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...

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE ON SUNDAY - MATTHEW BOND

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

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