IFE Film Review: Fifth time’s the charm in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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Although many scoffed at first at Lucasfilm’s decision to recruit edgier, indie-minded filmmakers like Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) to help rejuvenate the Star Wars franchise, when the highly unorthodox gambit paid off, Steven Spielberg (The Post, Ready Player One) and company decided to follow pretty much the exact same template with their Jurassic World films. And guess what happened?

The first film in the new trilogy, 2015’s Jurassic World, which was directed and co-written by indie firebrand Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), didn’t just hit big, it hit huge. And if you thought that one was fun, just wait till you get a load of the gritty, next-gen, dino carnage that award-winning Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls, The Orphanage) brings to the raptor pit in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Set roughly three years after the events of the previous film – which ended with the dinosaurs reclaiming their turf on the infamous Isla Nublar, and most of the surviving humans barely escaping with their lives – Kingdom opens with the news that a catastrophic volcano is set to destroy all life on the island in a matter of days.

Testifying before a US Senate hearing on the subject in Washington, original series alumni Dr. Ian Malcolm (Thor: Ragnarok and Isle of Dogs’ Jeff Goldblum) argues that the volcano is nature’s way of course-correcting the genetic abominations that Jurassic Park’s late founder, John Hammond, unleashed on the island in the original film. But World’s former operations manager, Claire Dearing (Pete’s Dragon’s Bryce Dallas Howard) has something else in mind. Hoping to save the doomed dinos through her Dinosaur Protection Group initiative and a sudden influx of cash from a wealthy benefactor, Claire enlists the help of her estranged lover/longtime velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady – played once again by Passengers and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt.

Reluctantly agreeing to accompany Claire back to the island with a small, rag-tag team of scientists and an exceedingly well-armed platoon of mercenaries-for-hire, Owen immediately seeks out his pet “project”, a highly intelligent velociraptor named Blue.

But with the clock ticking and the rescue operation shaping up to be a little more complicated than either Claire or Owen expected, things take a turn for the worst almost the moment they step ashore. And quicker than you can say “never trust a crazy old rich guy who offers to fund your dinosaur rescue expedition”, Claire, Owen, and Blue are doing what they do best – running like hell from deadly, genetically-altered dinosaurs.

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Featuring the return of franchise favorite BD Wong (Mr. Robot, Mulan) as Dr. Henry Wu and Rafe Spall (The BFG) as the brand new baddie pulling the strings behind the scenes, Kingdom also features fine supporting turns from Oscar-nominee James Cromwell as the crazy old rich guy in question; Hammond’s former partner, Sir Benjamin Lockwood; and the always bewitching Geraldine Chaplin as Lockwood’s mysterious caretaker, Iris. But the real stand-outs are Claire’s Dinosaur Protection Group cohorts portrayed by Justice Smith (The Get Down, Paper Towns) and Daniella Pineda (The Detour). Bringing a wry, goofy vibe to every scene they’re in – particularly a lethally funny bit with Smith’s character almost drowning in one of those cool gyrospheres from the last film – the two-person geek squad adds a healthy dose of humor throughout.

Of course, as in the previous films, the main attraction here again are the dinosaurs, and they are spectacular. Bigger, bolder and crazier than ever before, the dinos in Kingdom don’t just kick ass, but, thanks to a top-notch script by Trevorrow and Kong: Skull Island scribe Derek Connolly, they also tug at your heartstrings as well – just try not to cry during that volcano sequence, I dare you! But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Bayona and company still manage to find fresh new ways to scare the pants off us the fifth film out, which, as any sci-fi/action franchise fan will tell you is no easy feat.

Now playing on select British Airways, Delta, Air New Zealand, EVA Air, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and United flights worldwide, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is also available via streaming at iTunes, Prime Video, and Google Play.

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