07th Jun2018

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, B.D. Wong, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Geraldine Chaplin, Kamil Lemieszewski, Justice Smith, Peter Jason | Written by Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly | Directed by J.A. Bayona

Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-poster-1

“Oh, yeah, ooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts – then later there’s running and screaming.” That’s the philosophy behind every movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, summed up in a nutshell by Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World (1997). The latest addition to the franchise – a sequel to 2015′s Jurassic World and the fifth instalment in the series overall – sticks closely to that basic formula, while simultaneously trying to make things a little different this time round. Unfortunately, when it comes to provoking both wonder (the oohs and ahhhs) and terror (the screams), there’s a definite sense that the franchise has been hit by the law of diminishing returns.

Scripted by the previous film’s Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens with everyone’s favourite dinosaurs facing extinction (again) when a volcano erupts on Isla Nubar. Former park manager-turned save-the-dinos activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is recruited to rescue them, along with her ex-boyfriend, dino-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and her two new assistants, sparky dino-vet Zia (Daniella Pineda) and scaredy-cat tech geek Franklin (Justice Smith).

The rescue mission is funded by elderly billionaire philanthropist Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who intends to resettle the dinosaurs on a new, uninhabited island. However, Claire and Owen soon discover that they’ve been tricked and that Lockwood’s dastardly estate manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) intends to auction the dinosaurs off to a motley crowd of evil-doers that includes big game hunters, collectors and military honchos looking to weaponise dinosaurs.

The net result of that plot development is that the film doesn’t spend nearly as much time on the island as the trailer would have you believe. Instead, the majority of the film takes place in Lockwood’s giant mansion house, where the various dinosaurs are being sedated and locked up, prior to the auction. Of course, several of them escape, which turns the film into the dinosaur equivalent of a stalk-and-slash movie, with the toothy blighters picking off their victims in a spooky old house.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) proves an inspired choice, creating a suitably creepy atmosphere for the sequences set in the house, most notably during a terrific scene where an Indoraptor (the movie’s newly created dinosaur, with heightened hunting abilities) stalks a little girl in her bedroom, like something out of a vampire movie. He also has an eye for a striking image, particularly with a shot of a left-behind brontosaurus that gives the franchise its most poignantly sad moment to date. However, those moments are ultimately overshadowed by the persistent impulse to replicate images and scenes from the original film, a comparison that doesn’t do the new movie any favours.

To be fair, there’s a lot to enjoy here on a scene-by-scene basis, even if the script in general is a little lacklustre. Highlights include a lumpy-headed dinosaur who has a useful habit of bumping into things (complete with some amusing sound design work), a sequence where Owen and Claire have to get a blood sample from a sedated T-Rex and some classic examples of that time-honoured genre staple, whereby characters make the most ridiculous decisions imaginable. Let’s just say that one character has a habit of collecting dinosaur teeth that literally comes back to bite him.

The performances are actually better this time round, as both Pratt and Howard have sensibly toned down some of the sillier elements from the previous movie. Similarly, there’s strong comic support from Justice Smith (whose ludicrously high-pitched screams provide some of the film’s biggest laughs) and Rafe Spall makes a suitably chompable villain, while newcomer Isabella Sermon makes a strong impression as Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, a character who’s likely to have significant importance for the next film. However, in perhaps the film’s biggest disappointment, Jeff Goldblum only appears in a short cameo as Dr Malcolm – here’s hoping he gets a bit more to do next time round.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in cinemas now.

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