After the catastrophic events in the disaster extravaganza “Jurassic World,” is it any surprise that its inevitable sequel “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (*** OUT OF ****), would chronicle the exodus of the dinosaurs to the American mainland?  The long dormant franchise that started like gangbusters with “Jurassic Park” (1993) and then its superior sequel “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997) lost traction with the dreadful “Jurassic Park III (2001).  Fourteen years would slip away before Universal Studios would revive the franchise with the uninspired “Jurassic World.”  Keep in mind, director Steven Spielberg’s first two films adapted Michael Crichton’s bestsellers, but “Jurassic Park III” appropriated only Crichton’s characters instead another of his literary endeavors.  Tragically, Crichton’s death in 2008 halted his extraordinary literary output, but Hollywood is far from done with his characters.  Not only did Tinseltown bring back the dinosaurs for “Jurassic World,” but HBO also revived the “Westworld” (1973) as a mini-series.  “Westworld” dealt with a theme park with robots, while “Jurassic Park” concerned a theme park with dinosaurs.  Now, a Pompeii-like volcanic eruption has the dinosaurs on the fictional island of Isla Nublar running amok.  In “Orphanage” director J.A. Bayona’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” this calamity prompts former park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard of “The Help”) to persuade ‘raptor wrangler’ Owen Grady (Chris Pratt of “The Magnificent Seven”) to accompany her in a highly publicized effort to save the doomed dinos. Incredibly enough, the fifth entry in the franchise surpasses both “Jurassic III” as well as “Jurassic World,” but doesn’t top the first two entries.  For the record, two characters from the original “Jurassic Park”—villainous Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong of “Family Business”) and heroic mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum of “Independence Day”)—reprise their roles in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”  The suspense, the screwball thrills and chills, and the outlandish machinations of the latest villains give “Fallen Kingdom” a refreshing but formulaic spontaneity.  “Kong: Skull Island” scenarist Derek Connolly and “Jurassic World” director & writer Colin Trevorrow have penned a lively, above-average screenplay that fills its two-hour plus running time with not only surprises galore but also comic cliffhanger shenanigans.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” opens at night during a eerie storm as a two-man mini-sub scours the floor of the gloomy, three-million-gallon lagoon at Jurassic World.  Searching for the skeleton of the dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex, they snap off a specimen and float it to the surface for a helicopter crew.  The two are worried they may encounter the rapacious T-Rex.  Apparently, they have forgotten about the cloned Mosasaurus maximus.  If you saw “Jurassic World,” this aquatic predator ate the shark.  No sooner have they bagged the specimen than a Mosasaurus materializes behind them like an apparition out of nowhere.  A solitary technician on land orders the submariners to exit the lagoon so he can seal it, but he gets no response.  The helicopter lands with the valuable specimen, and the crew urges the technician to join them.  Not only does the technician fail to hear them, but he also fails to spot the ravenous T-Rex stomping up behind him.  Screaming, the technician flees for the helicopter with the colossal lizard nipping at his heels.  The helicopter abruptly lifts off, but the crew deploys a rope ladder.  The desperate technician seizes the ladder, while the T-Rex snags the other end.  Basically, the technician is caught between the chopper and the T-Rex in a tug of war.  Fortunately, he escapes from the T-Rex, but the Mosasaurus surges up from the deep with its enormous jaws agape to feast on this ill-fated human.  “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” contains several scenes of cloned dinosaurs munching the innocent as well as not-so-innocent guys.

As the plot unfolds, we learn a fireball belching volcano has the dinosaurs scrambling to escape its wrath.  Meantime, Ian Malcolm urges a Congressional committee not to undertake an evacuation.  “These creatures were here before us – and if we’re not careful,” Malcolm warns, “they’re going to be here after us.”  Nevertheless, a private corporate interest intervenes to relocate the creatures to a nearby, uninhabited island.  Mind you, they have no sympathy for the cloned dinosaurs that face extinction.  Hilariously, they want to harvest dinosaur DNA to weaponize these creatures!  “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” introduces several new characters.  Chiefly, we’re told that the late John Hammond, who dreamed up “Jurassic Park,” shared his goal of a lifetime with billionaire benefactor Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell of “Babe”), but the two clashed over something (which cannot be divulged without spoiling things) that sabotaged their friendship.  Since Hammond is dead, Lockwood wants to help out.  Actually, Lockwood’s chief executive officer, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall of “Life of Pi”), has arranged for eleven species of dinosaurs to be saved.  An ecstatic Claire rushes off to Isla Nublar via helicopter because only her handprint can reboot the Jurassic World computer system, so the dinosaurs can be rounded up, specifically Blue, the Velociraptor with the shrewd intelligence of a canine.  Owen Grady joins Claire because he has a special bond with Blue. Paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda of “The Vampire Diaries”) and geeky computer technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith of “Paper Towns”) accompany them.  Unfortunately, our heroine discovers that deceitful Mills wants to leave them behind once she has rebooted the park.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona doesn’t let the lunacy lapse in this outlandish hokum.  One audacious but suspenseful predicament tops another until the finale surpasses them all.  The jaw-snapping opener rivets your attention.  Skillfully, Bayona alternates exposition and action.  Despite all the munching going on, the “Jurassic World” sequel remains immaculately bloodless.  Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard radiate charisma as hero and heroine. They survive several close-calls with the dinosaurs.  In the Lockwood Manor sequence, a pugnacious Indoraptor chases Lockwood’s granddaughter, Maisie Lockwood (newcomer Isabella Sermon), around the premises in a sidesplitting comedy of errors.  Watching this fearsome dinosaur negotiate the halls and stairs is a hoot.  Happily, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” shuns credibility because anything can happen in a fantasy.

 

 


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