There's a lot to be said for the art of building suspense. After all, the original Jurassic Park was for the most part an exercise in tension building so that the science gone wild elements that Michael Crichton was such a big fan of had time to slowly spiral out of control. On top of this the creatures had to be disguised or hidden behind rain forest foliage or perimeter fences, ground breaking effects are tough. The focus was instead on the human element, and this is arguably the real meat of the story - people interacting. Everyone knows the mixture of CGI and puppetry brought dinosaurs to life in new ways, but like Jaws the character development is what matters. All the arguing, the banter and the quirky sound bites are just as memorable as the horror they come across later. The thing people generally talk about when discussing The Lost World besides the San Diego rampage is the literal cliffhanger moment with all the rain, snapping cables and breaking glass. Suspense matters. The sequels are far from successful, so has anyone remembered this and written a worthwhile 'forth in the trilogy' release, or 14 years after our last trip to InGen is this another unnecessary instalment, too little too late?
To get this out of the way, the characters are all pretty poor. Chris Pratt did a fine job as Starlord allowing him to do some comedy, but here his bland animal trainer Owen crosses paths with bland corporate manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) as they try and fail to stop a variety of dinosaur related carnage. Jurassic Park was bustling with eccentric characters but these two like all the others here are one dimensional. One's scruffy and lives in a hut, the other is prissy and obsessed with statistics, there's nothing else to them. It's sure no Han and Leia. They have to go through a forced romance and rescue some kids anyway. The child actors are just as forgettable with their thing being Claire is their workaholic aunt who is supposed to look after them, but she has no real arc and neither do they. Nobody does, they get nothing of interest to do besides stick to clichés or get eaten.
The owner of Jurassic World itself (Irrfan Khan) wants to fly helicopters, how wacky. The head of security (Vincent D'Onofrio) is constantly talking about dinosaurs stopping terrorism or something, how insidious. They all fit as cogs inside the plot which involves a ridiculous in-company scuffle over genetic splicing and training dinosaurs to do the work of humans, it's pretty dumb when it's not being plain boring. The dumb parts are sort of fun to sit through at times, but even the spectacle isn't that engaging. It really doesn't help that the tropical climate of the location is ignored in place of sunny forests. It's all so teal and green looking with no atmosphere, even the night time scenes at the end are done without any creeping dread. This should be no surprise in way, everyone saw that clip of raptors and a motorbike right? But still I expected a lot more effort. They had four writers apparently, which is never a good sign. I assume one wanted to show the park running, another wanted to have genetic research gone mad, and suddenly a third burst in and started talking about velociraptors in a warzone, dropping from helicopters and defusing bombs. All the while the forth just went with it out of apathy.
The dinosaur action is present and correct of course, but it lacks any kind of pacing or internal logic - the kind of elements that keep things exciting in a film. The effects are mostly good but nothing special, but it's the eye rolling level of convenient timing and irrational behaviour that pulls it apart. In one hilarious moment an aviary full of flying pterosaurs escapes, and the whole flock immediately heads to the park to cause mayhem instead of them acting like animals. They get around their new genetic monster doing this by having it be intelligent, and therefore cruel, but it's still ridiculous. They sit and talk about giving it cuttlefish DNA without even cracking a smile. By the time they get to the climax it turns into a Godzilla style smack down where nothing makes sense any more and you're just expected to sit there and be dazzled. Sure a few moments are fun, whether they're intended to be action beats or just unintentionally funny, but a lot of the time it's just dull, a whole lot of things happen in quick succession and good old slow burning drama is dropped entirely. There are a lot of winks to the audience reminding them of things in the first movie, but they just seem to point to a better film you should be watching, one where you can care what happens. Though this was also the case as the old Amblin logo fires up in the opening titles like a sly hint - go and check out some vintage Spielberg rather than this imitation.