Film Review: More of the same as Jurassic World franchise returns

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J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls) brings an imaginative horror lens to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but this haphazard sequel hinges on worn-out plot devices, writes Natalie Stendall.

With its red hot volcano and new dinosaurs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is mostly good fun.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their winsome roles as Jurassic World’s fiery couple, reunited to save the park’s dinosaurs from an island destroying volcanic eruption. We’re immediately thrown into an island storm, a suspicious underwater mission and a dinosaur attack, before an expedition to retrieve the intelligent and ferocious velociraptor, Blue, lands dinosaur behaviouralist, Owen (Chris Pratt), and park operations manager, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), in lava-based peril.

There are plenty of nods to the original, too many perhaps, and despite its creative use of darkness and shadows worthy of the horror genre, fails to carve out a clear personality of its own. The image of a giant claw creeping towards a frightened child is Fallen Kingdom at its creepy best, but its action sequences too often descend into ridiculous last minute rescues and familiar escapes.

That the film paints the park’s dinosaurs as endangered species is interesting, opening the film up to a political angle and a welcome and apt return for Jeff Goldblum’s chaos theoretician, Ian Malcolm. Yet the screenplay from Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World and the forthcoming Jurassic World 3) fails to grab hold of this potentially meaty thread with any real fervour, instead swerving in another direction. It leaves Fallen Kingdom hollow and disappointingly one-dimensional.

Trevorrow and Connelly seem to have forgotten that the original Jurassic Park’s success lies not only in its glorious CGI and terrifying dinosaur attacks but in its cerebral subtext. That Fallen Kingdom is able to, misguidedly, paint that film’s avaricious park owner, Hammond (Richard Attenborough), as a kind of hero figure is a testament to the complexity of its villains.

By comparison, Fallen Kingdom paints its characters as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Its villain is so irredeemably cold-blooded that suspending disbelief becomes rather like an insipid chore.

At its worst, Fallen Kingdom is segue cinema - a feature length transition between Jurassic World and Jurassic World 3. What it sets up, though, looks tremendous and takes us in the direction the franchise always felt destined. Plot holes aplenty and a handful of tedious action sequences render this instalment erratic, disorganised and a little tired but, bailed out by Bayona’s eerie gaze, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom remains, largely, an enjoyable ‘more of the same’ blockbuster with a couple of added surprises.