Finally got round to catching the fifth Jurassic Park film, and it was very good fun. I can't pretend that it brings much to the franchise that Jurassic World didn't, although the final scenes hint at a possible game change for the Jurassic universe. So, spoilers within, pretty much straight away.
Colin Trevorrow said that he couldn't keep the series confined to theme parks, and this is exactly the right decision. Jurassic World revamped the concept of the original Jurassic Park by going back to the theme park, only bigger and better, making it a success so that it would come crashing down all the louder. While nothing beats the original film and novel, Jurassic World was a brilliant update. The Lost World followed Jurassic Park by both letting the dinosaurs have the run of their island environment, and then dragging them back to civilisation (although the novel which is superior, remains confined to the island). Fallen Kingdom follows this development closely, albeit with new twists.
Left to their own devices at the end of the previous film, the dinosaurs are now threatened as Isla Nublar is about to erupt in a volcanic cataclysm. The complete re-extinction of the Dinosauria is imminent (someone may have to remind me what happened to the B-site, Isla Sorna, and why there are no dinosaurs left there). Revealed is Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell - always god value), the little known partner behind John Hammond's genetic experimentation. He now plans a rescue operation for the dinosaurs. Naturally, it's up to Claire and Owen, that plucky pair from Jurassic World, to go bring in Blue the last Velociraptor and the other dinosaurs to safety. Lo and behold, there are others who want the dinosaurs for less noble reasons: the trade in dinosaur soldiers is a potential goldmine.
Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt retain the fun chemistry they had in the previous film. They fit the classic pattern of couples from action movies: obviously into each other, plenty of sexual chemistry, but blatantly incompatible. They need life-or-death situations to make a relationship work. Claire has developed between the films, now part of a dinosaur rights group. Owen, on the other hand, is building a house and not spending much time with anyone. It's their mutual concern for the dinosaurs that they bred, trained and displayed that takes them back to the island, and the script isn't afraid to point out the hypocrisy.
There's a solid cast at work here. Owen and Claire get a new pair of sidekicks, Zia the palaeoveterinarian (Daniella Pineda, exceedingly cool, very sexy) and Franlyn Webb, IT guy and hacker (Justice Smith, geeky, nervous and relatable). Kind of disappointed they didn't bring Lex back from the first film to be their computer person and get some retro 90s graphics in there, but still, I liked these two. Rafe Spall is excellent as Eli Mills, Lockwood's right hand man and a happily ruthless and ambitious bastard. Toby Jones does his usual sterling work of playing a slimy creep, appearing as a sort of arms dealer who sells the dinosaurs Mills has secured. Ted "Buffalo Bill" Levine fulfils the tough commando role, and we have a cute spunky kid in the form of Lockwood's granddaughter Maisie, played by Isabella Sermon.
Linking back to the original trilogy are B.D. Wong as Henry Wu, still designing dinosaurs for profit and falling on the wrong side of scientific ethics, and Jeff Goldblum back as Ian Malcolm in much publicised appearance which ends up being little more than a cameo. It's completely in character that he should be calling for the dinosaurs to be left to die, given that he was vocally against their creation to begin with. Nonetheless, he's essentially wasted in his appearance here.
It all works very nicely, and marches along much as you'd expect until the dinosaur auction. Taking place in Lockwood's mansion and estate late at night, there's a gothic vibe not present in the previous films. The franchise's newest monster, the Indoraptor, stalks the corridors in a way that's far more evocative of horror films than the usual action adventure style of the Jurassic films. On the subject of the newest mega-dinosaur, I rather prefer it the over-the-top I. rex, although given that she was meant to be part raptor anyway I'm not sure this new one stands out conceptually. Still, a maddened raptor monster trained to kill with maximum efficiency makes for a potent threat, and is kept under wraps long enough to maintain interest.
Still, I was more excited to see the proper dinosaurs, especially as my two favourites finally make an appearance on the screen. First a Baryonyx emerges from a tunnel within the disintegrating island, and then a Carnotaurus comes barrelling along mere moments later. No match for the T. rex, of course, but I love Carnotaurus, the ugly bastard. Blue, the last raptor, is a fully fledged character here, gaining as much sympathy as any of the human characters, and the T. rex, still the very same old girl from the first film, owns all her scenes. I'm pleased that the sixth film is said to have no more mutant dinosaurs, and that it will be focusing on dinosaurs living in the wild as they escape and spread across America. No doubt humanity's time as the dominant life form is meant to be the fallen kingdom of the title, but I'm not quite sure how long term and drastic this change will be, given that the dinosaurs are all female (although they've circumvented that before), and most species are represented by a single individual. Nonetheless, it's a change in direction that should make for an interesting (final?) installment.