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MOVIE REVIEW: Chaos reigns and the plot repeats in latest Jurassic project

By PIERS MARCHANT Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published June 22, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

the-indoraptor-prepares-to-strike-in-jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom

The Indoraptor prepares to strike in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

83 Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Geraldine Chaplin, Justice Smith, Peter Jason

Director: J.A. Bayona

Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

Owen (Chris Pratt), Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Franklin (Justice Smith) and Zia (Danielle Pineda) fight to save the life of hyper-intelligent Veloc...

Jeff Goldblum reprises his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm, a character he last played in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park in J.A. Bayona’s Jurassic World...

One thing you can say about this soupy sequel: The filmmakers leave very little to chance. Every scene is packed with as much strife and drama as can be achieved within the four walls of the frame.

To wit: At one point, on the small South American island upon which the dinos dwell, we have our heroes simultaneously running from a raging volcano and the resulting lava flows, flying rocks and debris, a frantic trail of terrified dinosaurs sprinting to escape the carnage, and a massive T-Rex, who is unfazed enough by everything else to still want to eat everything in sight.

That's pretty much the way the film works, with nearly every dramatic action set-to also happening to occur during a massive rainstorm, and lightning flashes illuminating perfectly the oncoming teeth and jaws of the next massive predator to take its shot at our lead characters. There is a distinct possibility director J.A. Bayona, working from a script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, had to fill his screen with such constant noise, because without all this distraction, it's clear the film has little new to offer the Jurassic crowd: It's pure red meat, but fans will be achingly familiar with these particular cuts.

We begin with the island, now in total disrepair and suffering the aforementioned gurgling volcano, which threatens all the dinos still running wild over the landscape. With Congress unwilling to step in and assist the creatures -- giant surprise, there -- Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), formerly the Jurassic World director, has formed a coalition trying to drum up political and financial support for the cause, which leads her, eventually, to meet with billionaire (and Jurassic Park co-founder) Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell), or at least his assistant, Eli (Rafe Spall), who explains his boss' ambition to move as many species as possible to yet another remote island, with no human access, so they can live and breed and eat each other as nature intends.

Thrilled at the chance to save them, Claire calls upon her old flame, Owen (Chris Pratt), the animal behaviorist (!) who figured out a way to train velociraptors, including the hyper-intelligent Blue, who remains stuck on the island and will surely die without his help. Together with Zia (Daniella Pineda), a paleo veterinarian; and Franklin (Justice Smith), a nebbish computer expert; they travel to the imploding island in an attempt to save as many creatures as they can.

Only, it turns out the paramilitary group on the island, lead by the swarthy Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), is under completely different orders. Before our heroes know it, the dinos have been snatched away from them and they've been left behind on the island to die along with everything else.

Turns out the dinos have actually been taken by an unscrupulous figure for the purpose of selling them to private concerns at an auction for many of the very worst people in the world. They are represented by a stone-faced Asian couple; an unshaven Russian capo; and, just to show unscrupulous avarice and rotting souls aren't confined to foreigners, a couple of conniving Texans in cowboy hats and waxed moustaches.

The only thing standing in their way is our intrepid team, along with Lockwood's young granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who has caught wind of the plot against her beloved dinosaurs and wants very much to help them survive.

Same dinos, same failed plans, and largely, the same sorts of perilous escapes. Just as in the original film from 1993, the humans are saved time and again from being eaten by the timely appearance of yet another dino to do their battles for them. Jurassic World, though largely the same sort of material, at least found a few ways to expand its palette. This sequel, despite trying to up the dramatic ante beyond the laws of physics and sense, doesn't have anything new or particularly noteworthy to say, other than we still aren't nearly as in control as we believe ourselves to be.

Here and there, the script suggests an analogy to human beings' contempt for the other creatures on the planet. It makes the dinos the object of audience sympathy as they're suffering at our hands, while demonizing the cold and callous tycoons who run the world as their personal fiefdom, but the film's solution -- let loose a raging indoraptor to eat these brutes -- isn't exactly real-world sustainable, sad to say.

Bayona and company have made a dutiful film that hits all the required notes (even including a call-back to the "objects in the mirror" gag from the original Jurassic Park), but doesn't bother trying to add its own sound. Like a wad of gum you've nestled against your cheek for an hour, it's only got the faintest bit of flavor left when you begin chewing it anew. Normally, this is where you would surreptitiously drop it into a garbage can, but here, with the ending of the movie neatly paving the way to the next inescapable sequel, it appears we'll be chewing for some time to come.

In effect, this series is every bit as predictable as a classic '80s slasher film: There is some attempt to commodify this break-through genetic technology -- we will build a park! We will bring the dinos to the U.S.! We'll try that park idea again! -- a plan that starts out seemingly under our control, only for the storm to hit, the volcano to erupt, the cages to warp, the floodwaters to rise, and the easy, technological command we assumed we had is replaced with the utter chaos of nature wrecking havoc with our best laid plans.

If there is an overarching theme to the series, it's that our arrogance will always fold against the full wrath of Mother Nature let loose against us. With all of our environmental misdeeds wiping out species from the Earth at a truly harrowing clip -- between 150-200 every 24 freaking hours, according to the U.N. -- someone needs to let loose the dinos already.

MovieStyle on 06/22/2018

Print Headline: Roar, chomp, repeat Chaos reins and the plot repeats in latest Jurrasic project

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