‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is suspenseful

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Dino-mite! Who knew dinosaurs were such a renewable source of energy, excitement and box office cash? In the fifth Jurassic picture, the initial trilogy was about Jurassic Park. Now, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the second of the “Jurassic World” trilogy. Expect this series finale in three years. These creatures are far from extinct.

Charismatic super-star Chris Pratt stars as raptor-trainer Owen Grady while the affable Bryce Dallas Howard co-stars as Claire Dearing, corporate executive turned animal conservationist. Taking place four years after the groundbreaking theme park was obliterated, their on-again, off-again relationship begins here as off. When Owen asks Claire, “Back for more?” the audience almost screamed out, “Bring it on!”

Their mission is to return to Isla Nublar to rescue their dino friends from a very angry volcano. Owen notes, “A rescue op to save dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode, what could go wrong?” Meanwhile, a congressional panel debates the fate of these prehistoric creatures. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) explains, “Genetic power has now been unleashed, you can’t put it back in the box.”

As with the best sci-fi dramas, the original novel by Michael Crichton (“Westworld”) was grounded on scientific theory, with some artistic license. This installment was inspired by a question from Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in the original movie (1993) about reuniting two time-separated species, “How can we have the slightest idea what to expect?”

The first half of the movie is set on the island, as seen in other Jurassic pictures; the hunters chase down and capture the dinosaurs. The second half transforms to a horror-thriller. Set in a gloomy gothic fun house, the hunted dinos chase down the hunters. Therefore, this feature is more suspenseful, terrifying and darker than prior episodes.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona seamlessly transitions what could be two unrelated stories, from Spielberg-like action to Hitchcock-like anxiety. This is where science and imagination merge. He honors the integrity of this well-worn franchise with more dinosaurs than any previous movie but moves it in an intriguing new direction.

Boyana offers, “We feature creatures that at one time truly had walked the earth.” They modeled the walks from elephants and rhinos and human interactions from dogs. It was important to Boyana that the audience relates to their personalities and empathizes with the physical and emotional cruelty thrust upon them. Without being preachy, there is a message about the ethical treatment of living creatures of all kinds.

The director worked tediously to avoid an R rating. With a fairly high body count, the beat-down scenes are mostly bloodless, even when the corporate villains get their just “desserts.” Imagine how different the outcome with Quentin Tarintino (“The Hateful Eight”) working this script. Fortunately, more restraint was chosen.

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelly effectively presented an ethical conundrum in “Frankenstein” (1818) about how far science could or should go with forms of life. Combine that moral dilemma with a thunderous thrill-a-minute spectacle, corporate greed, roaring lava, hungry mutant reptiles running amok, and big named stars running for their lives. Putting those together demands a ginormous bucket of popcorn.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is 128 minutes and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. Pratt carries that “Indiana Jones” swagger and Howard is so credibly sincere. But, the message is that they share some responsibility for what has happened. Maybe the sequel will be about redemption.

Composer Michael Giacchino’s operatic score in the final scenes end with a gloomy gothic choir, as heard in old horror films. Director Boyana believes there is a childhood fascination with a prehistoric creature roaming today’s modern world. There is delight, fear, beauty and terror. To date, the largest T-Rex skeleton, named Sue, housed in the Field Museum of Chicago, is 40 feet long and 13 feet tall. How did they know her name was Sue?

Ron’s Rating: B+
Leigh’s Rating: A

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Ron & Leigh Martel