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Watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is like experiencing a tug of war between the special effects and the narrative. Initially and throughout the first act, the former wins handsomely, with the film off to a blistering, if somewhat derivative start. The action is top-notch thanks to excellent camerawork, breathtaking visuals and an explosive pace that keeps you gripped.

The plot here is that the fictional island of Isla Nublar, which we all know hosts the dinosaurs, is set to go up in smoke due to a volcanic eruption. Our heroes, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the former military man-turned-dinosaur trainer, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who was the island’s operations manager, return with a few supporting characters to save the creatures.

Most striking about the dinosaurs is how realistic they look. It is to be expected that these beings, much like how graphics improve with every new video game thanks to advancements in technology, will look nicer with every film in the franchise. But there is something special about the dinosaurs here that goes beyond updated textures and animations, and it is in the heavy employment of some old-school effects using puppetry and animatronic dinosaurs. This often makes you feel like the beasts are really there, because they actually are. What’s more, some of the dinosaurs are characterised so well that you feel like they are animals with actual feelings rather than monstrous beasts brought back to life by artificial effects.

The special effects are splendid. Pity the script is far from it

Now, this brings me to where Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom falters, and that’s the narrative. To start with, the human characters are awful. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard have no chemistry (even though the franchise has been trying to convince us otherwise). Moreover, their characterisation is one-dimensional and they are given little to work with. The supporting characters, to make matters worse, have absolutely no reason to exist. Then, there is Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), who not only epitomises what I just mentioned about being in the film without reason, but is also incredibly annoying. He spends much of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom whining and crying because the tiniest sounds scare him. I am guessing this phobia was supposed to add comic relief to the narrative but — spoiler alert — it doesn’t. This character is so infuriating that should he be brutally eaten in the third installment, I am guessing the audience will throw their popcorn collectively into the air and clap for five minutes. Yes, Franklin Webb is the Jar Jar Binks of the Jurassic franchise.

Speaking of Star Wars, it is a well-known fact that the director of Jurassic World and a writer on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Colin Trevorrow was fired from the set of Star Wars Episode IX due to ‘creative differences’, which is translation for ‘he was incompetent’. Trevorrow’s script here is so terrible that it makes George Lucas’s original trilogy and even the last Star Wars film feel like a masterpiece in storytelling. After the exciting opening salvo, the film crawls to a snail’s pace when Trevorrow’s script takes over. There are more holes in the plot than Swiss cheese with some nonsensical threads that are utterly idiotic.

For instance, the plan is to militarise the dinosaurs, which is as logical as seeing a modern military ride into battle on lions, bears, tigers and elephants instead of using weapons of mass destruction. Sure, a T-Rex is ferocious, but it wouldn’t do well against a tank. To make matters worse, Trevorrow contradicts many of the established facts in the franchise to the point where the storytelling comes across as disrespectful.

It is clear from the two Jurassic World films that the plan was to somehow find an excuse to let the dinosaurs loose in urban America. A pity we had to go through two mediocre films for this to happen. Sure, they look spectacular, but as Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Golblum) says, just let them die.

PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 8th, 2018