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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(M) ★★½

Director: J. A. Bayona.

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B. D. Wong.

"'Come see the dinosaurs,' they said. 'What could possibly go wrong?' they said."
Read my review of Jurassic Park here.

Read my review of Jurassic World here.

We've come a long way since Sam Neill's Alan Grant poked his head out of the top of a jeep, fumbled with his sunnies, and gaped at a herd of brachiosaurs. We gaped too, and it's no exaggeration to say cinema was changed forever.

Fifth time around, it's harder to be impressed, but to Fallen Kingdom's credit it manages a few moments of visual showmanship that almost help pave over the clunky script and the feeling this is the runt of the dino litter.

Three years after the incident that destroyed Jurassic World, former park operations manager Claire Dearing (Howard) is approached by John Hammond's old partner Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell) and his aide Eli Mills (Spall) and asked to help in a rescue mission to get as many of the remaining dinosaurs off Isla Nublar before the volcano at the island's centre explodes.

With raptor trainer and erstwhile lover Owen Grady (Pratt) along for the ride, Claire finds herself in a race against time to save the resurrected creatures from becoming extinct... again. But that turns out to be the least of her problems.

In many ways, this feels like Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the better-than-you-remember-but-still-somewhat-forgettable second film in the series. It has a "great white hunter", it takes the dinos off the island, and it does some semi-retconning in order to expand the series' mythology (Hammond had a partner?). There's also that same feeling of predictable silliness -  those countless moments of "it would be dumb if they did this, but I bet they're going to do this" - that ran rife in JP2.

But in spite of this Fallen Kingdom manages to really dazzle in places, just like JP2 did with its cornfield scene and its edge-of-a-cliff trailer. While the fifth film's explorations of the murky morality of the original are interesting but ultimately superfluous for the most part, making its early on-screen arguments about "should we save the dinosaurs from a second extinction?" somewhat redundant, there's still a beautifully sad moment watching a brachiosaur being left behind on Isla Nublar.

Similarly, the whole "ticking time bomb island" thing (which definitely comes under the category of predictable silliness) is stunning to watch. Herds of dinosaurs fleeing an exploding volcano ain't something you see every day. Equally daft yet original and beautifully shot is the film's finale, which takes the Jurassic series into horror territory with interesting results.

But its failings cannot be totally overcome by its visual delights and the new treats it presents. The first third of the film is incredibly clunky, the chemistry between Howard and Pratt isn't as sparky as you'd hope, the side characters aren't very interesting, the prerequisite precocious child is unnecessary, the script groans especially when Spall's Miles is on screen. and Jeff Goldblum's cameo is disappointing and disposable.

It's still fun watching the dinosaurs run around sporadically eating people, and the film's final moments point to a sixth movie that could be genuinely awesome, but Fallen Kingdom is as silly and over-the-top as you would expect it to be. If that's all you're after, dig in. If you're hoping for something to live up to the original or even Jurassic World, you'll be disappointed.

PS. If we have to recast/reboot Indiana Jones, can it please be Chris Pratt? I'm more convinced than ever of this after watching Fallen Kingdom.

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