Director: J.A Bayona
Writers: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum
Sometimes, I think we forget how much people love dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park remains one of the biggest franchises in the world. It’s right up there with the Marvel super hero movies and Star Wars. Despite only really having a single genuinely beloved film in a series of five, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom launched to mixed reviews…and over a BILLION dollars at the box office.
In Fallen Kingdom, the film begins with the U.S senate debating whether the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar from Jurassic World should be allowed to perish. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum playing a role that was hugely overstated in the trailer) argues that they should be allowed to become extinct once more as nature originally intended. Naturalists, such as Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) believe they should be given a chance to live. When the senate sides with Malcolm, Claire is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood, the partner of John Hammond, the original founder of the park. Lockwood forms a stealth operation to help rescue the animals and recruits the aid of Claire and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). As the trailer blatantly gives away, this is actually a ruse by Lockwood’s evil assistant to sell the dinosaurs off to wealthy businessmen and evil heads of state as weapons of mass destruction.
Its always interesting when studios go with an unconventional directorial choice for a blockbuster franchise, instead of the usual suspects like Jon Favreau or James Wan. In the case of Fallen Kingdom, Universal chose to go with J.A Bayona who previously made the excellent films The Orphanage and The Impossible, neither of which suggested a career in making Hollywood franchise films. Sometimes with these types of directorial gambles, it pays off handsomely – think Alfonso Cuaron with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Taika Waititi with Thor Ragnarok, where the personality and style of the director shines throughout the film. But you can also end up with films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, a Joss Whedon film with virtually none of his trademark qualities apparent in the final product.
Fortunately, Bayona is able to make Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom his own. I think he has a pretty good sense of how to get the pacing and snappy dialogue right for a good Jurassic Park film, whilst stamping his own unique footprint on the final product. He gives the franchise its first memorable shot since the original film, when he captures a lone brontosaurus, stranded on an island about to be consumed by volcanic ash. It’s an unexpectedly moving moment and gives the film some poignancy that few would have expected.
The rest of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is pretty standard fare, as Owen and Claire form a ragtag band of dino-lovers to rescue them from the Lockwood estate. The action comes in thick and fast, as does the zingers and one liners from Pratt and Howard. To be honest, I was a pretty happy camper with what I got. I like seeing over-confident bad guys stepping into raptor cages. I like that moment when the heroes seem outmatched only for a T-Rex to stomp into the frame. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who’ve had their fill of the Jurassic Park formula but not me.
Jurassic Park remains a hugely popular franchise but it always seemed to be stuck in a narrative holding pattern. Exactly how many times could a naive billionaire create a park full of dinosaurs and hope that everything works out well this time? Well, Fallen Kingdom seems to have a pretty good answer for that. Although it absolutely feels like the middle chapter in a franchise and doesn’t really have an ending, it does close out with probably the biggest narrative development in the series and one that bodes well for an interesting and fresh new direction for future Jurassic Park films.