Halfway through Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth instalment in Universal Studio’s 25-year-old science fiction/action franchise, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen this film before. Just as Jurassic World, three years earlier, emulated many elements of the 1993 original’s plot, the start of Fallen Kingdom feels very much like The Lost World, the franchise’s first sequel.
Much like The Lost World, the conflict Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow write into Fallen Kingdom is not just between dinosaur and human, but between humans. And of course some of those humans have the wise idea of bringing flesh-eating carnivores onto a landmass populated by millions of fleshy humans. This time around, it’s a small collective of wide-eyed dinophiles – including Bryce Dallas Howard who reprises her role as Claire – against the ambitions of billionaire warmongers and capitalists, who see dinosaurs as a potential military weapon. Along with her buddy Owen (Chris Pratt) and two of her fellow leftie pals, Claire’s mission is to save the last remaining dinosaurs from an impending volcano while thwarting the plans of evil geniuses.
Fallen Kingdom is filled with tropes from the previous four films, with dinosaur-verse-human set pieces interspersed with philosophical murmurings from Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) about humans playing god and enough quasi genetics from Dr. Wu (BD Wong) to keep this film on the science-fiction shelf. With that said, Fallen Kingdom saves itself from becoming a glorified re-make by identifying new places for the plot to go, especially during the second act. Rather than limiting the action to an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, the dinosaur carnage moves to mainland USA, where previously unseen problems arise. This new setting doesn’t prevent the dinosaurs from doing what they do best; rather, it gives them a chance to unleash their fury on some new targets such as corporate greed and a few Russians.
Fundamentally, the film stays true to its roots, giving us end-to-end examples of why bringing prehistoric monsters into modern-day society was never a good idea to begin with. Over 2 hours, there’s understandably little time spent on plot points that don’t result in dinosaur maulings; as such, we learn few new things about our returning leads Claire and Owen or the motivations behind our new bad-guy-in-a-suit Eli (Rafe Spall). The character who gets most time to develop is Eli’s daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), whose fascinating subplot gives the Jurassic Park franchise enough fuel for a sixth film, scheduled already for 2021.
One thing disappointingly missing from Fallen Kingdom is the sense of horror and suspense that made the early films so gripping. Perhaps to make the film more accessible to younger audiences, Fallen Kingdom‘s dinosaur attacks feel very vanilla; we often feel like we’re one or steps ahead of the characters on screen, knowing full well whether or not they’re going to make.
Audiences thirsty for a taste of big-screen dinosaur action will mostly find what they’re looking for in Fallen Kingdom but for diehard fans, it’s a case of diminishing returns. When you recycle an idea so many times (particularly an idea that was really only worth one film to begin with), there are only so many ways you can make a dinosaur attack a human and only so many times the good guys can get away in time. With Fallen Kingdom, director J. A. Bayona has got away with it… but only just.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in cinemas from 21 June through Universal Pictures