Just like John Hammond’s Jurassic Park before it, Jurassic World has fallen to the chaos of dinosaur rule, with humans banished from Isla Nublar. Once again, the world finds itself in a situation where creatures wiped out 65 million years ago are living wild on one tiny corner of the planet, an island off the coast of Costa Rica.
However, perhaps it’s for the best that Indominus Rex et al ran amok and left Jurassic World abandoned. We learn at the opening of Fallen Kingdom that Mount Sibo, the volcano in the centre of Isla Nublar that was believed to be extinct, was in fact just long dormant and is poised to erupt. Cue an emergency rescue mission to save the dinosaurs from yet another extinction.
Hence, more than previous Jurassic Park sequels, Fallen Kingdom asks some curious hypothetical questions about cloned and/or de-extinct animals. Would they have the same rights as the actual, real animals in which so much time, money and effort has been invested to prevent them disappearing from the planet? It’s a question explored over and over again throughout the film.
Dr Ian Malcolm (a role reprised by Jeff Goldblum) argues that no, humans were responsible for bringing these animals back to life and therefore they have no natural place in the modern world. Their death by eruption would just be nature correcting a mistake. Others disagree, with numerous characters asserting that now the technology to recreate such creatures exists, it cannot be reversed. While it may be bad that Hammond and business partner Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) started the whole dinosaur cloning operation in the first place, it is too late to pretend it never happened. It’s the most robust questioning of Hammond’s vision of de-extinction since Malcolm berated him around the dinner table 25 years ago for wielding genetic technology ‘like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun’.
‘Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?’ asks Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), in one of the film’s more sedate scenes. ‘First time you see them, it’s like a miracle. You read about them in books, you see the bones in museums but you don’t really believe it. They’re like myths. And then you see the first one alive.’ It’s one of the few times we get to take a step back and briefly recall the sense of wonder that was threaded all the way through the 1993 original. There’s also a touching scene reminiscent of Christian the lion when Grady has to track down Blue, the velociraptor he raised and trained in the previous entry in the series, before she and all of the other dinosaurs are swallowed up by rivers of lava (and a surprisingly slow pyroclastic flow).
Such deep reflection aside, the rest of the film – like Jurassic World before it – descends gradually into a ridiculous parody of the Spielberg original, hoping that a few nostalgic nods will make up for a lack of logical narrative or believable characters. The subtlety and terrifying simplicity of evading velociraptors in a kitchen is replaced by relentless battles with indestructible creatures attacking anything that moves.
While previous sequels, such as Jurassic Park III (released in 2001), embraced the ‘lost world’ genre with humans having to battle through hostile environments full of rogue dinosaurs, Fallen Kingdom appears determined to leave the spatial restrictions of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna. With Nublar seemingly in ruins, their ambitions for the franchise look set to extend far beyond the brief dabble with ‘dinosaurs on the mainland’ that occurred towards the end of 1997’s The Lost World.
With a significant transfer of funds from the special effects department to the script-writing department, Fallen Kingdom could have built on early promise and created an intelligent, thought-provoking modern analysis of de-extinction and other genetic developments. Unfortunately, the final result falls far short of this potential. Can future sequels (of which there will almost definitely be) recapture the magic? Life may find a way, but it’s hard to see how the franchise will.
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