Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

With a volcano about to erupt and devastate Isla Nubar, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is working desperately to save the dinosaurs left at the former tourist spot. She finds a benefactor in John Hammond's former InGen partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). His operations manager, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), expresses special interest in Blue, the Velociraptor trained in empathy by Owen (Chris Pratt), and so Claire must once again deal with the former lover who is the only one capable of catching it. But once on the island, Claire and Owen discover Eli has an entirely different agenda from his boss in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

Laura's Review: C+

If only director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible," "A Monster Calls") had had more influence over the screenplay written by "Jurassic World's" Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, this sequel might have actually been good. As it stands, it is better than its predecessor, Bayona's Gothic sensibilities giving his film some creepy classicism in its second half. But the film's nonsensical happenings on Isla Nubla and beyond, where we are supposed to believe a Brachiosaurus can be transported in a low-slung truck, where way too much is made of Claire's footwear (she is introduced twice with a shot of her feet, a 'joke' at the expense of the prior movie) and where "Jurassic Park's" kitchen scene is dragged out yet again, is creatively bereft. After a pre-credits prologue which tips us off that evil intent is afoot, a sub entering Isla Nubar to collect a sample off the ocean floor (followed by a ludicrous bit of popcorn munching), Claire's sudden empathy for the dinosaurs she used to call assets is swept under the rug as two new characters are introduced. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) is a medical doctor who trades barbs with systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith). As Claire makes calls to save her dinos, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) appears on television explaining exactly why this is the wrong thing to do. Soon, Claire, Owen, Zia and Franklin are landing on Isla Nubar. Claire's handprint opens up the park's computer system for Franklin to track Blue, but once Owen makes contact with his old pal, he's shot with the same tranquilizers used for the raptor by mercenary Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). Wheatley takes Zia to attend to the wounded creature, leaving Owen in the path of lava flow. Back at the control center, Claire and Franklin find themselves locked in just as a Baryonyx gains entry. Pratt spices things up with some physical comedy as he lurches his sedated body out of danger, then performs some derring-do rescuing Claire and Franklin from a sinking gyroscope. After they stow away on Wheatley's cargo ship, Bayona adds a touch of genuine pathos, the three watching a Brachiosaurus consumed on the pier as Isla Nubar succumbs to flame and ash. Everyone ends up at Lockwood's Gothic manor where the ailing billionaire dotes on the curious 10 year-old granddaughter Maisie (newcomer Isabella Sermon) who is the spitting image of the daughter he lost in a tragic accident. Maisie learns far more than he about the state of his affairs as she zips among the structure's multiple floors via dumbwaiter, including the existence of something very scary in the basement concocted by good old Dr. Wu (BD Wong). Bayona revisits the childish nightmares of his "A Monster Calls," this time with real horrors. Maisie is terrorized in a scene dripping with German Expressionism. Geraldine Chaplin, although largely wasted, embodies the classic severe 'nanny/housekeeper.' A climatic rain-soaked rooftop confrontation begins with Gothic spires and ends as homage to earlier films. Comedy is even introduced with the Stygimoloch, a smaller dinosaur Owen uses as a battering ram which proceeds to run into everything in its path. But the movie's conclusion, while setting up the next outing (one which looks aligned to Spielberg's own initial sequel writ on larger scale), is really hard to swallow, a character revelation implying scientific ties which do not exist. "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" will satisfy those looking for easy thrills, its dinosaur effects still top notch. Those looking for new are advised to look elsewhere, Malcolm still singing the same song twenty-five years later. Grade:

Robin's Review: DNS