Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) (Review)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the follow up to the 2015 smash-hit Jurassic World, which successfully rebooted the franchise birthed by Steven Spielberg's Jurassic World in 1993 to the tune of a staggering $1.6 billion. It was a surprise to us all as we watched it scale the all-time highest-grossing film list, eventually peaking at number three. While no one expects the sequel to come close to that figure, it still has a lot resting on its shoulders: maintaining and moving forward the planned trilogy (the final instalment is planned for 2021) and keeping audiences coming back for more. Is it a roaring success, or a franchise on the brink of extinction?

Fallen Kingdom sees Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) reunite to rescue the remaining dinosaurs on Isla Nublar before a volcanic eruption destroys the island and everything on it. However, it becomes more than a rescue mission when they realise more sinister forces are at work and must make decisions that will affect humankind forevermore. Swapping out Colin Trevorrow for J. A. Bayona in the director's chair, Fallen Kingdom is a stronger sequel in every sense of the word. It's by no means perfect but it's better - and that's good enough (for now).

The problem with Jurassic World was its over-reliance on nostalgia; everything it did, it so did with a smug, self-satisfied smile, made all the more frustrating because it only seemed to retread old ground constantly. It brought nothing remotely new to the franchise. Sure, it was crowd-pleasing, but it couldn't be any more shallow if it tried. While Fallen Kingdom suffers too, to some degree, from its inability to reinvent the wheel, it makes clear strides towards new pastures in its final third.

Trevorrow and Derek Connolly's screenplay continues to be the biggest fault with the rebooted series. Whether its the uninspiring crop of new characters, the predictable narrative beats or the clunky dialogue, it is an overly-familiar affair with a paper-thin script that barely holds up. The film and story appear to be designed around the set pieces, rather than them occurring naturally, with flimsy connectivity tissue between these sequences and a strong reliance on nostalgia, once again. You could pretty much map the entire thing out beforehand, which causes the 129 runtime to drag in places; that said, it's never a complete slog, thanks to one man: Bayona.

Bayona injects this instalment with creative visuals and striking imagery while forging a palpable atmosphere and tonal balance that alleviates the screenplay's narrative deficiencies. It is a visual marvel, in all honesty, oozing colour and amazement; each set pieces is executed terrifically, with a number of stand-out moments peppered across the entire feature-length. The island act is most impactful visually, where not one frame goes by that isn't packed with imagination: there's one 'tunnel' moment, so perfectly unnerving and gothic that it may just be elevated to one of the franchise's very best moments. 

Yet, it's not just the intense and thrilling moments that work; it's filled with emotion too. It doesn't go quite as deep with the 'dinosaur versus human' debate as you may hope but it leads to some stirring scenes, particularly one as the rescue missions leaves the island behind. CGI dinosaurs making me well up? It's more likely than you think. It's this tight, crafted balancing act that incorporates emotion, tension, fear, awe and thrills effectively, continuing to demonstrate Bayona as one of the very best directors working today after his extraordinary work on A Monster Calls.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard both deliver reliably solid leading turns as Owen and Claire. They're both charming performers and help elevate characters who aren't quite as textured and layered as you'd like them to be after four hours of screen time. It's great seeing them together because they're Pratt and Howard, not because they are particularly interesting or dynamic characters. It's a testament to the pair really and if Trevorrow really is returning for the next over Bayona, my continued involvement in the franchise relies on them giving it their all. The rest of the cast are varying shades of competent; no one shines and all are underwritten by a poor script that doesn't understand nuance; they're all exaggerated, broadly-sketched caricatures which dilutes their importance and impact on the story.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the franchise's best sequel to date, a series reinvigorated by director J. A. Bayona's sheer visual creativity and impressive tonal balance. Its screenplay is flawed, flimsy and predictable and its characters (particularly new introductions) are disappointingly one-note -- but the set pieces, as strained as they are on paper, are typically executed fantastically by Bayona, who injects each sequence and frame with an imagination otherwise lacking on the page. It induces fear, suspense and emotion, bolstered by Pratt and Howard's charming lead performances and sets the franchise off on a new path that could prove to be incredibly inspired thinking. Bayona salvages a franchise that nearly wiped itself out with the smug, self-satisfied first 'World' instalment and breathes new life into a series that almost found itself on the brink of extinction. Well played, buddy. Well played.


SummaryJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has director J. A .Bayona's visual flair, creativity and impressive tonal balance to thank for alleviating the problems caused by an incredibly flimsy, flawed and predictable screenplay, registering this instalment as the strongest sequel in the dino-series to date.