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“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a periodically pleasurable, dino-sized disarray

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“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a periodically pleasurable, dino-sized disarray

courtesy of IMDb

courtesy of IMDb

courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Life Editor

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It’s hard to believe that much can change in the gap between one “Jurassic Park” film and the next—a group of idiotic humans unleashes flesh-eating dinosaurs on the world and can’t seem to figure out why that would be an issue. But five films into the franchise, its latest installment, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” proves that an awful lot can change in a few years—both within the context of the narrative and outside of it. And hours after having time to process the film, I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

“Fallen Kingdom” takes place three years after its predecessor, 2015’s “Jurassic World,” and sees the return of dinosaur rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and former dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

Since the chaos that occurred at the Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar in the previous film, U.S. lawmakers are debating whether to save the remaining dinosaurs on the island from an imminent volcanic eruption. Dearing, who has since founded the Dinosaur Protection Group, is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former business partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough in the original films). He implores her to return to the island to rescue the creatures after government officials decide against it. Hammond and his aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), plan to transport the dinosaurs to a sanctuary where they can live independent of human involvement.

Dearing reaches out to Grady, with whom she has a complicated romantic relationship, hoping he will return to assist with the capture of his beloved Blue, the sole surviving velociraptor on the island. The duo joins paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and former park technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), only to learn upon arrival that both Mills and the mercenary forces on the island plan to exploit the dinosaurs for profit.

In many ways, “Fallen Kingdom” feels like a drastic departure from the fun and familiarity of its predecessor. In some ways, it benefits from this immensely, finally attempting to take some risks after four films that largely relied on an unvarying premise. But in a series such as this, some risks are better left untaken. The nostalgic likeness to its parent film was what made “Jurassic World” work the way reboots like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did, drawing both the interest of old and new audiences. But unlike “The Force Awakens,” the first “Jurassic World” sequel in a planned trilogy falls a little flat.

That’s not to say there aren’t things to love about this film. It has a solid start, immediately capturing the attention of audiences, but as the film progresses, it gradually loses its footing—and its thrill factor—and begins to drag. The first half of the film is incredible, but ultimately suffers from the mediocrity of its second half, which is crammed with a plethora of action sequences too ridiculous even for this series.

“Fallen Kingdom” also sees the long-awaited return of fan favorite Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), but unfortunately, his role is reduced to a cameo at the beginning and end of the film. While I’m hopeful that the wasted potential of his return can be redeemed in “Fallen Kingdom’s” planned sequel, “Jurassic Park’s” inconsistent track record with character revivals leaves me with little optimism. And while Pratt and Howard both shine on their own, the series as a whole would benefit greatly from a reunion with original stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern and the aforementioned Goldblum.

“Fallen Kingdom” is still a lot of fun—and I’d even be bold enough to say I enjoyed most of it—but it ultimately leaves much to be desired. As the halfway point in this trilogy, it should progress the story further than it does, but instead prioritizes action over advancement. The film’s conclusion leaves a promising entry point for its sequel, slated for a 2021 release, but fails to leave the impression of its forerunner.

At the end of the day, I’m still anticipating the next “Jurassic World” film, even if my excitement has dwindled with the release of “Fallen Kingdom.” But no matter how hard it tries, this is one franchise that will likely never recreate the magic of the original.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a periodically pleasurable, dino-sized disarray