Review – All Bark, Little Bite (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”)

When I saw the trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I got a weird case of déjà vu; didn’t I just see this (i.e. people fleeing from dinosaurs) in 2015’s Jurassic World? Then it hit me, it’s the same plot for every single Jurassic movie since 1993. I guess it’s asking too much to change the formula, huh?
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Hey, that really cool Disneyland/Sea World hybrid for dinosaurs, Jurassic World, seemed like a good idea… right up to the point where the animals starting attacking the guests. It’s been three years shut down, and now the island is about to go KABOOM because of an active volcano. The government, along with Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, making an extended cameo), decide to let the dino’s die off–again–as nature & God dictates. Ah, but super-millionaire (and former colleague to John Hammond) Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) has other plans. He wants to get those dinos off the island in secret and onto a private island for their safety and protection. Sound good, huh?

His right hand man in this endeavor is Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who quickly gets Jurassic World activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor-whisperer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to head up his team to Isla Nublar. Also along for the trip is overly intense paleo-veterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and nervous computer whiz-kid Franklin Webb (Justice Smith). But capturing these animals (shades of The Lost World: Jurassic Park) isn’t that easy, especially with icy-hearted trapper Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) in charge. Barely making it off the island alive (an intense escape sequence, I must say!), Owen & company make a startling discovery.

That whole planned “sanctuary for dinosaurs” was merely a smokescreen for something far more nefarious. Enter Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones), a man who is in cahoots with Mills to sell the dino’s to the highest bidder. But once their plan is found out by Lockwood’s adorable little grand-daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), it’s up to Owen, Claire, and the others to shut down the devious operations… without being eaten by the brand newest dino on the block: the super bio-engineered Indoraptor!

Written by the guys that brought us 2015’s Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly), this sequel has more deus ex machinas and plot holes than you stuff a T. Rex with. The plot actually follows two storylines: one on the island and one off, with a couple of nice nods to previous Jurassic movies thrown in. Gaping holes and unbelievable leaps in logic aside, we still have the same ol’ same ‘ol; people getting chased by dinosaurs. *Sigh* But with director J. A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls) it, at least, has a zing to its step, despite the worn-out and over-used plot. There’s some nice attention to detail, effective use of light & shadow, and an odd little sideways twist thrown in for no reason at all.

But seriously, it’s all wearing a bit too thin, isn’t it? I mean, how far can this one-trick pony go? You have living dinosaurs, okay, but what else can they do except chase you around for two hours and then make you a happy meal? Sure, you can DNA splice a T. Rex with a whale and come up with God-knows-what, but what else have you got? If all the plots are all going to be the same, there better be some fresh out-of-the-box ideas later on or the franchise will be over fast.

Anyway, the chemistry between Pratt and Howard is always good, but it’s Pineda & Smith that really have some fun here. Pineda as the badass doctor with an attitude and Smith with his jumpy scaredy-cat persona give the film its comedic vibe. Another treasure is nine-year-old Isabella Sermon making her film debut here. So expressive, so polished, so on-point as an actress, it’s a wonder she hasn’t been doing this for years. This movie also opens it up for a part three, so it doesn’t look like this franchise will be ending anytime soon. And, rest assure, it’ll feature MORE dinosaurs chasing people. Guaranteed. *Sigh*

 
It all started with a novel. A curious little novel by Michael Crichton, who also wrote such wildly inventive stuff like Westworld, The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, The Great Train Robbery, and Coma. Nearly every novel of his has been made into a movie, but nothing like the franchise frenzy level as his Jurassic Park. A book about some hot-shot scientists that decide to play God and use dino-DNA to create living, breathing dinosaurs… with disastrous results. Thanks to Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios, his novel became (and still is) one the hottest movie franchises next to Harry Potter, the MCU, and James Bond. But how long can they ride this gravy train? Let’s take a look at the history, shall we?
 
Jurassic Park (1993)
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The one that started it all. A wickedly brilliant script by novelist Crichton and David Koepp and starring the giddy Sir Richard Attenborough as the “spare no expense” park owner, John Hammond, the movie was an instant box office smash. Sam Neill plays the intrepid paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, along with his would-be girlfriend and colleague, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) who, along with the quirky scene-stealer, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), find the REAL dinosaurs all too much…  especially when they start to attack! A ground-breaking family film that broke box office records and that meant only one thing… $EQUEL, BABY!
 
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
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Even though it was written by David Koepp and directed by Spielberg again, it suffered from “sequelitis”, that condition where the second film never lives up to first film’s awesomeness. The plot was chaotic: a bunch of scientists go to Jurassic Park’s sister island–Isla Nublar–to document the dinosaurs living there and all hell breaks loose. What really sank this film was the odd addition of some characters, such as Ian’s troubled teenage daughter (wait, he had a daughter??), his irascible girlfriend, Sarah (Julianne Moore), and comedian Vince Vaughn as a very UNfunny environmentalist. Although the CGI was better, the story and dialogue wasn’t. Sure it made money, but the fans weren’t happy. BUT, would that stop a part three? What do YOU think?
 
Jurassic Park III (2001)
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This one practically sank the franchise for good. Goodbye Koepp & Spielberg, hello director Joe Johnston and three unknown writers. Trying to “reinvigorate” the series, they brought back Sam Neill for a simple and dumb “rescue” plot: a kid goes missing on Isla Sorna and a wealthy, bickering couple (William H. Macy & Tea Leoni) bribe Dr. Grant to help find their son. Naturally, those pesky dinosaurs get the way of their search and rescue operations. Like part two, it made decent money, despite the criticism from the fanboys. That was pretty much it; Jurassic Park fans threw up their collective hands in defeat and said, “No more of this crap!” Everyone thought the series died right here… and it did… until…
 
  
Jurassic World (2015)
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Welcome to 2015 and Hollywood’s Golden Age of Remakes, Reboots, and Re-imaginings! Universal was NOT about to let their franchise die, not when it had a theme park and tons of merchandising to wrap around it! With a damn fine script (four writers!) and director Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic Park became Jurassic World, a brand new Disneyland/ SeaWorld hybrid for dinosaurs that, (surprise! surprise!) gets into serious trouble. Poster boy Chris Pratt is the wise-cracking hero, Bryce Dallas Howard is the savvy heroine, and the all-powerful and brand new Indominus Rex dinosaur kicks major butt. This movie single-handedly revitalized the dead series, breaking all box office records with ONE BILLION in no time. Pretty sweet. Now, the only question is, CAN it’s sequel escape from ‘sequelitis’?  

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