Their origin dating back millions of years and the presence of their fossilised remnants having been known through history, it was only in the late seventeenth century that the nature of dinosaurs and their great age became to be understood, a fraction of the time since they walked the Earth and then departed; conversely, published in 1990, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park has existed for around a tenth of the time that dinosaurs have been recognised.
That novel filmed in 1993 by Steven Spielberg, Fallen Kingdom is the fifth in the sequence, an immediate sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World which relaunched the series for a new generation and heralding a new crisis as the genetically engineered species brought back from extinction now face an overwhelming threat to their existence as the long dormant volcano on Isla Nublar, Mount Sibo, awakens.
Former Jurassic World Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Pete’s Dragon‘s Bryce Dallas Howard), now head of the Dinosaur Protection Group, is approached by the elderly Sir Benjamin Lockwood (Big Hero 6‘s James Cromwell), former partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, to assist in the operation to save as many of the dinosaurs as possible and conduct them to an isolated sanctuary.
Claire in turn approaches former Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady (Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Chris Pratt) to join her team, the details organised by Eli Mills (The Ritual‘s Rafe Spall) due to Lockwood’s failing health, the mission led by former military operative Ken Wheatley (Dig Two Graves‘ Ted Levine), but while neither the reptiles nor the volcano can be predicted, the power of money over ambitious men can always be relied upon.
Dinosaurs and volcanoes having been tied together in the minds of audiences since The Land That Time Forgot if not before, it was perhaps inevitable that Isla Nublar would eventually succumb to the ravages of shifting tectonic plates, though quite how the oversight of constructing a multi-billion-dollar facility on an unstable island occurred is perhaps linked to the egregious stupidity which has been a continuing feature of the theme park in all its guises.
As if to emphasise this, the opening scene of Fallen Kingdom shows an unauthorised attempt to breach the minimum security of the island to gain access to samples of engineered DNA, the raiders composed entirely of people with no concept of danger or sense of self-preservation; possibly, considering the litany of death and disaster which forms the history of Isla Nublar nobody more competent was willing to volunteer?
More aware of the context of what he and his former partner created, Lockwood’s plea for the dinosaurs makes it clear that his intention is that the surviving dinosaurs should exist for their own sake, not as a tourist trap: “These creatures do not need our protection, they need our absence,” he states, but like his housekeeper Iris, the grand Geraldine Chaplin, his hopes and his character are overruled in favour of another carnivorous calamity as the dinosaurs are inevitably reduced to a luxury commodity.
Of the returning characters from Jurassic World, neither Owen nor Claire have changed significantly; Claire may no longer be forced to run wearing high heels but is reintroduced carrying coffee cups for her colleagues, and in fact Velociraptor survivor Blue is the only individual to receive significant expansion with new facets of her intelligence and her relationship with Owen emerging.
Directed by J A Bayona of El Orfanato and A Monster Calls from a script by returning writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, they have made Owen and Claire frustratingly peripheral observers rather than participants in much of the storyline, and while Jurassic World was very much a well-constructed greatest hits package Fallen Kingdom is more akin to a B-sides compilation, a few memorable moments among many echoes already overly familiar, the last-minute deus ex dino rescue now overused to the point of predictable cliché.
The plot obvious and handed out in easily digestible meaty chunks, any attempt at intellectual discussion of the impact and implications of recreating an extinct species and the responsibility of the creators towards their offspring is principally confined to Jeff Goldblum’s return as chaos theorist Doctor Ian Malcolm which is sadly little more than a cameo, as the film would have benefitted from the intelligent commentary of that character.
The original Crichton novel most definitely not aimed at children, it was a necessary compromise of the original film to adapt to include that audience in order to recoup the vast investment of the studio, and while Fallen Kingdom is as bloody and violent as that first film should have been the plot remains simplified, caught in a blind alley beyond which it cannot evolve even as those who have watched the series have grown up.
It is apparent that Doctor Malcolm’s questions of extinction, both that of the dinosaurs and of humanity, should be extended to the film series itself: has it run its course? Fortunately, there are some moments which suggest otherwise, the Mosasaurus scene beating The Meg to the watery punchline by two months, and the hints that the already-confirmed third in the current sequence will take the storyline into an entirely new place, ironically Spielberg’s traditional hunting ground of American suburbia, and it is to be hoped that as with the recent War for the Planet of the Apes, the conclusion will provide the suitably proud exit they deserve.
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom is on general release and also screening in 3D and IMAX