Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom review
When Jurassic World was released in 2015, it brought the aged Jurassic Park franchise back to life but much like the amber-preserved creatures at its heart, it came back a little different: bigger, more bombastic, interested in new questions about the use of dinosaurs as weapons or the limits of genetic engineering.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the new sequel, continues that trend to occasionally dazzling effect, but this time around it's a bit more apparent what might also have been lost along the way to this brave new world. It's a massive, unrelenting spectacle that takes the series to entirely new territory, but has to do some very silly stuff to do it.
If you want to find out more about the film or watch the trailers, head to our Jurassic World 2 hub, or check out our round-up of the rest of the year's big new releases to see what else is out. Oh, and we also explain the Fallen Kingdom post credit scene if you're wondering whether to bother staying in your seat after the movie's over. In the meantime, here's our Jurassic World 2 review.
Release date and tickets
First up, a quick note on Fallen Kingdom's release date. The film is already out in the UK, where we're based, so we've already had the chance to see it - but US fans have a little longer to wait, as it doesn't hit American cinemas until 22 June.
If you're in the UK you can book tickets now through Cineworld, Vue, or Odeon. US dino fans will have to wait a bit longer before they get to watch, but head to Fandango now to book your tickets for opening weekend.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom review
The first Jurassic World was, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens after it, as much sequel as reboot: re-running the same basic structure as the very original film, only updated with shinier effects, bigger dinosaurs, and more spectacular set pieces to met modern tastes.
That leaves the new sequel, Fallen Kingdom, with a tougher question: now that the franchise is back, where does it go from there? Unfortunately while The Last Jedi offered a confident - if controversial - vision of the future of that series, Fallen Kingdom is less certain about what lies ahead, as the messy plot twists itself into knots trying to reach the inevitable setup for the sequel.
Let's start with the basics. Chris Pratt returns as Owen Grady, his raptor trainer persuaded by former park director Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to head back to Isla Nublar on a rescue op: not for stranded people, but for the dinosaurs themselves, now under threat from a volcano that was supposed to be dormant but is now very, very active.
They're joined by Justice Smith's tech support (comic relief) and Daniella Pineda's paleoveterinarian (plot device), along with a private army hired by the man funding all this: Benjamin Lockwood (a warm, if under-used James Cromwell), a former partner of the original park founder John Hammond looking to right his wrongs.
As you might guess, things aren't so simple, and this rescue op has more nefarious objectives: most immediately selling the big beasties to the highest bidder in black market auction presided over by a leering Toby Jones and attended by the most generic villains the criminal underworld could spare that night.
More than that though, there's a plot ripped directly from the last movie, to genetically engineer an even deadlier dinosaur and train it to be a weapon, as a sort of modern, spikier take on police dogs. The Indoraptor - a smaller, smarter version of the previous film's Indominus Rex - breaks loose (surely not!) and begins stalking its new prey across the Lockwood estate.
If all of that sounds like a lot for one film - at a relatively lean 2 hours and 8 minutes - that's because it is. Fallen Kingdom moves at a breakneck pace, hurtling its characters onto the island and off it again before you can really take it in, rushing them towards a conclusion that never gets the build up it needs to pay off.
That relentless pace applies to the action sequences too, as director JA Bayona jumps from one to the next every few minutes. In a sense it's a welcome approach, as no set piece is ever allowed to linger longer than it's welcome, but it also means few of them really get the chance to ramp up to a satisfying climax.
That insistence on short sequences also means the film leads firmly towards action over horror - a delicate balance for every Jurassic Park film. There's just nothing here to match the unforgettable raptors-in-the-kitchen sequence from the first Jurassic Park, which is a particular shame coming from a director who made his debut with the startling Spanish horror The Orphanage. Bayona could have given us the scariest Jurassic film yet, but instead it's simply the loudest.
It is at least probably the prettiest film since Spielberg's first, with a flair to the visuals that was entirely absent from Jurassic World. It's here that Bayona's background comes through, with nods to the likes of the original Nosferatu, and beautiful compositions throughout that play with framing, light and shadow - not to mention one bravura underwater sequence that's one of the film's most intense moments.
Of the main cast Pratt probably comes out best. He's predictably comfortable with the film's comedic side - one drugged up lava escape is his finest physical performance yet - but the slightly thin screenplay doesn't give him and Dallas Howard much to work with beyond that. Isabella Sermon makes a fine debut as Lockwood's granddaughter (is it even a Jurassic Park film if there's no precocious child?), but don't hold out too much hope for the much feted return of Jeff Goldblum to the series: it's a glorified cameo, and nothing more.
When Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom works, it delivers some of the best individual moments in the series yet, but as a whole it barely hangs together. The film can barely keep up with its own twists and turns, one of which - trust me, you'll know it when you see it - feels like a hangover from an old draft that's got nothing to do with the rest of the film any more. Throw in a few too many moments of egregious tyrannosaurus rex machina, and soon you'll long for the days when a couple of dinosaurs breaking loose was enough to get us worked up.
SHOULD I BUY JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom tries to inject the franchise with more of everything, but it's less than the sum of its genetic parts. There are flashes of brilliance here, and the whole thing is fast and fun enough to keep things barrelling along until the end, but they're empty thrills. The park may be gone, but this is nothing more than a fun ride.