Directed by Joe Johnston, starring Sam Neill, William H Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young and Mark Harelik.
First of all a disclaimer: I am going to give certain salient plot points away, but I guarantee it will not impair your enjoyment of the film. I promise. Really.
I have vague memories of much oohing and ahhing at the groundbreaking special dinosaur effects in the first 'Jurassic Park' in 1993. I'm almost totally convinced that I didn't see the second one – although, one can never be too sure with popcorn sequels like these.
Whatever happened in mark two, everyone seems to be pretending that it was never made, as we re-join the intrepid palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant, reprised by the ever-likeable Sam Neill, seven years on. (Let's face it, who's ever going to dislike an Aussie bloke called Sam).
Since his near-death experience, like John 'Die Hard' McClane, Grant has acquired a sort of celebrity-status, at odds with his humble, down-home approach of learning about the big scaly guys from dusty bones in Arizona. Recognised as the greatest living dino-expert, he's reluctantly recruited to fly over the 'other island' (were we ever told there was 'another' island?) with the dinosaurs on it, talking some rich tourists through the sights.
Zip bang, change of plan, the plane lands and all hell breaks loose. The admirable thing about this script is the speed with which we're dumped back in Dinoville.
T-Rex no longer has top-billing and has, bar one brief cameo, been given his P45. In his stead, the big villain category is filled with the even bigger, even meaner Spinosaurus, which no one has ever heard of, apart from the rather knowledgeable five-year-old beside me – there was nothing bigger than a T-Rex in my day!
The raptors are back, but this time they're even cleverer. They talk to each-other, they set traps, they display some rather nifty acumen for calculus (ok, so I made the last bit up). The herds of harmless things are back and the big dopey Brachiosauruses also get their heads in the frame.
There are also big flying things called Pteranodons, which would certainly kick a plain old pterodactyl's tail-feather, but at least in this case, the filmmakers admit they've made this beastie up. The visual effects are indeed spectacular, the chasey bits are heart-in-mouth exciting, although I do think my five-year-old companion was a bit bored (and no, it was not my inner child).
The film opens with a great sequence where a man and his stepson are parasailing over this 'other island' in the hope of glimpsing some scaly nasties. However, not all goes to plan, courtesy of the aforementioned very clever, scaly nasties and they end up stranded on the island. So you see, the rich tourists are really on a rescue mission for their son, who they honestly believe has survived eight weeks on a prehistoric island with the makeyuppy Spinosaurus. Yeah right.
Suspend your disbelief and this is a well-made, off the rack, instantly forgettable franchise sequel competently directed by Spielberg substitute Joe Johnson. The rest of the human finger food are a pleasure to watch: the old Mamet stalwart William H Macy, David Duchovny's missus - the lovely Téa Leoni and of course, old Sam. The kid isn't too annoying, but Allessandro Nivola as the young stud is a tad watery for any further action heroics. Go, enjoy and don't forget to bring a (twenty) five-year-old.