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JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM—MORE OF THE SAME

Dinosaurs are dangerous and people are greedy. Got that? It’s the foundation of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and if that mantra sounds way too familiar (and obvious), it’s the answer to why this film isn’t better. Kids who aren’t familiar with the series or overly jaded may find it fun, at least for a while. By the two-thirds mark I was bored.

I actually enjoyed the last episode in the seemingly unstoppable series, in spite of its familiar tropes, but this time it’s all too obvious that the filmmakers are repeating themselves. How many times can we watch slimy entrepreneurs fool some wide-eyed heroes before revealing their not-so-hidden agenda to exploit these prehistoric creatures for profit?

No one was bored when Steven Spielberg gave us Jurassic Park twenty-five years ago. Built on the template of the 1933 King Kong (and its predecessor, 1925’s The Lost World), it presented vivid and exciting new visual effects—including complex puppets devised by the late Stan Winston—in a slick, entertaining package. Twenty-five years later, we’ve become so accustomed to CGI that we can almost take the lifelike creatures for granted. They are still scary but in the context of a shopworn story their impact is muted.

It doesn’t help that the good guys and bad guys are essentially ciphers. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are likable enough but have little to work with in the hackneyed screenplay credited to Colin Treverrow and Derek Connolly. Talented director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible) does his best but can’t overcome an uninspired script. Good actors like James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Ted Levine, Toby Jones, and BD Wong are wasted, as is Geraldine Chaplin, although it’s always nice to see her onscreen.

Bookending the action, PG-rated violence and barrel of clichés is a half-hearted attempt to bring relevance to the Jurassic saga, as Jeff Goldblum warns a government agency about the impending danger to mankind and our fragile ecology. This adds nothing to the movie and even smacks of hypocrisy. After all, who is exploiting these prehistoric creatures (make-believe though they may be) more than the filmmakers? And in this case, it’s all for naught.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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August 2018
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