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Reviewed by:
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by J.A. Bayona
  • Ross P. Garner (bio)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (J.A. Bayona US 2018). Universal Pictures/ Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures. PAL Region 2. 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen. £14.99

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (hereafter JWFK) was released in UK cinemas on 8 June 2018 to directly coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original Jurassic Park (Spielberg US 1993; in the US the film opened slightly later on 22 June). JWFK grossed over US$1.3 billion at the global box office, outperforming the franchise's ground-breaking first instalment but falling short of the returns generated by the film to which it is a direct sequel–Jurassic [End Page 449] World (Trevorrow US 2015). While these figures point towards the property's continuing popularity to provide audiences with dinosaur-derived spectacle, critical reception of the film was predominantly hostile. Bryan Bishop of The Verge named JWFK 'the kind of dumb, cynical blockbuster that the first Jurassic World was warning audiences against' while Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian deemed the film 'a boisterous but muddled franchise-iteration which reshuffles all the old constituent plot points'. Such commentary replays popular attitudes towards franchise sequels which interpret these simply as corporate moneymaking exercises that are devoid of creativity. Some of these positions are applicable to JWFK: the human characters are, for example, one-dimensional types who are given little opportunity for development across the film's narrative. However, some of the replaying of established franchise notes do, as this review argues, attempt to push the property forward by accentuating different genre codings. Whether these strategies are successful thus becomes the point for debate as it is also arguable that such shifts create tonal inconsistencies which undermine the franchise's scientific discourses.

Given the anniversary context and the aforementioned 'reshuffled plot points', some might expect a nostalgic edge to JWFK. This is not the case, though. Whilst certain self-referential homages, such as cueing audiences to once again gaze awe-struck when first seeing a Brachiosaurus, carry a momentary affective charge, others (e.g. a new take on the 'clever girl' who can open, in this instance, windows) fall flat. It therefore becomes easy to read the response to allusions such as the latter as exemplifying the reified nostalgia discussed by Fredric Jameson concerning postmodern Hollywood blockbusters. Alternatively, nostalgic cues are undercut by demonstrations of unnecessary cruelty. One sequence especially demonstrates this point: after having been invited to care about Isla Nublar's Brachiosauruses, audiences must then endure an extended sequence where a fellow herd member (possibly the same Brachiosaurus) is abandoned at the island's dock and subsequently engulfed in lava and ash from the now-active volcano. On the one hand, the sequence is visually clever as its use of colour implies that the park's dinosaurs are returning to being fossilised in amber, just as their DNA was preserved many millennia ago. On the other, this sequence feels distinctly 'off-brand' for a property that has frequently foregrounded the wondrous and whimsical nature of witnessing dinosaurs in the present. The harrowing, lonely and frightened cries of the Brachiosaurus, combined with the (melo)dramatic non-diegetic music, instead make this sequence a gruelling and manipulative watch.

Some critics of particular political persuasions may praise the film's stance towards nostalgia as this represents a step-away from revelling in regressive [End Page 450] ideas concerning either the cinematic experience or how popular media construct the Mesozoic. However, I would argue that in many ways this sequence is emblematic of JWFK in general: deployments of sophisticated visual style are infrequent and cannot make up for either tonal inconsistencies or the film's failure to make coherent points about humanity's current relationship to natural history or genetic engineering.

In terms of narrative themes, JWFK does demonstrate some (sub-)generic innovation. Writing on popular fictional dinosaur narratives, academic W.J.T. Mitchell has argued that 'It is … rare for dinosaur stories to deal with extinction'. This has partly been because of the work that dinosaurs culturally perform to remind us of our own species mortality. The fact that JWFK's first hour...


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pp. 449-454
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