Greedy men + Dinosaurs = Lunch!
I’ve really had a rollercoaster of emotions on this one. As a general fan of dinosaurs running riot, since I saw the brilliant original in 1993, I was pretty disillusioned by the teaser trailer for this one: all over-the-top CGI. But as the lights dimmed and the Universal logo faded to ominous sonar sounds, the hairs stood up again and I thought J.A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls“) *might* deliver something really special here. Ultimately though, I left the theatre disappointed… but only slightly so.
With extreme topicality given what is happening on one of the Hawaiian islands at the moment, Isla Nublar – home to the now derelict Jurassic World theme park – is in serious trouble due to a volcanic eruption. Swayed by chaos theory expert Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a US senate committee decides to do…. absolutely nothing, letting the dinosaurs face re-extinction. This is much to the fury of our heroine from the first film, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas-Howard), who now runs a “Save the Dinosaurs” group. When all seems lost, help comes from the wallet of philanthropist Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell, “Babe”, “LA Confidential”) and his ops manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, “The Big Short“) who propose to fund a private rescue mission: a mission that requires the involvement of Velociraptor-wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, “Guardians of the Galaxy“, “Passengers“). But are their motives truly honourable?
The film has its moments, with some well-executed action scenes, some nice munching of bad people and a few scenes that are truly touching: shots of a brachiosauruses’ last moments is a memorable piece of cinema. But that said, the film is extremely patchy. An exciting (but not particularly logical) pre-title sequence seques into a very wordy and action-free first reel, headed up by Goldblum (always seated: did he have his legs chewed off by a raptor?) droning on (blah blah blah), no doubt for a huge fee but not for much purpose. The early part of the movie is good however at introducing new characters: specifically the geeky Franklin (Justice Smith) and the pre-requisite 2018 ‘Times Up” kick-ass female character Zia ( Daniella Pineda), who is actually very good. As a whole though it’s not terribly engaging, leading to even the reveal of the derelict theme park – which should have been a high point – falling somewhat flat.
The much trailered volcano scenes that follow are impressive but should have been left to impress in the film.
Things ratchet up again though when the action moves to the more confining environment of Lockwood’s estate, bringing in arch-villain Gunnar Eversol played by Toby Jones (“The Snowman“, “Atomic Blonde“), who really should have taken the stairs, and Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie ( Isabella Sermon) who is excellent as the ‘child in peril’. Some of the character’s actions don’t make a lot of sense (laser-targeting Owen? Why?) but they do generate some memorable scenes, supported by Michael Giacchino’s stirring soundtrack.
So, it pretty much works as an action film, but in terms of character development it doesn’t go anywhere in particular: Claire and Owen come out in about the same condition as they came in. I was expecting something deeper from Bayona (with his “A Monster Calls” being my personal No. 2 film of last year) than just a ‘running and screaming’ film.
It’s also difficult to avoid the fact that after five of these films there’s nothing much new under the Isla Nublar sun. Some of the plot here is a retread of the genetic shenanigans of the last film, mixed with the ‘off-island’ antics of “The Lost World”. And most of the action scenes are just stripped and re-painted from the earlier films. For example, the “about to get eaten but saved by another dinosaur” trope so expertly done by Spielberg in the finale of JP1 is re-hashed not once but THREE times in this movie: leading to more yawning that excitement if I’m honest.
Overall though, it’s an effective summer blockbuster that mostly delivers on the thrills and should be a good crowd-pleaser. By the way, staying through the endless credits is worth it not just for getting the full force of Giacchino and Williams’ majestic themes: there is quite a nice “monkey” at the end, illustrating that gambling might involve more than just money in the future!
Fad Rating: FFFf.