By James Westwood (United Kingdom)

 

Failing to strike the perfect balance between originality and nostalgia in the same way its predecessor managed; Fallen Kingdom is an overblown rehash that brings nothing new to this ailing franchise.

Spanish director JA Bayona (The Orphanage) was clearly bought on board for this latest Dino- excursion in the hope he could transfer some of his panache for horror into proceedings, but unfortunately, he ends up swinging too big and missing the mark by some distance. No semblance of threat or terror in this film feels authentic and the set pieces are more extravagant than ever, as humans are depicted as making the same incomprehensible mistakes they’ve already made in 4 previous films – with greater and more far reaching consequences than ever.

This sequel follows on in the wake of the disastrous events of Jurassic World, with evil corporation ‘InGen’ pulling out all the stops to salvage what they can from ‘Isla Nublar’, the island home to now free roaming genetically modified Dinosaurs. Their mission is made all the more urgent by the fact that the islands volcano is on the verge of a monumental eruption, which is destined to consign these animals to extinction once again and leave the company’s future in ruins. Enter former park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas-Howard) – now a determined animal-rights activist – and her estranged raptor trainer boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who are roped into the so-called rescue operation because of their inside knowledge of both the island and its most prized asset – the hyper- intelligent velociraptor known to them fondly as ‘Blue’.

Typically, nothing goes to plan once they touch down on Nublar, as our protagonists soon fall victim to an obvious double-cross and barely survive a high-octane scramble to escape as the island literally implodes beneath their feet. They were sold a fairy-tale scenario by Rafe Spall’s detestable character Eli Mills – the man spearheading the whole venture – who convinces Claire the animals will be moved to a utopian-like sanctuary with an inspiring pitch, finishing with the declaration: “No fences, no cages, no tourists… just as Mother Nature intended,”. However, his ulterior motives revolve around selling off the last of these species to the highest bidders as well as weaponising the most dangerous breeds with further genetic splicing.

If that plot synopsis sounds similar to The Lost World, that’s because it is essentially the reimagining of that film 17 years on, with the only real difference being that Fallen Kingdom is very much designed as a prelude to the third film in a trilogy – which will likely be a Dinosaurs ruling the earth again type of affair. Jeff Goldblum even shows up in a brief cameo, reprising his role as Dr Ian Malcolm and providing the voice of doom and gloom in a story that otherwise ignores logic and rationality completely.

None of the performances here are particularly memorable – Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt do their best to make Claire and Owens relationship seem genuine but don’t really get the opportunity to add any real depth to their individual characters. Seasoned veterans Ted Levine and James Cromwell have supporting roles as an insane commando and John Hammond’s dying business partner respectively; with the former at least providing a uniquely unhinged performance that does provoke a smirk or two.

Sadly, I think it is fair to say that no individual performances could have saved this film from its inevitable mediocrity, as with every new entry into the Jurassic canon it becomes more difficult to recreate the magic of the original and therefore more emphasis is put into visual effects rather than any kind of character driven narratives.

Claire reminisces about her first time seeing a Dinosaur in her opening encounter with Eli, stating: “The first time…it’s like a miracle” – which I’m sure audiences will agree with in unison when recalling the iconic moment Dr Ian Grant sees the Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park – however 4 films later just seeing these prehistoric creatures re-imagined onscreen doesn’t suffice for us anymore.

Fallen Kingdom is fine as predictable, action packed popcorn fare, but anyone hoping to see this franchise evolve or explore new directions will leave the theatre not particularly caring about the prospect of yet another instalment in 3 years’ time.

Rating: 2.5/5

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