Is Jurassic past its sell-by date?
Yes, it’s jam-packed with the usual Jurassic larks. But this formulaic return to the prehistoric theme park is...
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Cert: 12A 2hrs 8mins ★★★★★
Three years ago, the first Jurassic World film didn’t just reboot the old and much-loved dino franchise, it completely transformed it. With an immaculately polished screenplay, an intelligent awareness of its own heritage and fabulous chemistry between its two stars, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, it was – without doubt – one of the cinematic highlights of 2015 as well as the fifthhighest grossing film ever made.
Sadly, the inevitable second film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, just isn’t in the same class. Yes, there’s a relentless and eventually rather wearying narrative drive, and there are certainly an awful lot of dinosaurs, but the story feels both formulaic and familiar, the back-archive (this, after all, is the fifth film in the now 25-yearold series) is plundered for inspiration with impunity, and as for the chemistry, and indeed comedy, that Pratt and Howard shared first time around… you barely notice either this time.
And we can’t go much further without quickly addressing the subject of Jeff Goldblum, whose return as mathematician and general doomster Ian Malcolm after a 21-year absence has earned the new film huge amounts of publicity. And yet he graces it for what… 90 seconds, two minutes max, topping and tailing the action – in which he plays absolutely no part – like a particularly twitchy and no doubt very expensive afterthought.
It’s as if executive producer Steven Spielberg watched an early cut, decided it wasn’t quite working — particularly in the film-magic, hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck department — and suddenly ordered, ‘Give Goldblum a ring; see how much he wants.’ Too cynical? Possibly, but only just.
Set a few years after the cataclysmic events that led to the closure of the Jurassic World theme park, the new film sees the prehistoric inhabitants of Isla Nublar facing a new threat. The island’s long-extinct volcano has become active again and an eruption seems imminent. Should nature be allowed to take its course and see the dinosaurs wiped out (again), or should someone mount a rescue mission?
There are no prizes for guessing what reborn dinosaur-rights activist Claire Dearing (Howard) thinks, so she’s delighted when the ageing and ailing billionaire Benjamin Lockwood – apparently the business partner of the character played by Richard Attenborough in the original films – says he’s keen and willing to back her. Indeed, his right-hand man (British actor Rafe Spall, playing American) already has a team on the island.
But why – when she gets to the island – do they look like a military team? And why are they so particularly keen to rescue Blue, the genetically improved and highly intelligent raptor who, dino-wise, stole the first Jurassic World film from larger rivals such as the Indominus Rex and the Mosasaurus, the marine monster that eats great white sharks for fun? The answer to the last question, of course, is that it gets Owen Grady (Pratt) back in the action, along with the two younger characters that no Jurassic Park/World film can be without – in this case nervous computer nerd Franklin (an overacting Justice Smith) and feisty female paleo-veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) because, obviously, you never know when you might need a dinosaur bandaged up. The Spanish director JA Bayona, who made the strange film A Monster Calls a couple of years ago, makes his Hollywood debut here, and while he can now add ‘big budget summer blockbuster’ to his CV, his handling of the big action scenes doesn’t always convince. A scene that sees Pratt almost jogging away from a herd
‘You don’t believe the action or are emotionally involved with the characters’
of stampeding dinosaurs seems particularly silly, as does a later sequence when he evades dino-squashing and molten lava in quick succession (despite being virtually paralysed).
The problem is that when you don’t believe in the action and you’re not emotionally involved with the characters, you switch off. That said, a younger audience brought in by the first Jurassic World picture could find enough to enjoy here. This is a commercial popcorn movie, not a genre-redefining one.
I think we can safely say the scene is very much set for Jurassic World 3. But I, for one, won’t be holding my breath.
RiGht: Chris Pratt returns as Owen Grady. Above: Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith dino-boRe: Chris Pratt, Justice Smith, Bryce Dallas Howard and Daniella Pineda