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Movie Review: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

Director J.A. Bayona (The OrphanageA Monster CallsThe Impossible) ramps up the fear factor in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment of the blockbuster sci-fi action-adventure film franchise based on the characters created by Michael Crichton. Familiar faces are joined by new characters in a return to the Jurassic World amusement park for a special rescue, which later turns into primal survival as dinosaurs and heroes work against dark forces.

Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and Derek Connolly (Kong: Skull Island) have both returned to write the sequel (the second movie of the new trilogy), which is produced by Trevorrow and Steven Spielberg. (The third installment is scheduled for a June 11, 2021 release.)

As you may recall from the original Jurassic Park, John Hammond (the late Sir Richard Attenborough), initially developed an amusement park populated with real dinosaurs created through genetic technology. Hammond’s vision continues to live on through his remaining partner, Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who has entrusted operations to Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, The Big ShortLife of Pi).

The first half of the movie finds our heroes in the midst of a crisis. The site of the amusement park, the now-abandoned Isla Nublar (a Central American island 120 miles west of Costa Rica) is still home to many dinosaurs as a dormant volcano threatens their lives.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), return to the island to rescue the dinos (including Owen’s favorite Velociraptor, Blue). Claire, who had been the park’s operations manager combines, now works for the Dinosaur Protection Group, and she brings along two of her co-workers on this rescue–systems analyst/tech expert Franklin Webb, and paleo-veterinarian/ex-Marine Dr. Zia Rodriguez. But nothing is straightforward, and, of course, chaos ensues in the attempt.

“If I don’t make it back, remember you’re the one who made me come here.”–(Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)

The filmmakers set up the plot well with memorable character introductions, then the emotions build among the rescuers as they frantically race against time to save the dinos. We really get to feel the emotions spark among the rescuers, their raw sense of survival before it all turns to terror as the heroes grapple with several threats confronting them. The dinosaurs’ survival hangs in the balance.

Franklin (Justice Smith, Paper TownsThe Get Down series), bridges the action best with the audience as a relatable, yet capable character with good intentions and realistically emotional reactions that fit the situations very well. Just say the word “system” and Franklin is on it.

Tough-talking Zia (Daniella Pineda, The Detour), backs up her words with actions crucial to the plot. Unfortunately, one of her scenes could have used some revamping; movie-goers might have a hard time understanding her at a crucial moment when she makes a special request.

Jeff Goldblum makes a welcome return as Dr. Ian Malcolm, adding exposition to help audiences understand the “big picture” implications. Goldblum gets several memorable lines and reminds us he is a highly respected chaos theory expert (and knows these dinos quite well!).

Bayona and his filmmaking crew do an impressive job in bringing to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom great continuity, character development, a few surprises, and satisfying closure…to some issues; others are left to be resolved in the next installment. Filmed in Hawaii and the United Kingdom, the scenery combines well with the animatronics and computer-generated imagery (CGI).

The movie features a host of other notable characters, including Gunnar Eversol, (Toby Jones), veteran mercenary Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine, Monk) and Lockwood Estate housekeeper/nanny Iris (Geraldine Chaplin) the nanny of young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon in her impressive, and likely star-making acting début). Poor Maisie is terrorized throughout the plot, but holds her own, greatly enhancing the emotional events with her performance.

B.D. Wong returns as geneticist Dr. Henry Wu who continues his “creation lab” work. His genuine care for this work and love for science overcomes any greed or selfish motives as he provides a key voice of reason among the increasing chaos. This time audiences get a lethal lab creation called an Indoraptor as the ensuing scares and thrills really push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating.

The top-notch sound, special effects, lighting, set design, and cinematography combine into an involving, immersive experience. The constant thunder of the volcano punctuates the clear and present danger on the island as Bayona increases the fear factor, combining several methods, including graphic matches (toy riding horse to actual dinosaur), well-timed lighting flashes, and creepy shadows.

The movie features a great interior sequence involving an exhibit and the Indoraptor. The scene suggests a complete role reversal from the original Jurassic Park that moves the plot to a very different place by the film’s end. However, the biggest cheers from the audience were for the protagonist dinosaurs, with Blue being a special favorite. The rag-tag dino crew charms the audience as they meld into a roving community.

Music score composer, Oscar-winning Michael Giacchino (Up, Inside Out) produces another excellent musical score that incorporates the main themes from John Williams’ classic Jurassic Park score. Giacchino continues to channel Williams, just as composer John Powell did for recent Solo: A Star Wars Story. Giacchino has also composed musical scores for two Jurassic Park video games.

The 128-minute Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated is PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and peril. Be sure to stay and watch the bonus sequence during the ending credits. Also showing in 3D and IMAX 3D theaters.

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