I went to see the first Jurassic World movie with rather low expectations and was pleasantly surprised, moved and delighted by it. So this time, for the sequel, Fallen Kingdom, I went with high expectations yet came away feeling rather underwhelmed.
The premise of rescuing the dinosaurs from their exploding volcanic island and relocating them to a safer location seemed a good one. Capturing Blue will be impossible without Owen (Chris Pratt) so he and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), along with computer geek Franklin and paleoveterinarian Zia get involved with the mission.
Zia (Daniella Pineda) is a tough nut under pressure, as shown where she takes care of an injured Blue under duress of death. Franklin (Justice Smith), on the other hand, is terrified of meeting the T-Rex and has a scream like Ned Flanders.
However when they arrive on Isla Nublar along with a small army funded by Hammond’s former colleague Benjamin Lockwood, a dying, wheelchair-bound James Cromwell, they find the mission is not so straightforward...well, as straightforward as rounding up megaton beasts can be.
Lockwood’s ambitious young assistant Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) has other less scrupulous ideas for the animals. He intends to auction them off from the Lockwood estate to the highest bidder with no questions asked. Clearly none of the bidders are conservationists or philanthropists wishing to re-home the dinosaurs.
Not only that, he has instructed Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong reprising his role) to breed another hybrid. Yep. Another hybrid. A smaller version of the original Indominus, this one called Indoraptor. Not very imaginative, is it?
The prototype is a living, breathing dinosaur, and the plan is to breed an army of them, with Blue as their kind of surrogate mother.
Long story short, the auction ends badly, the Indoraptor escapes and runs amok through the huge, sprawling Lockwood mansion, pursuing and being pursued by our human heroes.
The climax in the mansion is not unlike the finale of Paddington 2 where they all end up on the roof of the Natural History Museum. That’s certainly not an analogy I ever thought I’d make.
The good news is that Rexy is still a badass, along with her impeccable timing and a penchant for wealthy businessman. Claire now favours more practical footwear, baby Blue is very cute (we see her in Owen’s early research videos that Wu is using for his own purpose), the CGI is better, and there is a sad scene that will break the heart of any lifelong Jurassic Park fan.
However that’s pretty much all the good news I can give. Lockwood’s orphaned granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) is the obligatory child in peril and despite the subtle hints given during a conversation with her grandfather, I expected her to be related to someone from a previous movie, but that went off on a different tangent entirely.
Even the music didn’t stir me as it usually does. John Williams’ original epic score is heard in fragments and the usually reliable Michael Giacchino provides the rest. However there is nothing that comes emotionally anywhere near to approaching the island and seeing the Brachiosaurus in the first JP movie, Gray throwing open the hotel shutters to reveal Hammond’s dream come to life or the final scene in Jurassic World with Rexy perched on top of the helipad giving her bellowing, throaty roar.
If you’re keen to go and see Jeff Goldblum, if you’ve already seen the trailer, you’ve seen all there is to see of him. Malcolm manages to make himself even less popular in this instalment than in the first.
Overall Fallen Kingdom represents too big a departure from the original franchise. While Jurassic World was faithful to it despite its millennial feel and shortcomings, Kingdom seems to be heading to a more Call of Duty with Dinosaurs theme.
Genuinely, all we want to see are the dinosaurs happy and thriving on their own island with no human interference, is that too much to ask?