★★★

There’s nothing technically wrong with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest dinosaurs-in-real-life-theme-park-gone-horribly-wrong adventure flick. It may find a special place in the hearts of a young audience that hasn’t seen the original Jurassic Park, or undiscerning adults who just want more of the same. The sets are bold and beautiful, the dinos are realistic, and there are plenty of suspenseful scenes designed to make you jump.

The only thing missing is originality. This film is like watching an extended version of “here’s what you missed over the last few episodes” – a rehash of the scenes and characters we’ve recently come to love.
Rather than go with a clever script, the film borrows a tried and true premise of role reversal, which works in some sequels like American Pie 3, where Stifler and Finch have to pretend they are the opposite of who they are to win the girl. In this case, capable heroes Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are called to go back to the devastated Jurassic World theme park that they left behind in the last film and instead of escaping, they try to save the dinosaurs from becoming extinct again when their volcanic island home erupts.

Wouldn’t you know it, when humans think they’re all-powerful and try to rescue much stronger creatures, the tables are turned and the creatures turn on the humans, switching the rescue mission into a great escape.
However, the real twist is that some elite, powerful humans are experimenting with genetic tinkering, which does indeed sound like the premise for all the other Jurassic films, but this time it’s more intentional: they are creating super-weapon dinos, which are up for auction to the highest bidder. These dinos aren’t just strong and ferocious, but also clever and capable and… oh yes that was the description of the velociraptors from the original Jurassic Park.

Borrowing material from the predecessors takes another great leap when Jeff Goldblum returns as the pondering and monologuing scientist who warns us yet again about humans playing God. Only this time, the characters continue to ignore him.

It can be hard to pinpoint who the villains are in this film, as the dinosaurs get the most screen time, and have the most close calls with the heroes, but are also the hapless victims at the beginning. The human villains are a bit mixed. While James Cromwell plays the business partner of the original Jurassic Park founder, he’s mostly trying to tie up loose ends. Toby Jones and Rafe Spall play some underlings who have created the genetically mutated dinosaur, the Indoraptor: part raptor and part T-Rex.

To round out the predominantly white cast, they also included a black hero, Justice Smith as Franklin Webb, and a Hispanic hero, Daniella Pineda as Zia Rodriguez. In addition to PC casting, the subplot of dinosaur rights through Senate hearings is a timely message, but so far removed from the very real human suffering that we are currently experiencing, that it falls flat as an allegory.

Despite all of its dinosaur-sized flaws, it’s still a fast-paced summer blockbuster film with plenty of dazzling moments with huge, expensive set pieces. Dinosaurs, boats, helicopters, guns, money – there is plenty here to keep you entertained if you can shut off your taste for higher aesthetics.

With an untitled sequel scheduled for 2021, and Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible) signed up to direct it, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom serves its purpose: there will be a continuation of the species.