So where did we leave matters at the end of 2015’s Jurassic World? The Mosasaurus had just emerged from the Jurassic World lake to devour the Indominus Rex, the T-Rex and Blue the velociraptor- which had attacked the Indominus – turned and went back into the island interior, and heroes Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) proceeded to conclude the rekindling of their former romance.
Fallen Kingdom’s opening picks up on those events, and indeed the very first scene plays out back at the lake. It appears the Jurassic World kingdom has indeed fallen, going by its state of disrepair and neglect. And, given that a quick check of Youtube reveals at least 55 million views of the official first trailer of this movie, it’s not spoiling the story to say the kingdom is about to be rent asunder. The volcano on the Jurassic World island of Isla Nublar is erupting, forcing the dinosaur population to flee to the sea. But where to from there? And should the humans who created them let them die as a result of a natural event, or should they try and save them? And if humans attempt the latter, where would they put the dinosaurs, and to what purpose?
As the Jurassic Park and now Jurassic World stories have done, the new film continues to throw around these moral and ethical questions. The plot is driven along by what do to with the dinosaurs. To be fair, Fallen Kingdom takes the story into new territory, and there is one decent twist, but it’s as well to remember that this is the second of a planned three movie trilogy, and it does have that feel of setting the stage for the finale, whenever that is due.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se, and Fallen Kingdom has more than it share of dinosaur action, certainly enough to satisfy hard core fans, especially those of younger years. What struck me though, and what dulled my enjoyment of the movie somewhat, was that its elements are those we’ve seen before. Let’s go through a checklist:
A new even more dangerous dinosaur is involved: check
The velociraptor will continue to play an important role: check
The T-Rex will continue to play an important role: check
There’ll be some sidekicks along for the ride: check
There’ll be a youngster or youngsters there too: check
There’ll be someone wanting to make money out of the dinosaurs: check
Our leads Owen and Claire will continue to operate in mode of romantic frisson: check
There are probably a few more items on this list, but you get the idea. And I’m sorry if I’m spoiling the film for you by discussing this, but I think the aforementioned trailer covers a lot of this material anyway. (Now that’s a good discussion point for our podcast: how to avoid a trailer and so watch a movie with no idea of what to expect)
The point is that the building blocks pretty much remain the same – to misquote Led Zeppelin just a little- and so yes, the thrills are there, the adventure is there, but it’s starting to feel a little formulaic. Maybe more than a little. I mean we’ve been through the “humans-hiding-from-or-being-chased-by-a-dinosaur” sequence how many times now? It’s starting to lose its edge. Of course millions will flock to this movie and it’ll earn gazillions, but you’ve been warned.
And what about our players? Pratt and Dallas Howard do their best to keep some zing in their on screen relationship. But this too is starting to feel like it’s being stretched out a little too far. Also there’s a little less humour around this time, which I found a shame, since Chris Pratt in particular is so good at this. In fact I found myself wishing I was seeing more of him on screen. He has a personable, likeable air about him and he’d be the character you could least afford to lose from this franchise in my book. One aspect of his character continues to be played out in this film, and that is Owen’s bond with the velociraptor Blue. You’d be thinking there’s even more to be explored here in the final chapter of the trilogy.
All in all it’s a good enough romp, with the usual high standard of special effects of course. Yes, I’ll come back for the third instalment. But I hope the writers have got more than a few surprises in store for us by then.