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‘Jurassic World: A Fallen Kingdom’ Wildly Mediocre

2.5 STARS—Dir. J.A. Bayona

'Fallen Kingdom' still
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard star in "Jurassic World: A Fallen Kingdom" (2018), directed by J.A. Bayona.

The second installment in the “Jurassic World” series and the fifth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise, “A Fallen Kingdom” (directed by J.A. Bayona) falls out of the originally iconic kingdom Steven Spielberg created in 1993.

The dormant volcanoes on Isla Nublar have become suddenly active, threatening to end all life on the island and render the dinosaurs extinct once again. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) runs an activist organization called the Dinosaur Protection Group whose mission is to save the dinosaurs from the island. In her first appearance in the film, Bayona zooms in on her heels, perhaps a nod to the last Jurassic World’s sexism, though this time Claire sports a ponytail and some more outdoorsy shoes on the island. Failing to get government support, Claire is overly thrilled when she receives a call from the Lockwood Estate, where the aging and elderly Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell) recruits Claire on a mission to save the dinosaurs from Isla Nublar and relocate them to a different island. With a difficult task ahead, Claire recruits ex-boyfriend and dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the only person who can help with the capture of the last remaining raptors alive, Blue.

The rest of the scrappy gang consists of Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the nerdy and easily-spooked computer programmer from Claire’s organization on the venture, and badass biologist Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Franklin’s intense fear of dinosaurs gives way to screaming matches, his squeals so high-pitched they rival the dinosaurs’ roars when they face each other, squeezing out some of the only genuine laughs in the film. Lockwood’s assistant Eli (Rafe Spall) reveals his malice pretty early on, with his smooth flowing words and slick charisma. The other bad guys couldn’t be more obvious and lack any real villainous lure or remarkable traits. So when some (or all) of them get devoured by the dinosaurs, there’s little feeling, neither excitement nor sadness.

On the island, it quickly becomes apparent that not everyone in Lockwood’s large endeavor is there to save the dinosaurs out of the goodness of their hearts—they’re there to sell them to the highest bidder who wants to weaponize them. The only dinosaurs that make lasting impressions are everyone’s favorite raptor, Blue, and some new genetically-engineered monster, the Indoraptor. The highlights of the film are easily Owen’s moments with Blue—the human-animal connection in the videos of Owen with baby Blue turn the ultrasmart and sharp killer into a cute puppy.

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Just like John Hammond in the Jurassic Park trilogy, Lockwood proves to be a complicated and problematic character. However, except for an opening scene where Lockwood reveals his plan to save the dinosaurs from the island to Claire, Lockwood is bedridden and makes few appearances. Cromwell’s detached portrayal is rather disappointing and shallow, and Bayona fails to create an icon out of Lockwood with the sparse clips, which his large estate and shadowed legacy may otherwise suggest of his role. Richard Attenborough, who played Hammond throughout the series, passed away in 2014, leaving a hole in the film that Bayona clumsily patched with the insertion of Lockwood.

On the topic of awkward replacements, after the destruction of Isla Nublar following the volcanoes’ explosion, a fair portion of the film—including action scenes—takes place indoors in Lockwood’s mansion. Maybe Lockwood has the gazillion dollars to own a house that size, but still, tens of giant formerly extinct creatures roaming throughout and underground such a mansion looks ridiculous in the setting. An unbelievable kind of ridiculous, and not quite in a funny way, either.

Lockwood’s inquisitive and mischievous young granddaughter, Maisie, starts out pretty lovable. Isabella Sermon is charming in the role and shows maturity far beyond her years, until her words and actions extend beyond the realm of believability, to the point of inconsistency.

Bayona raises the central question of humans exploiting scientific research in several critical moments, but the movie lacks development and exploration of this concept, leaving much to be anticipated—or, little to be anticipated—for the last film in the trilogy.

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at lucy.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.

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