For more than two decades, Jurassic Park has brought long-extinct dinosaurs to life on the big screen. The series has gone on so long that their roster of dinosaurs lacks the flurry of discoveries that modern science has made about the animal kingdom.
With a fifth entry already out, is it time for another dinosaur extinction?
A whole new world
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom takes its beloved creatures away from its comfortable confines in Isla Nublar. Instead, dinosaurs are now starting to run rampant in the real world.
In Fallen Kingdom, Isla Nublar’s volcano has awakened from a long slumber. With this, Jurassic World’s revived dinosaurs are threatened by another extinction. Back in the real world, dinosaur rights activists are clamoring for the creatures’ rescue. Luckily, the movement caught the eye of the infirm scientist Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall).
Their ambitious plan to rescue the dinosaurs enlists the help of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). With a smattering of supporting helpers—hacker Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), paleoveterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), and mercenary Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine)—Dearing and Grady return to Isla Nublar to rescue Grady’s beloved velociraptor Blue and the rest of the dinosaurs.
However, as the rescue goes on, Grady and Dearing uncover that Lockwood’s ambitious rescue operation isn’t as charitable as they think.
Director vs. writers
Fallen Kingdom reeks of a constant battle between director J. A. Bayona and writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. Whereas Bayona’s refreshing direction infuses new life into the tired series, Trevorrow’s and Connolly’s lazy writing threatens to run the series into the ground.
Bayona’s direction draws a lot of inspiration from his horror roots in The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. Similarly, he also uses his experience in the disaster and survival genres from The Impossible.
Particularly in the third act, Bayona crafts a thrilling haunted house sequence with dinosaurs instead of ghosts. It’s a hugely refreshing departure from the series’ overused carnage sequences.
Sadly, for all his work, Trevorrow’s and Connolly’s screenplay lacks any inspiration. Its tone scatters and falls all over the place—switching willy-nilly between thriller, horror, and straight comedy.
In between all these tone changes, the script adds outrageous plot twists and story devices that just don’t make sense. Case in point, a side character gets hauled off by bad guys at the end of the second act. Midway through the third act, he appears once again safe and sound, sporting new threads.
Speaking of, Fallen Kingdom’s characters are as threadbare as its plot. Besides the lack of any meaningful character development, some characters were even written for just one-off purposes and then promptly forgotten.
Even with comedy, the writers’ jokes and visual gags fall terribly flat. By far, the only amusing quip in the entire film is a focused shot on Dearing’s boots, metatextually alluding to her absurd running in heels from the previous film.
Likewise, pacing is a huge issue. All three acts are tonally different from one another. The first act plays like an escape from dino island—arguably, a watchable situation by itself. Meanwhile, the second act is a terribly slow burn to prepare for the final act. That final act depicts the film’s starkest departure from the series’ usual tone—again, watchable in itself. Sadly, they don’t coordinate well at all.
Justice for dinos
Unlike the previous films, Fallen Kingdom desperately wants you to care deeply about its dinosaurs. Its entire premise hinges on animal rights for its creatures. It plays like an allegory for endangered species especially with how the dinosaurs are treated in the third act.
Unfortunately, the film’s laudable efforts are too on-the-nose. Complete with slightly heart-wrenching dino death scenes, it goes to absurd depths to create emotional depth for its creatures. While this might work independently, it falls short because the film, as usual, is still crafting a dino rampage scene towards the end.
Strangely, it creates a faux layer of morality for good and bad dinos that fall short when the situation calls for innocent civilians dying. It’s as if the film wants to you to care about dinos but only when the bad guys get punished.
In fact, the film’s protagonists were never in any real danger from dino attacks. Throughout the entire film, peril came only from its one hybrid dinosaur—the Indoraptor.
Is the Indoraptor worthwhile?
Like the previous movie, Fallen Kingdom features a hybrid dinosaur designed artificially by scientists. This time, the film’s main dino baddie was designed for military use (yes, weaponized dinos), rather than for just entertainment.
Despite all the hype, 2015’s Indominus rex still outclasses this year’s Indoraptor. For one, the film plays the baddie as an afterthought (or at most, a climax). Humanity is still the firm antagonist.
As such, the Indoraptor never shares as much screen time as both the Indominus rex and the human villains.
Even from a creature standpoint, the Indoraptor isn’t as interesting as the Indominus. While the latter did have its outrageous powers, it was still interesting to watch a dinosaur acting as the primary threat for the protagonists. The Indoraptor hardly enjoys any extraordinary features that sets it apart from ordinary dinosaurs.
Thankfully, Bayona’s direction contributes to how the Indoraptor plays as a ferocious monster to contend with. With his horror experience, Bayona creates a terrifying chase and fight scene in a secluded manor.
Evolve or go instinct
Like the creatures that lived before, Jurassic World needs to adapt or die. Fallen Kingdom aims for the right notes in terms of where it wants to go. Unfortunately, its poor screenplay wants to retain the same formula that powered the series before.
Despite Bayona’s efforts, Jurassic World needs that extra oomph if it wants to survive beyond its sixth outing in a few years. If anything, Fallen Kingdom, at least, sets up an interesting premise for the trilogy’s completion. However, as it is, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is only slightly entertaining.