In 2015, the first Jurassic World divided audiences and critics between those who enjoyed it for what it was, namely a visually entertaining popcorn flick seasoned with nostalgia, and those who felt it was sorely lacking in terms of the heart that made the original film compelling beyond its superficial appeal as a dinosaur rampage movie. With director J.A. Bayona receiving substantial praise for both past efforts like The Orphanage as well as the more recent A Monster Calls, there is no doubt that the director would bring a certain degree of visual competence to the Jurassic World sequel.
And it does indeed start very well with a thrilling and atmospheric opening sequence that gives the viewer a taster of director J.A. Bayona’s talents as a visual storyteller, just as this sequence also serves as a paraphrasing of the extended ending of the original Jurassic Park, which never made it beyond the storyboard phase back in the day. While it takes a while, such sequences soon prove to be plentiful, which will undoubtedly thrill many viewers, however, some may find Bayona’s approach too tonally distant from the original, as the Spanish director brings an almost gothic fairytale flavor to several of these set pieces.
As we are reintroduced to the protagonists of the 2015 film, the plot begins to unfold, or rather what little and messy plot there is. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are likable due to their natural, individual onscreen presence, but neither is afforded much character development. Except for the exposition-dumping we get – courtesy of a few archive clips of Pratt’s Owen documenting how he forms a bond with his velociraptor Blue when she was merely a cuddly little ball of razor-sharp teeth, claws and killer instinct – nothing else is done to explore the bond between man and prehistoric beast; and that is an awful shame as that would have given the film a distinct, if silly, charm that many dinosaur enthusiasts would have thoroughly enjoyed.
Likewise, nothing is done to further flesh out the relationship between Owen and Claire, as these characters have no interesting exchanges once the action kicks into gear, resulting in non-existent character arcs for a duo that has plenty of potential. New characters are also introduced without taking more than the absolute bare minimum of time to flesh them out, resulting in a handful of underdeveloped supporting characters reminiscent of the equally bland supporting cast featured in Jurassic World. As a result, there is a sinful waste of talent all around, which leaves the viewer unable to invest in any of the human characters, and by proxy the various plot twists and film premise as a whole, as one eventually begins to realize that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has little else to offer than a string of unevenly executed action set pieces.
While Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is undoubtedly leagues better than the eternally abysmal Jurassic Park 3, it still feels like a hollow shell that captures none of the magic of the original, much like it also completely wastes the potential one after all has with cast members such as Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall and Toby Jones. Arguably, Jurassic Park was also a relentless thrill ride with seemingly never-ending perils for our protagonists to face, but what made the viewer engage with that film was the combination of the marvelous technical achievements of Stan Winston’s team and the humanity that Steven Spielberg so competently injected into the 1993 original. What we are left with this time around may be equally relentless on a purely superficial level, but there is nothing there for the viewer to engage with emotionally, making Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom regrettably disengaging narratively, even for someone like yours truly, who never outgrew the obligatory childhood obsession with all things dinosaurs.
Verdict: 5 out 10.