Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell
Director: JA Bayona
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens with a set piece so thrilling, I watched the entire scene with my fists tightly clenched from anxiety. Let’s just say it involves an operation to retrieve a coveted skeleton for the purpose of DNA harvesting. That’s it – that’s all you’re going to get from me.
To be fair there are plenty edge-of-the-seat moments and some good jump scares in this latest entry in the dino disaster franchise. There are times – particularly in the film’s third act – when director JA Bayona treats it like a true blue horror movie with suspense and macabre imagery. But as far as story goes, it’s strictly a retread. Been there, seen that.
The new film unfolds just a few years after the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, which ended with the dinosaurs taking over Isla Nublar after the catastrophic collapse of the theme park. Now an impending volcano eruption on the island is threatening to wipe out the prehistoric beasts once and for all.
Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire Dearing, now a dinosaur rights activist lobbying to save the creatures. Chris Pratt is back too as Owen Grady, former raptor trainer and Claire’s ex, whom she implores to help her on a rescue mission to move the dinos to a safe preserve.
I’ll let you discover what happens next for yourself but I will say the film follows many of the same beats as Jurassic Park: The Lost World, right down to the suspicious military types hired to accompany Claire and Owen back to the island. Much of the screenplay is really a checklist of clichés – double-crossings, kids in danger, man’s tendency to play god – and the bumper-sticker dialogue doesn’t help either.
Good thing there are some well-staged action pieces that divert your attention temporarily from the knuckleheaded plotting. Like a mad dash by man and beast from oncoming lava, and the struggle for survival that follows.
Bayona tightens the screws in the second hour as the action shifts to a sprawling mansion on the mainland where an auction for caged dinosaurs triggers wall-to-wall carnage, and some of the creepiest scenes in the film. Most effective of these is one in which a deadly laboratory-created critter enters a little girl’s room.
This new beast – dubbed the Indoraptor, after the two most terrifying dino species whose DNA it was created from – is the most memorable villain in Fallen Kingdom, and expectedly far more compelling than all of the human bad guys.
The humans in fact, as is often the case in these films, get the short end of the stick. There’s a small cameo by original Jurassic Park star Jeff Goldblum as the wisdom-spouting Dr Ian Malcolm, and an ailing billionaire character played by James Cromwell provides an interesting link to the past. Two new sidekicks barely make an impression, although Bryce Dallas Howard is more front and center of the action this time around. The bulk of the heavy lifting, once again is left to Chris Pratt whose terrific sense of comic timing is largely underutilized by the script.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ends with Planet of the Apes-prophecies as it sets up the third film in the planned trilogy reboot. The film delivers spectacle and scares, but never more. It’s not a complete waste of time, but go in with tempered expectations.
I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5