Fallen Kingdom has one of those great endings, it just makes you wait for it.
The Malibu Stacey’s hat of movies, this by and large paint-by-numbers rehash of 2015’s Jurassic World almost, almost gives us nothing new. Returning to Isla Nublar to find that the dinosaurs are about to be wiped out, again, this time by a volcano, Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is warned that, you know, it’s hot. Turning to the volcano, Grady says, “yeah, it’s about to get hotter.” That’s all by way of plot explanation you’ll really need.
Kicking off with a needless riposte to the Bryce Dallas Howard heels controversy, the pair maintain their unusually strong chemistry squandered here on a romantic subplot somehow even cheesier than their first rodeo. Howard and Pratt, two undeniably fun performers with limited range have squarely placed themselves in a sub-genre better-suited to their talents and evident charisma. Saddled with material only as dumbfounded as the cretaceous creatures who’ve found themselves in a place called Jurassic Park, as hard as they try Howard and co really don’t leave an impression beyond the interactions with their Triassic counterparts.
There’s a reason for this and it’s simple; dinosaurs are cool. They were cool in the 90’s when Spielberg first forced Palaeontologists everywhere to sigh in frustration and they’re cool now, even if they were cooler when animatronics and models were better used. There’s too much CGI here and it’s hard to get as excited by a T-Rex eating some dude when you know that T-Rex and all his mates who struggle with the high-fives just literally aren’t there in the way they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see a T-Rex wreck some corporate shill, but it looked real 20 years ago simply because what we were looking at was more often than not real. Yes I know dinosaurs aren’t real (sigh), but there’s a big difference to watching Laura Dern rising and falling on a prehistoric mug than seeing special effects that don’t quite capture that same sense of wonder suggested by John William’s ceaselessly deployed score.
There are a few good moments to be sure that do not impress the profound stupidity of oh say the opening sequence; never, EVER assume that animals 30 times your size you know nothing about are going to be AWOL or otherwise just super chill. An escape sequence up and above a very convenient hatch is one of if not the only heart-pounder herein and supremely better than the exponentially more expensive and ludicrously silly scene where dinosaurs and humans (featured together in some admittedly awesome visuals) tumble over a cliff-face followed by some thankfully hesitant magma. An underrated Ted Levine, in what is fairly his biggest big-screen role since The Silence of the Lambs, works wonders with what little he has to work with, unlike Rafe Spall, James Cromwell or Toby Jones who do very little with very thankless roles
And then there’s the internet’s favourite son Jeff Goldblum; amid a much-celebrated return to the franchise featuring in a glorified cameo. Whoever allowed this to happen or ill-advisedly spent their budget on getting those dinosaur grins just right instead of Goldblum’s salary clearly doesn’t know their audience.
Shamelessly retconning the first film and our earliest memories of dino-DNA, here Fallen Kingdom welcomely pursues some darker undercurrents that are neglectfully and only so briefly realised, unlike it’s ending. Offering something different and a genuinely exciting prospect for sequels to come, had barely some of this creativity been invested in the film’s first two hours maybe it wouldn’t have been almost wholly forgettable.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in cinemas now