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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JA Bayona may have delivered the best Jurassic Park movie since Steven Spielberg’s revered original 25 years ago.

Fallen Kingdom is a viciously entertaining treat – one that embodies the values that have helped sustain this franchise to five films and counting; but one that, crucially, isn’t afraid to shake things up a little.

Hence, as promised in both the trailers and its marketing, Fallen Kingdom sheds the shackles of previous entries by escaping the confines of the park and opening up a world of possibilities.

In that regard, it’s a film of two halves: the first a rescue operation to save the dinosaurs from the ticking volcanic time bomb that Isla Nublar has become; the second, to set in motion the events that will lead to the film’s open ended climax.

Bayona displays a masterful control over both of these sections. The first is an exhilarating thrill ride that thrives on spectacle and outlandish escapes. The second is as close to pure horror as a 12A certificate can be allowed. It’s a neat balancing act, only partially undermined by an advertising campaign that has shown a lot more than it needed to (in this regard, Universal could have taken a leaf out of the Disney and Marvel handbook and had a little more faith in their audiences’ desire to find out for themselves).

It’s even more credit to Bayona, therefore, that the film still manages to thrill in spite of the fact it has shown so many of its cards.

The main plot strand driving Fallen Kingdom lies in the desire by another ruthless corporation to rescue the dinosaurs from the brink of a second extinction so that they can either weaponize them or make money from their sale. Heading this pack is Rafe Spall’s scheming Mills.

Heading the rescue effort, meanwhile, are returning characters Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former of whom’s connection to Jurassic World‘s star velociraptor, Blue, forms an integral part of Mills’ grand plan.

Once off the island, the action takes place at a mansion hideaway, where Mills unveils his newest creation (a super raptor/T-Rex hybrid) and greedily sells off the other dinosaurs to the highest bidders; while Owen and Claire do their best to upset the apple-cart with the help of a young girl named Maisie (newcomer Isabella Sermon), whose role in proceedings provides one of the film’s few genuine surprises.

Admittedly, the plot isn’t Fallen Kingdom‘s strongest asset. But the screenplay, jointly written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, does build to a pay-off that poses some interesting questions for the already approved third entry in the Jurassic World saga.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Rather, what makes Fallen Kingdom such a ridiculously enjoyable rollercoaster ride is just how Bayona directs proceedings. On the one hand, he thrives on the gutsy heroics and death-defying escapes that drive the first half, ensuring that the volcanic backdrop is not at all wasted.

But on the other, he’s not afraid to take his foot off the gas and rely on the kind of sustained tension that so effectively informed Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, not to mention several other horror films (including his own classic The Orphanage). Indeed, the mansion location of the second act offers up a true house of horrors.

Similarly, Bayona isn’t scared of terrifying the kids. Rather, he seems to relish in it. There are several sequences that may have younger viewers screaming out loud or cowering beneath their parents’ arms, which is no mean feat in itself. But then he’s dealing with monsters, whether human or animal, and he doesn’t back away from showing their bite.

In amongst this, he also leaves room for a little poke at man’s capacity for inhumanity and, thereby, self-destruction, while also dropping in the odd poignant moment: an image of a stricken herbivore is one that lasts by virtue of the way it mixes beauty with sadness.

And while the screenplay itself leaves little room for strong character arcs, Bayona still provides his two main principals, Pratt and Howard, the chance to leave their mark: the former is as rugged, charismatic and kick-ass cool as he was in the first film, with Howard displaying more compassion this time, to go with her growing athleticism.

Newcomers such as Spall and Toby Jones don’t get to offer much other than straight-forward villains, while comic relief Justice Smith can get tiresome at times. But young Isabella Sermon does grow on you as Maisie, conveying her journey from brash to terrified in convincing fashion. And Ted Levine seems to be having a blast as another of the film’s more pronounced villains (whose fate is suitably grandiose).

Given that this is the fifth entry in the series, Fallen Kingdom has to work a lot harder to stand out from its predecessors (rather than operating from the law of diminishing returns). That it manages to do so with so much style, and in spite of its obvious flaws, comes down to Bayona, whose mastery of his craft ensures that audiences will feel utterly gripped for the duration of the journey.

What’s more, he also ensures that the prospect of a sixth film still remains an exciting one with the potential to shake things up even more.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 128mins
UK Release Date: June 6, 2018