'Anybody hear that? It's an impact tremor, is what it is.' That's right, stomping into view and devouring all in its path is the latest behemoth from the
Set three years after the dinosaurs broke out and caused havoc in Jurassic World, they face being wiped out by a (newly active) volcano on the Isla Nublar. So it's up to Owen and Claire, plus a mysterious new benefactor, to return to the island and save as many species as they can. But soon there is treachery and genetic misdeeds afoot.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom feels like a mash-up of two films. The first half speeds through the rescue and destruction of Isla Nublar (not really a secret as the marketing reveals this proudly). This segment has epic set pieces, but also suffers somewhat from its own propulsion, rushing through a setup to reach the big trailer moment (a T-Rex roaring in front of a backdrop of an erupting volcano). It is in the film's second half that film becomes an interesting prospect, with proceedings focusing in on a single location, reducing the threat to a new beasty. The film becomes positively gothic, highlighting director J.A. Bayona's horror roots (his debut was the sublime The Orphanage).
In fact, a lot of where this film works is in how Bayona frames proceedings. He shows a greater awareness of how to build up an atmosphere, with several scenes standing out and touching the original film for tension. I particularly loved the opening scene, which proved an exciting, engaging, funny, and deliciously horrid way to begin the film. Where the film is let down is in a questionable script that clunks when it should flow, gets bogged down in exposition when it should be light and propel the film forward.
The cast is fine, with Chris Pratt charming his way through his scenes and Bryce Dallas Howard having a smidge more to do this time. I quite enjoyed the presence of new sidekicks Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, and there is good villainy from Toby Jones and Ted Levine. But none of these new inclusions have much that rises beyond a few brief character notes. I still can't quite work out what is going on with turtleneck wearing 'scientist' BD Wong, and the less said of Jeff Goldblum's brief appearance the better. Goldblum's role here has been misleadingly hyped in the press in a not dissimilar fashion to Bryan Cranston's in Godzilla. If you are expecting a lot of Goldblum, his role is reduced to a singular scene. The real standout here is Isabella Sermon as a young girl whom Owen and Claire have to save in the film's second half. She is a light, charming presence, and plays the more horror-tinged moments well.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a ridiculous prospect with the kind of science that feels, at best, muddled. But it is also a hoot, improving on previous sequels without touching the original. Director Bayona is a welcome addition to the franchise and the film is at its best when his voice comes through, with tinges of the gothic horror a Jurassic Park could become.