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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Movie Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Movie Review
Failure to Adapt
From humans to dinosaurs, all species eventually need to evolve if they want to survive, and it turns out that same sentiment can be applied to Hollywood film franchises as well. After four movies in the fun yet increasingly repetitive "Jurassic Park" series, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" attempts to mix things up a little, seemingly leaving the island behind for good. But while director J. A. Bayona ("The Impossible") does manage to inject a spark of life into the proceedings, the new setting still can't quite overcome a mediocre script and a few fairly silly plot developments. Dumb yet genuinely thrilling in bursts, this is decent popcorn entertainment, even if it never fully lives up to its greater potential.

Set after the chaotic events of "Jurassic World," the story picks up three years later as Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) attempts to save all of the remaining dinosaurs still stuck on Isla Nublar. With the island's now very active volcano set to blow, Claire teams up with Jurassic Park founder John Hammond's former partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), to stage a rescue mission. And since dino-wrangling experts are in short supply, the team also recruits good-old Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help escort his raptor pal Blue away from the erupting lava. But it seems Lockwood's aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), has something far more sinister than mere conservation in mind for the surviving animals, thrusting Claire and Owen into a dangerous game of cat and mouse and giant T-Rex.

For anyone who has seen the trailers, it should come as no surprise that our time on the island is actually comparatively short here. We do get a rather gripping rescue sequence complete with a harrowing stampede and a breathless brush with death in an extended underwater take, but the majority of the film shifts gears to Lockwood's estate in Northern California. It's here where "Fallen Kingdom" tries to carve an identity of its own.

Sure, the last act of Spielberg's "The Lost World" also offered a change of scenery with some T-Rex in the city antics, but rather than just an excuse for new set-pieces, the self-contained mansion setting results in a more concentrated scope and a few fun genre twists. As the film expands upon concepts related to genetic engineering and our heroes end up being hunted throughout the house, Bayona begins to blend visual elements of slasher horror and classic mad scientist tales into the proceedings, replacing the standard killer with a machete or lumbering monster with a deadly genetically enhanced dinosaur lurking around every corner.

That's not to say that the movie becomes a true fright-fest, but the shadowy, isolated location leads to an effectively creepy vibe at times without ever losing sight of the franchise's penchant for blockbuster bravado. Of course, the filmmakers still offer a healthy amount of tension-easing humor as well, including a wonderfully staged bit of physical comedy from Pratt as he tries to avoid some oncoming lava early on. But while intentional laughter is one thing, just like its predecessor, there are aspects of the story here that veer a little too far into the ridiculous, making the villains and their ultimate black market plan seem pretty silly.

Likewise, though the franchise is not exactly known for intricate character development, there's surprisingly little substance or even direction to Claire and Owen's arc. In fact, other than survive, the two really don't have much to do here and end up experiencing little growth -- relegating any small changes they've endured to the intervening years between the last movie and this one. Meanwhile, a few new characters offer some amusing personality here and there but are mostly disposable, and by the time the credits role, the filmmakers sadly fail to veer far enough from the tried-and-true "Jurassic Park" formula, offering a final skirmish that's a little too similar to what we've seen before. With that said, the film's closing shots do set up an intriguing albeit even sillier premise for the next installment, teasing a potentially big shakeup for the series.

While Director J. A. Bayona creates an engaging sense of pace marked by some cool imagery and a few genuinely thrilling set-pieces, "Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom" ultimately fails to be as fresh or impactful as it should be. Don't get me wrong, the ride is still entertaining and fun enough to make it worthwhile, but the script lacks character development and the plot becomes a bit too ridiculous. Also, the filmmakers commit one nearly unforgivable sin: There's just not enough Goldblum. Hell, I think we actually get to see more of Ian Malcolm in the trailers than we do in the finished film. Still, we all know that a little Goldblum goes a long way, and we should always be happy to take what we can get.

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