SPOILER WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers for the film.
Jurassic World was a huge success in 2015. In fact, it was one of the biggest films of the year. Of course, that meant that the reboot attempt succeeded and thus, a brand new trilogy was born. While Jurassic World built on the nostalgia from Jurassic Park, Fallen Kingdom had to stand on its own two feet. Could the sequel deliver and prove that the success of Jurassic World wasn’t a fluke? Could it add more to the story? The easy answer is no. In actuality, it’s not that simple.
Fallen Kingdom gives the audience nothing new for it to chew on. The characters haven’t learned anything from the previous film. They’re still making the same mistakes and falling for the same things from the past. Fallen Kingdom shouldn’t be regarded by its broad strokes. It needs to be regarded by the very interesting plot points it brings to the forefront. There’s no doubt that a lot of poor choices in the script have made Fallen Kingdom the sad middle child of the new trilogy. There is something brewing in the Jurassic Park franchise. Despite its uneven tone and split duality, Fallen Kingdom is the perfect bridge for the eventual Jurassic World III to be something spectacular.
Fallen Kingdom takes place three years after the first film. Isla Nublar’s long-dormant volcano has awoken and is a ticking time bomb. It’s going to explode and the eleven species of dinosaurs that still call Nublar home are in the damage path. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a dinosaur rights activist trying to save the animals on the island but the U.S. government won’t intervene. Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) contacts Claire for his boss Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). As it turns out Lockwood and Hammond worked together before InGen and started the dino cloning business together before they had a falling out. Benjamin wants to put the dinosaurs in a nature sanctuary, free of people and fences. Mills has another plan which is revealed when Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire eventually go to Nublar to track down Blue, the last Velociraptor alive. Mills and Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) need Blue so Wu can engineer a new dinosaur, the Indoraptor, which will become the world’s most dangerous weapon. Yes, we’re talking militarized dinosaurs.
Lockwood doesn’t know about the scheme until his delightful granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) tells him about what’s going. From then on, Maisie is swept up into the action, culminating in the second half of the film that plays out like a haunted house thriller than a dinosaur movie. In the end, the dinosaurs are released into the world to roam free. It has Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) uttering a truly chilling and ominous line in front of a Senate hearing, “Welcome to Jurassic World.” For centuries, man has been the dominant predator on the Earth. Now, thanks to Hammond’s meddling, we are no longer on the top of the food chain.
There are many delightful Easter eggs peppered throughout the film. I’d be remiss to not mention at least a few of them that really stood out to me. First, when Owen is tracking Blue on Nublar, he stumbles across the remains of the Explorer that Tim and Alan Grant crawled out of after basically riding it down a tree in Jurassic Park. Also, new paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez is everything Ellie Saddler was in the first film. There’s even a lovely part where Zia echoes Ellie’s whole “we’ll discuss sexism in survival situations when we get back” mood from the first film as well. Perhaps the greatest callback, for me, was when Maisie is trying to escape from the Indoraptor and she can’t get the door to the dumbwaiter closed like Lex in the kitchen from the first film. These Easter eggs and many more will keep fans on their toes and on the active lookout for them but they really distract from the bigger picture at play.
The biggest thing at the heart of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is this: genetic modification will lead to our demise. More than that, the reason Hammond and Lockwood had a falling out was that Hammond was against human cloning. Lockwood was not. Maisie is not Lockwood’s granddaughter but rather a clone of his late daughter. What’s more, and I could be reading too far into this but, she doesn’t end up with Owen and Claire for no reason. This girl is a wonder kid. She’s quick on her feet, smart, with reflexes like a cat. It would not surprise me if she was cloned by Wu and Lockwood using the same DNA used to create Blue. Yes, I’m talking about human hybrids.
This isn’t a new concept in the world of Jurassic Park. The long-gestating Jurassic Park IV that never came to fruition introduced the idea of human/dinosaur hybrids as well as the idea of militarizing the dinosaurs. Well, Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom certainly took that idea and ran with it but even that was never fully fleshed out. The Indoraptor, which was impaled on a triceratops skull in the climax of the film, was Wu’s answer to fully weaponizing dinosaurs. Taking the DNA from the Indominus Rex and mixing it with that of Blue’s would mean the Indoraptor would be fully trainable to be a killing machine and would imprint on its owners. However, the prototype went, predictably amok. Henry Wu is still alive and many embryos survived the destruction of Lockwood’s home. Maisie is also alive and is now living with Owen and Claire. Again, I fully believe that Maisie is the key to the final film.
While the idea of human hybrids is about as absurd as militarized Velociraptors, there’s no doubt that this is where the Jurassic Park franchise is heading. I read something today that said something along the lines of “Jurassic Park films can be anything they want to be” which is remarkably true. Michael Crichton’s understanding of science, as well as our own developing scientific and technological advancements, make the world of Jurassic World an infinite treasure trove of possibilities. So long as they’re executed a little bit better than Fallen Kingdom.
Fallen Kingdom makes good on its promise that the “park is gone”. As a result frees the final film from the confines of an island, the split down the middle was a poor writing choice. Fallen Kingdom would have been a much stronger film had it focused either on Isla Nublar being destroyed from the volcano or on the haunted house story instead of being split into two halves. There could have been any number of ways this film played out. Unfortunately, it suffers because of the choice to focus on one aspect then swinging to another. There is not enough time spent in either half to elicit the audience response Colin Trevorrow and director JA Bayona was expecting, which is a shame.
Despite that, Bayona did a wonderful job creating the feeling of claustrophobia in many of the film’s most thrilling moments. However, in the end, Fallen Kingdom is a bridge film, and here’s to hoping whatever Jurassic World III will be, will be written a bit better and be a bit more straightforward. The Easter eggs are wonderful for nostalgia but in the end, they distract from the bigger story at hand and Fallen Kingdom needed to stand on its own two feet. Instead, it fell flat.
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