When Michael Crichton first published his best-selling Jurassic Park novel in 1993, its core premise was like a giant dinosaur exhibit made out of tissue paper and chicken wire. From a relative distance, it had all the relevant teeth and claws to shock and awe, but anything more than a cursory observation and you’ll find yourself poking holes through the whole thing rather quickly. And to be honest, the subsequent movie adaptation and its sequels all had the same problem – yes, even Steven Spielberg’s masterful original 1993 film, though it disguised its flaws with a jaw-dropping sense of wonder and fresh spectacle – and you can now add Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to that list as well.

At one point during this fifth entry in the franchise, it’s remarked that Blue, the genetically engineered velociraptor trained by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) in 2015’s Jurassic World, could potentially be the second smartest lifeform on the planet. At several points in the movie though, the dumb actions of certain human characters make you wonder if the raptor should not actually be the intellectual apex predator here. Also among the philosophizing on the dangers of mankind’s propensity for loose cannon technological advancement, there are some clumsy leaps of logic in the script from Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who directed and co-wrote the last film), as sequences later in the film only work because of some random confluence of events that the characters involved could not have predicted.

However, watching a Jurassic movie for perfectly infallible logic, sound science and level-headed human decision-making is like watching a Transformers movie for detailed instructions on how to build a working robot butler. No, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm (who shows up here in cameo form in all his Goldblumminess), we’re here for the ooohs and aaaahs and then all the running and screaming. And in that regard, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom delivers monstrously.

New director Juan Antonio Bayona (A Monster Calls, The Orphanage, The Impossible) kicks things off with a literal bang as three years after the events of Jurassic World, the no-longer-dormant volcano on the now wrecked park’s Central American island has started erupting, threatening to wipe out the dinosaurs in flame and ash for the second time. As a debate about whether these “de-extinct” creatures deserve the same rights as other animals facing extinction drones on Capitol Hill, returning dino wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is roped in by fellow Jurassic World survivor Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) on a last-ditch covert mission back to Isla Nublar to save the dinos at the behest of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the retconned in former partner of Jurassic Park creator John Hammond. Along with eager paleo-veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda), phobic techie Franklin (Justice Smith), and a platoon of heavily armed mercenaries bankrolled by Lockwood’s money, the crew will have to contend with explosive magma, greedy humans and some very dangerous reptiles. What could go wrong?

If your answer to the above question is not “Everything”, then clearly you’ve never seen a Jurassic movie before. Bayona, Connolly and Trevorrow most assuredly have seen one as Fallen Kingdom revels in several tropes from the franchise. While nowhere near to Jurassic World’s blatant ripoff of Jurassic Park, these throwbacks do run the full course – everything from neat homages to telegraphed “twists”. For the most part, though, Bayona gets it right.

Very right actually, as he stages some hectic rollercoaster action beats, with an early multi-pronged sequence being one of the best the franchise has ever seen as it throws together seat-of-the-pants escapes, physical comedy, drama, terror, wide-eyed spectacle, and more. These early scenes also give us some beautiful shots, like staggering artworks of colour and emotion, while the setting for the film’s big finale also gives Bayona a chance to not just break away from the usual franchise locales but also lean heavily on his consummate skill with all things macabre. Using masterfully vertiginous, Hitchcockian camerawork and some truly creepy visuals, Fallen Kingdom earns an almost haunted house horror vibe in several places, which should leave several spines thoroughly chilled.

This darker tone does mean less time for Pratt to get quippy this time around, but his Owen Grady can still turn on the heroic charm in a heartbeat though. Howard’s Claire has also undergone a bit of a transformation, no longer as out of depths as she found herself the first time around. Along with her personality, her once controversial footwear has changed as well. Yes, Claire is wearing sensible boots. No improbable sprints in stilettos for her anymore. Outside of Pratt and Howard, the rest of the cast – which includes Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, B.D. Wong, Ted Levine, Isabella Sermon, and Geraldine Chaplin – also all turn in solid performances, with Daniella Pineda’s feisty Zia being a standout.

As for the real stars of Fallen Kingdom (because they are after all why you’re watching this movie), all your favourite dinosaurs are back to get in on the toothy action and much like the rest of the film, they look phenomenal. Bayona uses a combination of physical animatronics and CG dinosaurs and trying to figure which is used when on screen is a nigh impossible task. There is one dino-centric complaint though, focused on the new Indoraptor. It appears the scientists that cooked it up may have baked in a tad too much of its modern ancestor’s genetic makeup as it ends up a lame turkey. While it has its moments, overall the Indoraptor is just not unique enough – or rather crazy enough – to be memorable. Jurassic World’s genetically engineered Indominus Rex may not have been used to its full potential, but at least its bone-white visage and over the top dino superpowers like camouflage and velociraptor parseltongue made it something different. The Indoraptor can most definitely eat the crowd, but it just doesn’t stand out in it.

The film does throw a few curve balls into the script to seemingly make up for the lack of creativity on the part of its new reptilian Big Bad though. These twists do also remind us that this is very much the middle movie of a trilogy and whether leaving the film in a place to allow returning director Trevorrow to tie the dangling plot threads is intriguing or frustrating is up to your personal preference. My biggest gripe about that is that I would have preferred Bayona, a filmmaker that has a more distinct texture to his filmmaking than the journeyman Trevorrow, to stay on, because despite its flaws, what he has given us is a thoroughly enjoyable combination of both shrieky scares and fist-pumping action thrills on an epic scale. Much like the Indoraptor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s DNA annoyingly does contain a smidge too many things we’ve seen before, but when it goes on the offensive it’s still very effective at what it does.

On the fence, as it were, is the ginger. Nick loved it leaving the cinema, then decided he was a person who hates fun. Have a listen to his rant. He does swear, which I find exposes his lack of vocabulary, or he’s just an angry ginger. You decide. (Warning: there are a couple of very minor spoilers).

Last Updated: June 8, 2018

Summary
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not a perfect killing machine like some of its purported reptilian stars. It has flaws like a slight overreliance on tropes and a big case of the Middle Film Syndrome, but thanks to a game cast led by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard (the latter sans heels!), Juan Antonio Bayona's stunning direction layering things with a chillingly creepy vibe in places, and some of the biggest and best action sequences of the franchise, it's still a thoroughly thrilling ride.
7.5
/10

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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