It has been three years since Indominous Rex went on a rampage, and with the park forced to close, the dinosaurs have settled into a free and undisturbed existence on the island. That is until, after decades of being dormant, Isla Nublar's volcano - Mount Sibo - exploded into life. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now heads up the Dinosaur Protection Group, a non-profit organisation who's goal is to protect the animals. Dearing wants to evacuate all the dinosaurs before an eruption wipes out all life on the island and recruits Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help. But upon reaching Isla Nublar a third party's true intentions are revealed leaving Claire and Owen caught up in a web of conspiracy that could have global ramifications.
The Jurassic Park franchise has had a rocky life. Jurassic Park was a smash hit, 20 years after creating the summer blockbuster with Jaws, Spielberg was back to revolutionise it with more animatronic monstrosities. Then 4 years later he tried to do the same with The Lost World, which despite some great action set-pieces and an interesting story just couldn't live up to the original. After that Spielberg stepped down as director to be replaced by Joe Johnston who brought us the skid-mark of the franchise - Jurassic Park III. Financial trouble, filming without a completed script and a talking raptor doomed the movie to failure. Jurassic Park III was so bad that we waited 14 years to see another movie. Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World was a major hit, making over a billion dollars at the box office. Although I liked some of the characters, I honestly thought it was nothing more than a mediocre re-hash of Jurassic Park. But a billion dollars is a billion dollars and so now we have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Now you're probably thinking, Fallen Kingdom looks a lot like The Lost World, and to be fair you'd be half-way right. A team heads to an island - home to the ruins of a dinosaur park - in order to capture some dinosaurs. That's about where the similarities end. The first half of Fallen Kingdom is pretty much what you see in the trailers, the island, the rescue operation, the volcano, it's very much what you would expect of a Jurassic movie. And after an impressive set piece midway through, the focus shifts elsewhere, allowing director J. A. Bayona to do something a little different. This is the part where bringing in a horror director makes sense. By bringing everything in close quarters, Bayona is able to shrink the scale of the movie and raise the tension. That's not to say that horror has replaced humour in this latest instalment, because Fallen Kingdom has its funny moments too, it is a Chris Pratt movie after all. A perfect example of this being the scene where Owen and Claire are in the back of a truck with the T-Rex, Bayona is able to make light of a situation that would at the very least require a change of underwear.
As you can imagine, with a movie like this there are a lot of visual effects. Between Hawaii and Pinewood studios the sets are beautiful. All of the dinosaurs look incredible, Bayona uses some interesting lighting and shadowing - like Spielberg used the famous music on Jaws - to make the dinosaurs scarier. The right balance was struck between practical effects and CGI, so much so that most of the time you won't notice the difference. Fallen Kingdom features more dinosaurs than any other movie in the franchise, some never seen before. This includes Henry Wu's (B. D. Wong) latest creation, the Indoraptor. She's like a scaled down version of the Indominous Rex only smarter, her smaller size allows her to access tighter spaces, making her even more terrifying. And to make things more interesting, this time round our heroes have to deal with lava and dinosaurs! David Vickery and his team at Industrial Light and Magic studied volcanoes in order to accurately recreate a volcanic eruption - the movie's ticking time bomb.
One thing Fallen Kingdom does better than its predecessor is characters. Jurassic World suffered from several annoying characters, in fact I'd say this the first Jurassic movie since the original to not be plagued by an annoying child character. Isabella Sermon's Maisie is actually quite resilient. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard settle perfectly into their roles, they have great chemistry. Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are interesting newcomers as the Dinosaur Protection Group's tough-as-nails Paleoveterinarian and Computer Technician (who can scream really loud). What's odd with Fallen Kingdom (and it's not footwear) is Claire and Owen's arc, it's exactly the same as in Jurassic World, almost as if they copied and pasted it into the script. At the beginning they're separated, then they work together and by the end of the movie...guess what. Speaking of the end, it's a bit weak. I know it's designed to leave things open for the third instalment in what will be the Jurassic World trilogy, but it seemed like the easy option. According to Trevorrow, it was meant to leave people wondering what's going to happen next, but for the most part it seems fairly obvious.
After Jurassic World, I went into Fallen Kingdom with low expectations. 'Underwhelming' is a word that springs to mind when describing the 2015 blockbuster. But I am pleased to say that I enjoyed Fallen Kingdom, which thanks to a good script and Bayona's unique approach did something different with the franchise. It will never be as good as Jurassic Park, but I doubt anything ever will be - something I think most fans will agree. Having said that, this is still a lot of fun and Bayona does well to add a little terror despite being restricted by a 12A rating (in the UK).
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