Monday Magazine columnist
It’s been 25 years since Steven Spielberg first invited audiences to marvel – and then scream, again and again – at dinosaurs brought back to life via genetic manipulation.
That popcorn classic has been clumsily cloned a few times since – but with over $4 billion to show for it, who can blame them? A decent reboot of the series landed in the theatres in 2015 and now we have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to entertain us with a thrill-a-minute reminder that messing with prehistoric über-predators is always a bad idea.
In the original World, a Disneyfied theme park for dinosaurs came to a spectacularly gory end; in Kingdom we learn that the abandoned island, still inhabited by dozens of dinosaur species, is being torn apart by extreme volcanic activity.
Enter the deeply concerned Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who played a corporate loyalist in the earlier film but has reinvented herself as a “dinosaur rights” activist desperately hoping to save at least some of the toothy critters from destruction. But the last minute, military-scale rescue evacuation that gets put together has a sinister agenda lurking beneath its benign façade, and Claire and returning velociraptor-wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) spend the rest of the movie struggling to outwit a large number of human and reptilian opponents.
There are lots of technically impressive set pieces, although they tend to evoke memories of the Jurassic original rather than showing much fresh imagination.
That said, it’s always satisfying when vile scoundrels scream their last as massive dino jaws start chomping away, and director J.A. Bayona dispatches key villains with gory gusto. (Hey, greedy fools, we told you not to mess with Mother Nature!) There are some good comedic touches too, especially involving a thickheaded dinosaur that butts like a billy goat.
Although many critics have harrumphed that Kingdom seems to have emerged from the Cretinaceous Period, this is perfectly adequate escapist fare.
Pratt has a sturdy, utilitarian charisma, Howard has become more than just a pretty face and the action-heavy plot – although often predictable – chugs along efficiently. And even if the scenes with the delightfully weird Jeff Goldblum testifying to Congress fall flat, Toby Jones picks up the slack as the sinister and deliciously slimy businessman with a wild scheme to profit from all those dinosaur refugees.
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard; Director: J.A. Bayona
Playing now at the Cineplex Odeon, SilverCity Victoria and Landmark Cinemas 4 University Heights.
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Soulful director Gus Van Sant should deliver the goods in this true-life drama about famed cartoonist John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) who only discovers his talent after a drunk-driving accident leaves him a quadriplegic. With Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black.
–– Equalizer 2
Denzel Washington reunites with hard-edged action stylist Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) to repeat his role as a former CIA operative who goes from benign to brutal when circumstances demand a vigilante hero.
–– Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard – and a new-to-the-party Cher! –sing up a storm in this ABBA-tastic musical comedy sequel.
–– Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Expect twisty plotting and ferociously adrenalized stunts as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew of spy guys race against time to prevent a global catastrophe. With Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Rebecca Ferguson.
As if Jumanji wasn’t enough excitement for 2018, amiable action-meister Dwayne Johnson plays a former FBI agent who has to save his family from a blazing fire in the world’s tallest building.