Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom review: Chris Pratt excels in sequel that gets out of hand late on
A casual glance at the 2018 blockbuster roster might make you wonder what decade you're living in. Ocean's 8, Jurassic World, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 6 for God's sake, and we've already had the umpteenth Star Wars instalment. Even the supposedly original ones sound depressingly familiar: Dwayne Johnson trying to save his family from a burning building in Skyscraper - isn't that Towering Inferno for slow learners?
So when is someone going to launch something new and original at the height of the summer season? Never, so long as Hollywood blockbusters cost $200 million plus to make and a gross of $500 million is considered a failure. Until that toxic dynamic changes, we're going to get more safe bets like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth instalment in a fitful franchise launched by Steven Spielberg way back in 1993, and a sequel to the 2015 reboot Jurassic World.
That film, which grossed a staggering $1.6 billion, was in fairness a lot of fun, trading on Chris Pratt's easy charm and the peerless action formula of Spielberg's original movie. Pratt played a gifted keeper called Owen Grady who is dedicated to the synthetic dinosaurs that inhabit a busy theme park on the volcanic island of Nublar. Megalomaniac scientist Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) had secretly cooked up a super-smart predator called Indominus Rex, which escaped from its cage and caused carnage at the height of the tourist season.
After that, the lawsuits flew and the island was abandoned, but as Fallen Kingdom opens, Isla Nublar is once again in the news. Its long dormant volcano has steamed ominously to life and may soon erupt. If it does, it will kill all the dinosaurs, whose fate has sparked an ethical debate. Campaigners like Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's former manager, believe the dinos should be rescued, but others reckon they should be left to perish. And meanwhile, for the unscrupulous, there's a profit to be made.
When a congressional hearing decides to abandon the creatures to their fate, Dearing tracks down Grady and persuades him to join her on a rescue mission to Nublar funded by Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the billionaire scientist who helped John Hammond develop the dinosaurs in the first place. But Lockwood's unscrupulous right hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) is secretly planning to sell the rescued animals to the highest bidder. None of these sequels will ever have the visual impact of Jurassic Park, which flabbergasted 1990s audiences with its breathtaking special effects. Rendering the monsters has got an awful lot easier, and Fallen Kingdom resists the temptation to shower us with dinosaurs until we feel sick. They're used sparingly for the most part, and one of the film's best scenes is the opening one, when a raiding party is escaping by helicopter from a stormy Isla Nublar and one of them gets stranded on a rope ladder with a T-Rex in hot pursuit. The decision to remove the dinos from their island is a tacit admission that the theme park routine has been done to death.
In Fallen Kingdom, they're out in the world, and the film has fun imagining the chaos these creatures might cause in enclosed human settings.
'Blue', the super-intelligent velociraptor Owen bonded with in Jurassic World, returns to play a key role, but the dinosaurs are not sentimentalised, and much of the film's humour stems from the fact that they don't care who you are - given the chance, they'll eat you.Rafe Spall is a bit fidgety as the pantomime villain Mills, but Toby Jones is more satisfyingly evil playing Gunner Eversoll, an oily rogue trader who acts as auctioneer at a ghastly dinosaur sale. Frustratingly, we're only given a few minutes of Jeff Goldblum, whose eccentric talents cannot be constrained by any script. Pratt is a born movie star, and a natural at this kind of stuff.
And while Fallen Kingdom gets a little too frantic and busy for its own good late on, it's a worthy addition to the franchise and will surely earn a sequel.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (12A, 128mins)
Also releasing this week: Movie reviews: McQueen, All The Wild Horses
Films coming soon...
Hereditary (Toni Collette, Alex Woolf, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne); Super Troopers 2 (Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme); Kissing Candice (Ann Skelly, John Lynch, Ryan McParland); Studio 54 (Ian Schrager, Steve Rubell).