I QUITE liked Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom when I first walked out of the cinema. But then I do get excited by a dinosaur and this appears to have clouded my judgement on further more detailed analysis.

Of course, in the identical way the shock and awe of the original Alien can never be matched, the same is true with this franchise.

The tapping velociraptor claw…the water shuddering in a glass. ‘Did you feel that?’ Flipping terrifying. Although there are nods to these Steven Spielberg cinematic masterpieces from 1993 (yes, 25 years ago if you did not feel old enough), that suspense, that experience, indeed that fear, is just not here this time. Despite director J.A Bayona’s best efforts with both a good and a really, really bad dinosaur amidst the panoply of prehistoric beasts.

What I do fear is not the dinosaurs but the fact the film-makers are playing too safe, trying to please too many, not being bold or creative enough. The subject matter could not lend itself more dutifully to rouse such emotions and yet we end up with something of a protoceratops (Google search result for ‘one of the more boring dinosaurs’).

Some mild spoilers coming up…

This film opens several years after Jurassic World, when the idea of penning dinosaurs in an amusement park turned out to be a disastrous one.

The attraction on Isla Nublar has fallen into ruin and the animals have been running wild, but an active volcano is about to blow, threatening the lives of those left on the island. The US government is staging hearings on whether the dinosaurs should be protected. Debate rages between humanity’s obligation to save the creatures it brought back from extinction or has life or a higher power rightly found a way of course-correcting in a rather explosive style?

Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm sadly and infuriatingly only briefly pops in to offer his testimony — though the politicians ultimately decide not to intervene.

Cue convoluted plot.

Ageing Sir Benjamin Lockwood (who? Never mentioned before), former business partner of the park’s founder Hammond (once played by the late, great Richard Attenborough – we see him in an oil painting at least) is now planning to extract the dinosaurs and keep them in a new Shangri-La sea-surrounded lump of land where they can live out their days eating one another without being a tourist attraction. He is creepy, but then that is actor James Cromwell’s way, particularly as my most recent memory of him is in American Horror Story.

To facilitate all of this, Sir Benjamin has hired smoothie CEO Eli Mills (Rafe Spall). He taps up Jurassic World’s former operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) – now a dinosaur rights activist – who hunts down beefcake raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and they rekindle their thang over some beer and pool shooting. In tow are a paleo vet who learns a velociraptor blood transfusion on the hoof and a tech geek who performs reboots best under pressure from lava flow.

Transpires they and the Jurassic menagerie are just pawns in a nasty scheme cooked up by the money-grubbing suits who see an opportunity to make a killing.

They are being traded as weapons with the Russians particularly interested in a super beast that has been manufactured to be the ultimate war machine. Can Blue, Owen’s pet raptor, save the day?

We do get the dinos in cages, fed with goats, dinos having to be herded in the driving rain, great white hunters with guns, yikes-it’s-behind-you comeuppances for the corporate bad guys and dusty old electrical circuit boxes that have to be fixed by torchlight.

The charge and splash away from the volcano is impressive (decent CGI). My knuckles did whiten a couple of times. I liked the touch with a car mirror. I felt sad as a brachiosaurus is engulfed in flame. Our returning adventurer couple are cute as.

Sir Benjamin’s smart, loner granddaughter is to be important; this is Maisie, well played by Isabella Sermon. At one point when everything is going bad, she just goes and hides under her quilt! But further development of her significance appears to be being saved for the next instalment. And the cracks then begin to appear, like those in the earth’s crust.

Didn’t the velociraptors hunt in packs? What has the big scary fish at the beginning been doing? Can the super-dino really be undone during a romp in a museum? It is really going to end with a decision over a big red button.

Too predictable, too neat, not enough teeth. In cinemas now.

 

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