprinkled throughout make Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom one of the best in the franchise.