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A Bit Of Dinosaur Magic Still Exists In ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

Guest critic Chris Mowry dissects latest outing in the franchise

Photo caption: The true star of the film and the petty human character Owen Grady played by ...

Photo credit: Universal

The true star of the film and the petty human character Owen Grady played by Chris Pratt in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

This week I was torn between covering San Diego International Fringe and seeing dinosaurs in the new "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." I chose Fringe but sent my friend and fellow fan of large movie creatures Chris Mowry out into the field to file a guest review.

Here’s a disclaimer for you... I love a good “popcorn movie.” The kind of movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet takes you on a wild ride for hopefully close to two hours. That makes you want to buy collectibles or (try to) create art after viewing. The kind that is so much fun, that you want to see it again with first-timers just to see their reactions. For me, that kind of movie was 25 years ago with “Jurassic Park” and then four years later with the sequel, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Now here we are this week with the fifth entry in the franchise, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," and I’m pleased to say that there’s still a bit of that magic there… even if the popcorn is starting to run the risk of tasting a bit stale.

The park is gone

“The Park Is Gone” is the tagline of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and indeed the park is gone… well, not just yet. Isla Nublar—home of the original Jurassic Park and then to the revamped and fully conceived Jurassic World—is threatened by an active volcano which stands to wipe out the genetically created dinosaurs that now roam free on the island. There is public outcry to save the dinosaurs, and then there are some who think that mankind shouldn’t interfere with nature, even if it means that our scaly friends will most certainly perish. As an animal lover and supporter of conservation efforts, I appreciated the film touching on this sort of “what if” dilemma. But lucky for us, there is a savior out there who wants to help our protagonists save them… but their reasons could be far more dangerous to the animals than lava could ever be.

What follows is a somewhat predictable storyline loaded with some fantastic dinosaur sequences, but while adding some nice new elements to the franchise. Writers Derek Conolly and Colin Trevorrow (director of “Jurassic World”) do a good job bringing our main characters Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) back together and throwing them right into things. Their banter and interactions are fun, and their chemistry from the previous film carries over pretty much the same here. The rest of the cast do a fine enough job given the script, but obviously in a movie like this, some characters will just stand out more than others.

It was a nice surprise to see James Cromwell playing the sympathetic Benjamin Lockwood (longtime friend of the original dino daddy John Hammond), who is filthy rich and hides a dark secret of his own. Ted Levine plays the mercenary Ken Wheatley, who has a strange (but not Buffalo Bill strange) need to collect trophies from his victims. On a personal note, the character of Zia Rodriguez (played by Daniella Pineda) and her job as a paleo-veterinarian reminded me a lot of a character named Lucy from an old Godzilla comic book series I used to write. As for the rest, they do their part and play their roles for exactly when they’re needed (fans of Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Malcom character might be a bit disappointed) to move the story along. We’ve got bad people, tech people, people with guns, people with money, people that are chewy… but they pale in comparison to the real stars and the reason why we keep coming back to the island... the dinosaurs.

Photo caption: Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and friend in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

Photo credit: Universal

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and friend in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

Blue is back!

Okay, I’ve already admitted my appreciation for movies like this, so I’ll admit my love for the Velociraptor named Blue. Her story is expanded more here, and the bond between her and her trainer Owen make both of them valuable in the eyes of those who seek to exploit the dinosaurs. Seeing baby Blue and her pack during some flashback “research footage” cranks up the cute meter and will make you forget just how dangerous the raptors have been in these movies.

“But what about the T-Rex” you ask? She’s back, better than ever, and clearly renegotiated her contract for more screen time! You may have heard of the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton named “Sue,” well this girl I’m going to call “Cue,” since that’s always when she shows up… and with a roar now nearly as iconic as Godzilla’s.

While I’m not sure this movie is suitable for kids that scare easily (the third act is dark and plays out like a horror movie), they’ll love pointing out the many different dinosaurs on the screen. Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, Carnotaurus, Brachiosaurus and because there needs to be a new dinosaur as well… the Indoraptor! If at first you don’t succeed with the Indominus Rex, why not use its remains to make a smaller and even more lethal version? I liked the Indominus in the previous film, but the Indoraptor just didn’t quite do it for me in this one as a “villain.” After all, the humans are the bad guys in this… right? Some of them sure are, and despite the third act feeling a bit rushed, it was nice to see a number of them meet their fates.

For a franchise that has been around for 25 years, it needs new ideas to keep things fresh. Destroying the island is a bold move, but a necessary one to move things into a new direction. Let’s not forget that there are four other islands to play with, including Isla Sorna, aka “Site B” from the second book and film. As I left the theater, I was still in awe over that glorious opening scene (one of the best sequences in the franchise), of Blue, of that baby Triceratops, of that creepy Lockwood reveal, of that sad shot on the dock… and I thought about a number of nods this film and director J.A. Bayona made to its predecessors. From the overturned Ford Explorer, even to the post-credits shot and the many similarities to “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” throughout the film, it reminded me of a sequel to “Jurassic World,” just as “Lost World” had been. The way this film ends really has me interested in where they plan on taking things in the future, as it seems like it’s Jurassic Park for a new generation. Maybe the “park” as we know it really is gone. Maybe it’s time to see the franchise go into uncharted territory and take a cue from the recent “Planet of the Apes” movies. Maybe it’s time to go to a different island. Maybe it’s time to get some more popcorn.

Chris Mowry is the writer of the comic book series Godzilla: Rulers of Earth and has written for franchises such as Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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