Do you remember the first time you watched Jurassic Park? I do, in the old Rex cinema 25 years ago, after lining up for more than an hour just to get tickets. Oh geez, I’m such a dinosaur.
Anyway, the wonder of Jurassic Park wasn’t just the spectacular visual effects (which still somehow hold up even today), but also how it tugged at your emotions while providing its fair share of chills and thrills.
It was a formula that even Steven Spielberg himself could not replicate with The Lost World three years later, and which 2001’s Jurassic Park III failed to even come close to.
Perhaps the reason none of the sequels managed to live up to the first one’s standard was because they were not thinking big enough. And I’m not just talking about the size of the dinosaurs.
When the franchise was revived in 2015 with the first Jurassic World, it turned out to be a much worthier sequel to the original Jurassic Park.
One reason for this is the fact that it was not afraid to go bigger, much bigger than the original, and, again, I’m not just talking about the size of the dinosaurs.
It’s a trick that director J.A. Bayona manages to one up in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film that harks back to the original in terms of its spectacle as well as its smaller character moments.
The film picks up three years after the debacle of Jurassic World, where the man-made hybrid Indominus Rex wreaked havoc on the park, causing it to close down.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now runs an organisation fighting for dinosaur protection. With an active volcano threatening the survival of the remaining dinosaurs, she is roped in by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of John Hammond, to save the animals from Isla Nublar and bring them to another island sanctuary.
Her ex-boyfriend and former dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) also joins the expedition to help save Blue, the hyper-intelligent Velociraptor he shares a bond with.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned when it comes to dinosaurs and men. The group is betrayed by Lockwood’s assistant Eli Mills (an utterly despicable Rafe Spall), who ships the dinosaurs to Lockwood’s isolated estate, hoping to auction off the dinosaurs to the highest bidder.
This is where the movie works best, as the entire tone shifts from immense monster spectacle to a chilling monster thriller.
After the massive, sprawling set piece on Isla Nublar, Bayona confines the action and the dinosaurs into the cramped surrounding of the mansion for the second half of the film, creating a more suspenseful atmosphere for the franchise’s latest Big Dino Threat – the vicious and smart Indoraptor – to stalk its prey.
Unlike Jurassic World, Pratt and Howard’s characters are a lot better fleshed out this time, and Grady, in particular, is given a meatier role in the larger scheme of things.
Mills and Ted Levine’s trophy-collecting poacher also manage to be wicked enough villains that you actually feel a sense of satisfaction when they get their comeuppance.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s biggest triumph, however, is that it dares to take the franchise out of the story trope it’s been stuck with since the first film, and expanding it beyond the confines of the electric fences and isolated islands.
It adds another dimension to the world the dinosaurs inhabit, and proves that there is still life in the fossils of this franchise.
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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J. A. Bayona
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B.D. Wong, Jeff Goldblum, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin.