July 6th, 2018

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movie review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I'm starting to think that someday the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride will break down, and the pirates will start eating the tourists. At least in a movie, where the idea of safe things going horribly wrong and killing lots of people has always been popular.

Life finds a way ... to kill other life.

In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom it's been a few years since the theme park Jurassic World suffered a catastrophic "pirates eating people" story, and the island of Isla Nublar has been abandoned ... by people.

(And now I'm thinking, how cool would a pirates vs. dinosaurs movie be? Get on that, SyFy.)

A dormant volcano on the island has become active, and former employee Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is involved in an effort to rescue the dinosaurs before it blows. The fact that there's a volcano there at all will come as a surprise to franchise viewers, although I'm told it's mentioned in the original book. Yeah, I read it--twenty years ago.

Why does Claire, who almost died in the last movie, want to save the animals? That's what Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, doing a great job of playing Chris Pratt) wants to know. She guilts him into going along with the reminder that his own pet raptor, which he raised from an egglet, is still there.

"Dude, somebody broke my lava lamp!"

The mission's financed by a rich old man (James Cromwell), who we discover was once a partner to the original Jurassic Park founder, John Hammond. Retcon, much? But the armed "guards" who go along with Claire and Owen have their own, much more sinister agenda. Rescue dinosaurs? Yes. But toward what end?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is much better than the original Jurassic World, which in my mind isn't saying much, but still suffers from being too dark and sometimes graphic. They haven't learned the lesson the master, Steven Spielberg, taught in the original Jurassic Park (not to mention Jaws): Often the scary stuff is much scarier when it happens off screen.

Still, the stuff that happens onscreen is pretty darned spectacular, especially in the first half of the movie when our heroes are fleeing just about everything: dinosaurs, bad guys, and exploding mountains. The movie makers chose practical effects when possible, especially with close contact with the dinosaurs. When that couldn't be done, modern digital effects have progressed so much that it really is getting hard to tell them apart ... and I watched the movie in 3D IMAX, thanks to a scheduling snafu.

In the second half the movie moves to a different location, in its own way just as neat, and at this point it's probably not a spoiler to say a lot of people die. The suspense was gripping, but the gore unnecessary and unwanted for the type of movie you should be able to take your kids to. Overall I liked the characters except for the bad guys, who were such cardboard cutouts that I kept confusing their names with the same tropes who died in earlier Jurassic Park pics. In addition, the plot was very much a repeat of the themes we've seen before, from greed and inhumanity to dire warnings of what happens when science outstrips reason. For that last we at least get Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm, in what amounts to a glorified cameo.

I liked the new supporting characters played by Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, and although it appears to have been her first major acting role, Isabella Sermon does a great job as this movie's kid-in-jeopardy.

"You scream so much better than the two boys from the last one."

My score:

Entertainment Value: 3 out of 4 M&Ms. Worth seeing, but it still pales in comparison to the original Jurassic Park. But then, what doesn't?

Oscar Potential: 2 out of 4 M&Ms. With the exception of some plot holes, nothing about the movie is bad; but other than the effects and cinematography, nothing about it is great, either.