Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Year: 2018
Production Co: Amblin Entertainment
Studio: Universal
Director: J A Bayona
Writer: Derek Connolly/Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, BD Wong, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda

Jurassic World was great fun, which is undoubtedly why it did so well at the box office. It certainly didn't do so because of our excitement about seeing realistic-looking dinosaurs laying waste to the real world – we'd been seeing that done for 25 years by that point very effectively because of the groundbreaking example the original Jurassic Park itself set. In fact, one of the themes of Jurassic World was that realistic dinosaurs just didn't excite us any more after them being so much a part of pop culture.

But something few people seemed to notice or talk about was that the premise of a theme park full of genetically engineered dinosaurs going wrong when they prove themselves too smart or opportunistic to be contained, breaking out of captivity to wreak havoc, was a complete retread of the original movie.

The reason Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom works is twofold. First, I was quite conscious going in that it finally wasn't a remake of the first film in the series (I know I'm kind of undermining my own argument somewhat because neither Jurassic Park: The Lost World or Jurassic Park III were such obvious reduxes of the original film – my only defending this position is that they kind of sucked and can be discounted). Second, it's as effective a popcorn adventure movie as its predecessor was, not trying to be anything but fun.

It's a few years since the carnage of Jurassic World, the theme park lying in ruins and the animals enjoying life as it should be on Isla Nublar. But a new threat looms. Established in the cool and creepy opening sequence of a submersible entering the mosasaurus area to retreive a sample of the Indominous Rex's skeleton, the greedy powers that be are still trying to engineer ever-more dangerous creatures.

We think it's for military research but as the third act reveals, Ingen's current stewards, Henry Wu (BD Wong) and Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) – grandson of John Hammond's original business partner (James Cromwell) – intend only to sell the surviving animals to the highest bidder like they're priceless artworks.

But they need to get them off the island, which is how Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) get involved. Now a dinosaur rights activist and with no idea of Wu and Mills' nefarious plan, Claire is summoned to the Mills mansion and given what appears to be her dream project. A volcano on Isla Nublar is threatening to blow, and they'll give her whatever resources she needs to get there and save as many animals as she can. One of them is velociraptor Blue, so she recruits former flame Owen to help.

But after the firey action sequences trying to wrangle as many creatures as they can with the island blowing its stack nearby, it's revealed to be a double cross. Ingen forces close in, leaving Owen, Claire and their small team for dead as they round up whatever animals they can sell.

Of course the gang escapes and returns to civilisation and of course – during the auction filled with finely dressed rich people – the dinosaurs are going to escape and cause bedlam again. But it at least gives the series an interesting new visual and aesthetic idea, with the latest creature off the production line, the fearsome indoraptor, skulking around the darkened mansion after the heroes and the preteen girl fate puts in their charge. It turns Jurassic Park into a Haunted Mansion ride and gives it a new dimension we haven't seen before.

If there are any complaints to be had it's that the script by Derek Connolly and original director Colin Trevorrow is a bit overstuffed. The scenes about the volcano, Owen's finding and rebonding with Blue, the gothic set piece you've seen in the trailer of the monstrous claw moving towards the terrified little girl in her bed and the huge cast of heroes and villains all slot into place in proscribed blockbuster parameters, but they don't sit together comfortably enough for them all to have the impact they probably should.

Even Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) shows up, testifying before some kind of government committee in two scenes that serve no purpose but to foreshadow the final scenes of the film, where dinosaurs are loosed upon the larger world to coexist with humankind because the little girl feels sorry for them. Maybe the inevitable third chapter of the trilogy will show a dystopian future where dinosaurs rule again, humans hiding in the shadows after being usurped from the top of the food chain.

Even though the filmmaking technology was jaw dropping and groundbreaking in 1993, the original film was simply a classic monster mash designed from the ground up to be consumed liberally with whoops of excitement, gasps of fear and popcorn. To gripe because you want Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to do any more than that is just splitting hairs. The charactersations are simple, the nods to equality and diversity shoehorned in and the lions's share of attention given to the VFX – all qualities this style of cinema was made for.

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