Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, Robert Emms, Peter Jason
Written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Running Time: 128
Date: 06/22/2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Raptor and Verse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The series that began twenty-five summers ago with Jurassic Park is back with its fifth movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, for one good reason: dinosaurs are cool. That, and they make lots of money.

Opening Friday in Bay Area theaters, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is more of the same, with at least one element that is, as usual, bigger than all the other movies. This time it's a brand-new hybrid dinosaur, deadly and smart and relentless. And, without giving away too much, it gets loose.

Like the other sequels, this one conjures up a pressing reason to get people back to the island where 2015's Jurassic World took place and ended in destruction.

An active volcano threatens to wipe out the island and all the remaining dinosaurs. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who used to run the park, is campaigning to have the great beasts rescued and deposited "somewhere safe."

She has two new assistants helping her, a spunky young doctor, Zia Rodriguez (Oakland's Daniella Pineda), and a nervous computer technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith).

She gets word that a frail old millionaire, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who once helped John Hammond on the first dinosaur clones, has an actual plan to save them. So Claire must find her old flame Owen Grayd (Chris Pratt) — the only one that can track and catch "Blue," the Velociraptor from the last movie — and get to the island.

Unfortunately, others have more nefarious ideas in mind, and before long the bad guys — a roomful of greedy, selfish, coldhearted millionaires — are bidding on caged dinosaurs to be sold for sport, or as weapons.

The movie sends mixed messages when the dinosaurs rip into the bad guys with teeth and claws; neither the heroes, nor the audience, seems to mind, so long as the most loathsome, lowdown targets are hit. It's pretty sweet revenge, useless, but satisfying.

The director this time is Spain's J.A. Bayona. His resume includes a terrific ghost movie (The Orphanage) a visual-effects and anguish-laden movie about a tsunami (The Impossible) and a movie about a friendly monster and terminal illness (A Monster Calls).

He brings a little of all that to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but leaves behind the anguish and illness. He also takes several cues from Steven Spielberg, including a quick shot in a gift-shop window (resembling a moment from E.T.), a reference to the famous rear-view mirror, and the pre-reaction shots of characters looking up in awe before showing the dinos.

He also creates a near-perfect moment that will break hearts; as the ship leaves the lava-strewn island, a brachiosaurus stands alone on the dock, watching curiously, almost sadly, then encompassed by smoke and heat as the humans float away, helplessly looking on.

Another masterstroke was bringing back Jeff Goldblum as chaos theorist Ian Malcolm from the first two Spielberg movies for a couple of quick scenes. In 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park, he summed up the series in one line: "Oooh! Ahhh! That's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming."

In this movie, he offers the real theme to the story, the same theme as Frankenstein, that we humans cannot be trusted to meddle with nature; when we do, we bring change and often destruction.

He makes that point quickly and concisely, and in his singular Jeff Goldblum cadence, but Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom eventually takes the destruction a few beats too far.

With one too many subplots, things begin to grow wearying, and perhaps even numbing, in the final act. For a long while, characters don't do much more than stare agape at rampaging beasties, and lots of things get smashed.

So, yes, there's certainly more here than in, say, a Transformers sequel, but it's still a sequel that doesn't have much to add to its series.

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