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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(Directed by J.A. Bayona)

In one of Star Trek’s many incarnations, the crew of the Enterprise encountered a society of clones that was in big trouble. Every genetic duplication they made introduced a bit of error, a concept they called “replicative fading.” The same holds true, unfortunately, for the latest movie in the Jurassic Park franchise. “Fallen Kingdom” is a sequel of a sequel, so I didn’t have high hopes for its quality. I did, however, expect it might still be solid escapist entertainment. Sometimes I’m just too optimistic.

(Warning: Spoilers begin at paragraph 5.)

The movie’s basic premise seems good: the volcanic heart of Isla Nublar, home of the dinosaurs, has gone active and threatens to blow, potentially killing all its reptilian inhabitants. The controversy rages: should mankind save them? Or given that it was probably a mistake to bring them back, should we let them die? As my son pointed out, however, the existence of advanced biotechnology offers a third option: archive their DNA and leave the choice of bringing them back to future generations. The movie doesn’t mention it, of course.

If we accept, however, that the animal rights crowd is determined to save the dinos no matter what, the premise still works. Unfortunately, the movie bores us with the public debate before Benjamin Lockwood, one of the founders of the original Jurassic Park, announces he’s using his fortune to relocate a select number of species to a new island home. This is where the movie should have begun.

Assume that the movie makers had made the right choice deleting the first third and maybe adding a few more action scenes. Would that have made it a good movie? No, not without a complete rewrite. Writers Derek Connolly and Colin Tervorrow ought to issue a public apology. If not, the ghost of Michael Crichton should haunt them without mercy.

One of my pet peeves is a movie so cliche-ridden and uninspired that I can predict every plot point before it happens. The arrogant mercenary will meet a bad end. The adorable child will be threatened but survive. The well-meaning billionaire will bring on his own doom by trusting his greedy whiz kid assistant. The phobic computer nerd will find his cojones. The newly created badass “Indoraptor” will escape and go on a rampage, eating up all the bad guys and threatening the protagonists. The “good dinosaur” – remember Blue from the previous movie? – will fight to save her humans from the much larger Indoraptor by using her superior intelligence. Finally, Jeff Goldblum’s character will subject us to cliché warnings at the beginning and cringe-worthy commentary at the end, having no other role in the film.

I have great sympathy for the actors who had to put up with this movie and its ridiculous script. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard did a good enough job, as did the child actor Isabell Sermon as Lockwood’s grand-daughter Maise. (The kid may need a new dialect coach, however.) The digital effects were good, of course, but we expect that. The movie’s one plot surprise, involving Maise’s true identity, prompted me to shrug and say “who cares?” Though I have no aversion to the cloning of humans, exploring this issue might have made this movie interesting.

Sad to say, but the Jurassic World sequel appears to have been a cash grab for which the writers put in the absolute minimum effort. The action scenes were engaging and the primary actors did OK, but otherwise, it was a very sad waste of potential. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

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