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"JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM"
(2018) (Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Thriller: A small group of people must contend with efforts by others to sell and weaponize dinosaurs that have been evacuated off a volcanic island.
PLOT:
It's been several years since the disastrous events at Jurassic World left scores dead and the dinosaur theme park in ruins. While dinosaurs continue to roam the otherwise deserted Isla Nublar, their existence is threatened by the island's erupting volcano, all of which could result in the second extinction event their kind has faced.

Hoping to prevent that from happening is Claire Dearing (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD) the theme park's former operations manager who now spearheads a small movement -- that also includes, among others, dino veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (DANIELLA PINEDA) and systems operator Franklin Webb (JUSTICE SMITH) -- to save them.

Thus, she's pleased when she's contacted by Eli Mills (RAFE SPALL) who runs a foundation created by Benjamin Lockwood (JAMES CROMWELL), a wealthy but old and physically ailing entrepreneur who lives in a massive estate with his young granddaughter, Maisie (ISABELLA SERMON). He previously worked closely with Jurassic Park's founder before a falling out between them, and is desirous of relocating the dinosaurs from the doomed island to a sanctuary one, and Mills wants to get his hands on as many species as possible, including a particularly intelligent raptor named Blue.

Accordingly, he'd like Claire to convince that raptor's former trainer, Owen Grady (CHRIS PRATT), to help capture the dinosaur, and despite some initial reluctance, he signs on and soon he, Claire, Zia, and Franklin set off for the faraway island.

There, they're greeted by expedition facilitator Ken Wheatley (TED LEVINE) and his armed contingent. But it soon becomes all-too-apparent that things aren't as initially stated and it's eventually revealed that Mills is in cahoots with Mr. Eversol (TOBY JONES) who intends to auction off the dinosaur to wealthy but unsavory bidders, while genetic scientist Dr. Henry Wu (BD WONG) is continuing his work creating modified dinosaurs spliced together from others.

From that point on, Owen and Claire try to rescue the dinosaurs from all of that, all while they, Zia, Franklin, and Maisie must contend with Wu's latest creation, a modified raptor that's bigger, faster and stronger than even Blue, as well as other dinosaurs now housed in Lockwood's estate.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Philosopher and novelist George Santayana is often quoted as having said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Time and history have repeatedly proved that's the truth (and nothing but the truth) yet foolhardy people continue to repeat it both in real life and in works of fiction.

The latter has rarely been more obvious than in the "Jurassic Park" movies. Despite catastrophe after catastrophe occurring over the course of the four films in the series -- those being the 1993 original film, it's 1997 sequel, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," that film's follow-up, "Jurassic Park III" four years later and then the resurrection of the dormant and presumably extinct offerings with 2015's "Jurassic World" -- characters in them keep playing God by cloning dinosaurs and then assume nothing can ever go wrong.

Which is a good thing if you're a moviegoer since it would get fairly boring pretty quickly if we just watched people watching dinosaurs with nothing else happening. It would sort of be like riding the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride without it breaking and thus releasing those Disney animatronics to attack and eat the riders.

That quote, of course, was delivered by Jeff Goldblum's character in the first film, and while he returns here, it's only in a scene testifying in a Congressional hearing that mostly bookends the main proceedings of the fifth installment in this series, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

Upon setting sights on Ian Malcolm, fans of the earlier "JP" films may think he's returning to the island for a little more dinosaur "fun." Alas, that's not to be, and instead, his presence is just of the cautionary kind to drive home the point of it not being nice to fool Mother Nature (for those who don't pick up the obvious clues by what transpires in this film and those that preceded it).

Instead, and following an intro sequence that shows dangers still lurk on Isla Nublar -- and not those simply confined to the erupting volcano -- we learn that a rich entrepreneur (James Cromwell) has tasked his assistant (Rafe Spall) with rounding up leftover dinosaurs from the island to prevent them from going extinct yet another time.

Needing help capturing a wily raptor named Blue, Mills contacts the former operations manager of Jurassic World (Bryce Dallas Howard) to convince the raptor's former trainer (Chris Pratt) to help out, what with his special bond with the big ol' lizard. He agrees and heads there with Claire and her two subordinates (Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith) only to learn once again that dinosaurs can be unpredictable and dangerous. You know, sort of like treacherous humans (joining Spall's Mills are Toby Jones as a black market auctioneer and Ted Levine as the armed muscle to keep order) who are chasing the almighty dollar and thus engage in unscrupulous behavior.

What follows is sequence after sequence of dinosaurs getting loose and hunting down people, you know, pretty much like what we already saw in the previous four films. In fact, while director J.A. Bayona -- working from a script by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (who directed the last "JP" film) -- manages to translate his horror credentials over to this franchise and create some intense moments, he otherwise can't escape the "been there, seen this all before" aura that hangs over and eventually seeps down into and permeates the proceedings.

It doesn't help that some moments hearken back a bit too much to similar ones from the original film (possibly as homage, but it's never a wise thing to remind viewers of that if you're not going to do something unique or better with it, lest unfavorable comparisons ensue). The biggest sin, though, is that the overall offering doesn't share the popcorn fun of its immediate predecessor and thus feels strangely flat. Which is sort of hard to do when you're featuring dinosaurs hunting down people.

Yes, some individual moments shine (including turning a raptor into a nighttime bogeyman terrorizing a young girl who's hiding in her bed), but overall I wasn't as engaged or entertained like I was the last time the dinos were running amok. You might feel differently, but I wish all involved would have taken this franchise in a new direction rather than repeating what we've seen before. Because if movie history is any indicator of what will come to be, viewers might end up tiring up of the constant retread of material they've seen before.

Not worthy of extinction but clearly not as good as it could and should have been with a greater level of imagination and creativity applied to it, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" rates as just a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 19, 2018 / Posted June 22, 2018


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