Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom picks up with Isla Nublar finally closed to tourists for good, but if we’ve learnt anything from this film franchise, it’s that life always finds a way to pit human against dinosaur in a range of thrilling and improbable set-pieces. This time, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) are persuaded to return to the island to rescue some of the dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to make them extinct again. The mission is funded by John Hammond’s old partner (James Cromwell) and his overreaching assistant (Rafe Spall).
And so this time our heroes find themselves trying to save the dinosaurs rather than just survive them. This change in focus gives Fallen Kingdom an identity of its own, something that Jurassic World was sorely lacking. While the film throws in some classic Jurassic Park elements, it also boasts some entertainingly fresh set-pieces. The volcano adds a ticking time bomb to the first half of the film, while the second finds us in a brand new environment.
Director J. A. Bayona brings his trademark sense of gothic horror to the film, and while he overdoes some visual elements, he brings a flare that makes the dinosaurs feel more dangerous than they have in a while. They also feel more real than ever – there are characters in the film who simply don’t know a world without dinosaurs in it, and the film addresses some thorny environmental and ethical questions regarding our treatment of animals.
The films leaves little room for subplots and character work, but both Pratt and Howard are more likeable here than in Jurassic World, and they do a lot with what they’re given. Pratt even gets to have fun with some excellent physical comedy. The obligatory nerds and kids are surprisingly fun, the villains are serviceably slimy if unoriginal, and the film will even make you well up a couple of times. It’s not a perfect film, and it misses some opportunities, but it’s a big improvement on Jurassic World, and is the best film in the franchise since The Lost World.