Dinosaurs are back like never before in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as life finds a way to repeat its mistakes in ways which make for a pure summer blockbuster thrill from franchise newcomer J.A. Bayona’s direction.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom quickly starts out as an explosive thrill ride. Chris Pratt’s Owen returns in subdued form, not delivering as many lines as he needed to be, but always timing his charming expressions and wit with perfection. Subtle character moments between Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire are the first act’s character-driver while a larger plot unfolds simultaneously. Heavily supported by the perfectly timed every time comic relief from Justice Smith as newcomer to the franchise Franklin Webb, Fallen Kingdom is relentless out of the gate. As a small team, Claire’s group tasked with rescuing Jurassic World’s dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption, openly paralleling real world animal rights issues.

Of course, a somewhat predictable twist reveals there is hidden mission going on here, prompting the film’s big pivot from explosive action flick to a suspenseful and claustrophobic thriller. Bayona does his best to honor Steven Spielberg’s early works of suspense and terror both on and off the Isla Nublar island, creating some truly frightening moments of peril involving dinosaurs which feel like over-powered horror movie villains. While recreating the exact same magic still proves to be an impossible task, Bayona does a good job of making skin crawl without any heavy doses of blood or gore, using a welcome force on the audience to fill in some blanks with their own imaginations.

Fallen Kingdom makes fantastic use of the gorgeous locations Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch has to offer (locations seen in many films and TV in titles, including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and LOST). Wise use of the Hawaiian mountains and settings creates a practical environment for the tremendously computerized dinosaurs to stampede across.

When the characters within the franchise will realize creating new species or reviving old species is not the best idea could be for a future film to address. This time around, villainy and greed are enough to create a dangerous and intelligent dinosaur unlike any before it (heard this before?), which could frustrate those refusing to suspend their disbelief in such character choices, but is simultaneously refreshing for a franchise using a similar premise five movies deep.

Despite having visited this world several times over, a brontosaurus stepping into frame or a T-Rex belting out a roar manages to maintain the same thrill and excitement as ever under Bayona’s direction. In fact, it’s really the dinosaurs who rule the roost in Fallen Kingdom. While Howard might take credit for the best performance in the film, some dinosaurs (especially Blue) have as much development as the film’s leading human characters and provide some the most humorous and touching moments in the film

Touches of the Jurassic Park theme song sprinkled into an otherwise often intense score from composer Michael Giacchino remind you of the franchise’s history along the way.

Speaking of its history, Fallen Kingdom has a much more classic feel to it than the original franchise re-launch with Jurassic World. It’s often sometimes transparent villains, though given moments calling for empathy, are trivial in the grand scheme of cinema. Its creative use of off-screen terror and claustrophobic stalking by gigantic and loud beasts of adults and kids alike (including young actress Isabella Sermon who wonderfully played Maisie Lockwood) made for thrills left and right. Not to mention, dinosaurs fighting dinosaurs is not the stuff Academy Award winning films are made of but it’s the escape moviegoers are often hungry for and get in large, delicious doses from Fallen Kingdom. It is summer fun at the movies its best.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom doesn’t reinvent the summer blockbuster but it fits the mold and checks all of the right boxes to earn the price of admission and offers up a thrilling adventure, not quite enough Chris Pratt, and some big ole dinosaurs.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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