In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we rejoin the story three years on: An impending volcanic eruption threatens to wipe out the surviving dinosaurs on Isla Nubla, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), has created the 'Dinosaur Protection Group' in an attempt to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
After the U.S. Senate rejects plans to rescue the dinosaurs, Claire is contacted by John Hammond's former partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is planning to move the dinosaurs to a new island sanctuary.
Whilst discussing the rescue operation, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) – Lockwood's aide – voices concerns that locating Blue, the sole surviving velociraptor, will be near impossible, compelling Claire to recruit Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help on the mission.
J.A.Bayona directs this sequel to Colin Trevorrow's, Jurassic World. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom promises to be a "darker film", one more "scary"; exactly what you'd expect from Bayona. However, with a huge franchise production such as this, there's always going to be a back-and-forth between the director and studio; usually resulting in any influence the director has being significantly watered down. Regrettably, that's exactly what's happened here.
Bayona does what he can with a lacklustre script, naff story, and a franchise too afraid to take risks.
There are – and entirely to Bayona's credit – some visually beautiful and brilliantly put to together scenes; some of which are actually quite scary.
The opening scene – one of the best – Is full of promise: The pitch dark setting, tropical thunderstorm, lashing rain, and general murky gloominess provides a sincere horror movie ambience; comparable in tone to Jurassic Park's opening scene. And again, during the third act, there's a remarkable scene, set in a sprawling gothic style mansion, which sees the indoraptor – Henry Wu's (BD Wong) latest lab manufactured horror – hunt Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon, playing Benjamin Lockwood's granddaughter), who is seeking solace in her bedroom.
The creature, slowly creeping over the rooftops, silhouetted against the moon, strikes an imposing figure; the iconic Wolfman look.
The scene shifts to a Nosferatu feel as the creature, with long reaching claws, purposefully and delicately opens Maisie's bedroom window and enters her room: Shadows creep slowly across walls, and claws tap menacingly against the wood floor as the creature moves in a measured, loury manner towards Maisie; hiding under the covers of her bed.
Extreme close-ups of both subjects follow; creating a palpable sense of uneasy closeness.
Making good use of long unbroken shots, slow purposeful movement, and intense close-ups do add a tangible sense of dread: I enjoyed these sections of the film very much and really appreciated the directors nods to various classic horror monsters.
Unfortunately, these scenes are few and far between; any sense of threat is quickly extinguished within the first quarter of the movie as you realise this is the safe franchise film you knew you should have expected.
The cast is adequate if not exemplary, and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard obviously enjoyed a friendly working relationship. There are a slew of new faces, all of whom do a perfectly acceptable job in their respective roles, most of which are destined to end up as one-hit wonders.
And therein lie the problem. Neither of the main cast has anything in the way of character development (They're reunited in this movie in exactly the same way as in Jurassic World; with Claire having to recruit Owen, who's at his trailer, at the behest of somebody else, after an awkward break-up), and none of the new characters are worth spending any time or effort on as they'll never be seen again.
Much of the storyline seems rushed and badly paced, particularly the island rescue scenes: There was a good deal of build-up to this section of the film, and many people were anticipating a Jurassic Park: Lost World kind of feel; those people must be feeling let down. Too much time was spent on scenes either side of the island rescue section, but particularly just after it takes place. The section of the movie between the Isla Nubla rescue and Lockwood estate scenes is long, unnecessary, and just boring. Much of this could have been scrapped and more time could have been spent on Isla Nubla, developing characters and giving us more dinosaur action.
From a technical point of view, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has some wonderful cinematography, and is perhaps where J.A.Bayona's influence is felt most staunchly.
The use of animatronics is something which has been sorely missing from these movies for many years and make a welcome return here: A shame then that the movie relies far too much on CGI throughout much of the duration and never uses it to its full potential. While the CGI isn't bad in and of itself, it does feel unsubstantial and holds no weight.
The scenes using animatronics were instantly noticeable and more enjoyable: Consequently, this leads to many of the scenes using CGI to feel a bit limp.
Maybe I expected too much from a child-friendly franchise movie, maybe I'm being overly harsh; I just couldn't help but feel massively disappointed.
In all fairness, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom achieves what it sets out to make; a loud, fast, and entertaining enough action-adventure movie which families will flock in their thousands to see; I have no doubt that it'll have a huge taking at the box office. I just wish J.A.Bayona had more free rein, or that the studio had been more willing to take risks.
What we've been left with is a movie which is as average as they come: A movie which showed such promise, and really could have been something special.
For me, the movie is saved from falling into complete mediocrity by the (admittedly few) windows of greatness that could have been; something I attribute to the director.
Should you go see it at the cinema? Yes, absolutely.
Is it something I'd want to purchase on release? Probably not.