‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’: Off the Island and into the Woods ✮✮

Let’s be clear: You don’t go to see any of the Jurassic Park movies for the plot or the acting. You go because you love dinosaurs and you love seeing the bad guys being stomped and chomped by some amazing CGI and life-sized animatronics.  “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” does just that and, no surprise, sets up the next movie due out in 2021.

There are a few changes. Legacy Effects, the company that had been involved in “Jurassic World,” is was actually out of the mix; Neal Scanlan (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) is the special effects master for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and its sequel, currently titled “Jurassic World 3.”

New dinosaurs included in the mix are: Allosaurus, Baryonyx, Carnotaurus, Sinoceratops, Stygimoloch, and the fictional Indoraptor–yes, the mad Doctor Henry Wu has created another new hybrid.

Three years have passed since the chaos of  “Jurassic World.”  We begin in the dark, under water. A team of greedy men with more muscle than brains, are searching the bottom of Mosasaurus Lagoon on the fictional Isla Nublar (off the coast of Costa Rica) for the carcass of the Indominus Rex. The team snaps off a piece of bone and send it up to the surface. While one person is worried about the Mosasaurus; the other assuredly says, “Relax; everything down here is dead already.” That, of course, is the cue for old Mossie to show up. Up on land, another luckless soul is being chief geek and turning on the power while his helicopter crew waits to snatch that piece of bone. You have to wonder how much the dino danger bonus is for these guys because not all of them make it off the island. And Mossie escapes into the ocean.

That should probably cause some alarm and we’ll see old Mossie later, but a natural disaster forces the issue of what to do with the de-extinct dinos. In a bit of remarkable and note-worthy timing, the volcano is erupting and will destroy the whole island and all its inhabitants.  The debate is brought before the US Senate: Save the dinos or let Nature take its cruel course. A survivor from the first movie, mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm testifies.

We don’t get paleontologists Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) back, but we do get velociraptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) lured back by former park operations manager and current head of the Dinosaur Protection Group Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard).Congress decides to let nature take its course, but she’s working with Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who is working for Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). Lockwood had been John Hammond’s development partner (Richard Attenborough) but they had parted ways, not because Lockwood was necessarily wiser. You’ll probably figure out why before the end of the movie.

Luckily, Claire is wearing pants and sturdy shoes for this outing–besting Dr. Sattler for sensible attire for a woman in these movies, but we do have a screamer–two. First is a former IT tech at Jurassic World who comes as part of the velociraptor extraction team along with former Marine and paleoveterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). The foursome of Owen, Claire, Franklin and Zia join a military mercenary force led by Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) who is already set up for dino extraction and preservation. Owen goes and finds the last velociraptor with an affection for humans, Blue, but then there’s a double cross. Levine is less “Psych” and more “The Silence of the Lambs”  Buffalo Bill with a penchant for extracting trophies from his dino captures. Zia is taken with the mercenaries because she can keep Blue alive, but Owen is left in the path of the lava flow while Claire and Franklin are left at the control center.

Now the escape from lava may be a hard sell for some and this movie might not play well on the Big Island of Hawaii. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” shows the threat of the lava flow as little more than the Fire Swamp from “Princess Bride” but the ROUS are now Reptiles of Unusual Size. Claire, Franklin, Owen and even Zia will escape from this fire island, but we’ll see a lone brachiosaurus succumb because she literally missed the boat.

The boat will take all the survivors to the Lockwood estate where deep in the depths there is a secret lab and Dr. Wu and there will be another double cross. Owen, Claire and Franklin will again be separated, but we’ll pick up another screamer–a girl, of course, but this one is Lockwood’s granddaughter, Maisie. Owen’s Emotional Support Dinosaur, Blue, will have a prominent place in the survival of Owen, Claire, Franklin, Zia and even Maisie and will battle with the all-that-glitters-is-not gold Indoraptor Owen and Claire will face an ethical dilemma, but Northern California will never be the same and we’ll wisely remember that it was a mathematician from the first film who correctly knew the whole deal was a mistake and lived to be wiser, older and testify before the Senate.

We’re hoping the next film will feature more screen time for the amazing mad scientist Wu and his new dino hybrids. I’d love to see the herbivore dinos be seen as dangerous for a change, but that might be asking too much.

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