Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (J. A. Bayona, 2018)
The cool thing about the Alien films — before they became pants — was each one was a different flavour of slasher movie: haunted house, Vietnam, prison. The Jurassic Park films just gave us variants on Westworld: genetically engineered dinosaurs get out of control at a theme park, again. I think in one they got to attack San Diego, which makes a difference from New York.
Here, from a director known for horrorish (The Orphanage, The Impossible, A Monster Calls) we get a variant on the haunted house after the obligatory park sequence. The abandoned island of dinosaurs is under threat from a volcano (global warming is blamed) and a previously unmentioned business partner of John Hammond (Farmer Hoggett) has decided to rescue them. To do this, he needs Aunty Spinster, even though they seem to have done pretty well without her. She in turn calls in her now old flame, Ironically Masculine Guy, to help them capture Blue, the only developed character in the whole film. But sinister forces are at work, and the dynamic duo plus sassy paleovet and a new comic relief geek guy barely escape the island back to Hoggett’s mansion with their lives as fleeing dinosaurs trample all the disposable characters.
Meanwhile, at the gothic mansion, Hoggett’s evil assistant is planning to auction off the reptiles with the aid of Toby Jones and Dr Wu has engineered an even more ultimate version of Indominatus Rex for reasons that merely engine the plot.
All hell is going to break loose.
Did I mention
Rachael Maisie, an adorable l’il orphan Annie, dressed by “Don’t Look Now” with a secret of her own? She’s looked after by Geraldine Chaplin, who brings an overgenerous gravitas to an under imagined rôle, and gets to see things she shouldn’t and gets into obviously escapable jeopardy before latching onto the indistinguishable Chris as her real daddy.
So the dinosaurs go bonkers and are able to happily wander through narrow corridors and hide in shadows, and balance on skeletons and Victorian glass roofs even though their footsteps make the ground shake. The effects, predictably, are fantastic, even though you are not convinced half of the human performances are real. I wonder if Jeff Goldblum returned to do his Lou Reed impersonation on the basis that he directed his own scenes and didn’t have to be in the same state as the rest of the cast? He gets a few overlapping speeches that soar to the depths of Roy Batty’s pigeon launching soliloquy.
Aunty Spinster and Postironic Alphamale are kept separate for much of the film and we are never quite convinced that they could be an item, despite his inexplicable line “You made me come”.
Is that a bad thing?
After the stupidity of stiletto heels in the jungle in Jurassic World (2015), the camera work rather fetishises her feet, her first reveal beginning at ground level. She quickly changes into sensible shoes and gets to be plucky and reasonably resourceful in a not annoying way. Meanwhile, comic relief guy grates on the nerves, screams fifty times too many and rather deserves to be eaten.
All too obviously, the film leaves the door wide open for a sixth instalment, which should take a hint from the Planet of the Apes reboot and be told from the point of view of Blue. The film, meanwhile, can’t decide if the fauna is dangerous reptilian psychopaths or cute animals who deserve preservation and we have evil global capitalism (presented mostly in the form of evil oligarchs, although Big Pharma and the military industrial complex are hinted at) at the heart of a major Hollywood studio which has gone into marketing overdrive.
I’ve just been rereading Robin Wood: “the sense of reckless, prodigal extravagance, no expense spared” contributes to a sense that if Hollywood can afford such an epic then “the system must be basically OK, right?”