|Director||J. A. Bayona|
|Starring||Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ted Levine, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Justice Smith, B. D. Wong, James Cromwell, Jeff Goldblum|
|Release||6 JUN (UK) Certificate 12A|
Worse, when it comes to the new additions to the roster, each character’s motivations are utterly laid bare within seconds of meeting them. This guy in the suit with the haircut will clearly be the business douche. This twinkly old white-haired gentleman in the wheelchair with the granddaughter, he’s clearly the second-hand Hammond. I mean, they cast Ted Levine in a role - fucking Buffalo Bill - and then have the audacity to later ‘reveal’ his character as a bad guy. Poor casting choices undercut the movie at every stroke; returning characters like Henry Wu merely go through the motions, while Jeff Goldblum (now playing Jeff Goldblum and not Ian Malcolm) doesn’t even get to leave his chair. Jurassic World was controversial in whom it picked to die and why, but Fallen Kingdom asks only that you wish all of its characters dead.
The decision to move the Jurassic franchise out of its comfort zone is an admirable one - it is no spoiler to say the majority of the movie takes place in our kingdom, not theirs. But this reversal had me craving the familiar environments of its predecessors: outside of the volcanic opening, the locations of Fallen Kingdom feel claustrophobic and flat, and they never feel conducive to the thrills and/or spills director J.A. Bayona is aiming for. (Here’s a good rule of thumb: T-Rex on a tropical island = majestic, T-Rex in a car park = not so much).
Bayona does some wonderful things with light, dark and shadow (the dino lit by lava in the tunnel is sublime) but otherwise the attempt to shoehorn dinosaurs into a haunted house monster movie is an ill fit. Some elements have been lifted from John Boorman’s batshit crazy script for Jurassic Park 4 (no gun-toting dino hybrids, for shame) but consequently the story feels like it has been reverse engineered to include certain trailer friendly set-pieces, like the nightmarish bedroom sequence, which is legitimately creepy but feels utterly out of place.
Fallen Kingdom does have a stab at some overarching themes, like the morality of cloning and the concept of lineage, but it abandons almost all of them in favour of the traditional running and, uhhh, screaming, dumb character decisions and exposition so clunky the script could have been written by Mr. DNA. This is now by and large a franchise that has devolved over time; for a movie that was once on the bleeding edge of science and technology, it frequently features analogue thinking. For example: no one has ever been able to adequately explain how dinosaurs would make effective weapons of war, when in every Jurassic Park movie they’ve been shown to be susceptible to tranquilliser darts. This is the second movie to suggest war dinosaurs as a plausible theory and the second to pussy out from showing it.
And another thing: it has long been established that man can now make new dinosaurs. Why, then, is there such clamour to be the owners of the actual physical specimens? Fallen Kingdom’s nadir is an anachronistic auction room scene, compered by Toby Jones in wiggy panto mode, where a room full of hideously outdated rich guy stereotypes (bowl-cut Russian in leather jacket with diamond teeth, silver-haired Asian businessman, cowboy Texan with twirly moustache) bid to buy the Jurassic leftovers. Some over the telephone - how quaint! What’s more, the bids are hopelessly, hilariously low when compared to, say the price tags of Premier League footballers; Liverpool could have strengthened their back four by buying an Ankylosaurus for less than they paid for Andy Carroll in 2011. The whole extended sequence, including the inevitable escape and uprising, is torturously embarrassing.
Grace notes are few and far between - the closest I got to being moved was the lingering shot of a Brachiosaurus slowly consumed by an ash cloud. Jurassic movies have always lived and died on the strength of their terrible lizards, and though the usual suspects all get their money shots, I’m officially calling for a moratorium on Velociraptors being good guys - we’re in Terminator 3 territory now, desperately pretending like hero Arnie was always better than villain Arnie. The dinosaur cast is at least more interesting (and less irritating) than the human cast, but there’s little for them to get their teeth stuck into as they’re shuttled from one confined space to another. Really, once you’ve seen a Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring in front of an exploding volcano, where do you go from there?
I can’t stay mad at you, Jurassic Park. We’ve been through too much together. But let’s just say we’re not currently on speaking terms.