If 2014’s Jurassic World was basically just the original Jurassic Park concept taken to its logical full theme-park conclusion, then new follow-up Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something of a shadowy cousin to 1997 sequel The Lost World.
Like The Lost World, Fallen Kingdom kicks off after a billionaire with ties to the park decides to set up a nature reserve for the deadly dinos (in this case James Cromwell’s Benjamin Lockwood, stepping in for the late Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond), and both films see various species breaking out of confinement after an underling’s betrayal goes terribly wrong.
Both movies also share a darker palette and tone compared with their predecessors, right down to the rain-soaked stunts. One scene involving a T rex, a helicopter and Atlantis’s Robert Emms is a particular stand-out in Fallen Kingdom (all credit going to The Impossible’s JA Bayona, taking over from Colin Trevorrow as director).
And, perhaps most crucially of all, both films feature Jeff Goldblum’s fan-favourite chaos theorist Dr Ian Malcolm.
This time, though, Malcolm isn’t the hero with a gymnastics-champ daughter, or even much involved in the main storyline at all. Instead, he serves to bookend the story with two separate scenes in which he warns a panel of experts against the dangers of keeping the Jurassic World dinosaurs alive.
On the other side of the debate are returning Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Their characters, former park employees Owen and Claire, have broken up again between films, but reunite to save friendly-ish velociraptor Blue from certain death when the island is threatened by a volcano.
This mission ends up forcing the pair to outrun an ash cloud, escape from a watery grave and bunk with a T rex to sneak their way back to the mainland, where the dinosaurs are being sold alongside a deadly new hybrid called the Indo-raptor, created from the DNA of the previous film’s Indominus Rex. What could possibly go wrong?
Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fun romp with some unusual new ideas, pleasant enough characters (newcomer Isabella Sermon’s Maisie Lockwood is a particular highlight) and plenty of dinosaur action – but thanks to one big difference from The Lost World, some fans may leave the cinema frustrated.
You see, where the film really strikes away from previous Jurassic Park movies is that it isn’t really its own film at all. Without giving too much away, Fallen Kingdom’s story largely works towards setting up an interesting situation for the already-announced Jurassic World 3, and does a lot of heavy lifting to get the correct pieces in place for that film to make sense.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Fallen Kingdom definitely has one of the ballsiest endings of any Jurassic Park film to date, and the next movie does have the potential to explore a different story to the classic “stupid humans go to an island and get picked off by dinos” set-up. However, it also leaves this story feeling oddly slight despite its globe-trotting ambitions and mass of CGI action sequences.
This extends to the new “Big Bad” dinosaur the Indo-raptor, who’s never quite established as the threat the Indominus Rex was in the last film despite some supremely creepy scenes (its solitary tapping claw is a brilliant device).
In the end, you’re left feeling that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just a stepping stone towards a bigger, better and more interesting story – and no matter how well it’s put together, it’s hard to find that entirely satisfying.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 6 June