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Shallow ‘Fallen Kingdom’ dazzles, disappoints

If a dinosaur is in it, I’m usually all for it. Even if I have to witness the slow death Hollywood is carrying out to a beloved franchise.

The dinosaurs are back, baby! And round five has them pitted against extinction. It’s all come down to Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing and their band of replaceable yet intelligent misfits to help the cloned, prehistoric animals — on the eruptive island from Jurassic World — move to a new home.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 129 min.
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard

Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stars Pratt, Howard, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, BD Wong and a little bit of Jeff Goldblum.

Alas, the company supposedly moving the dinosaurs may or may not have a nefarious purpose.

Since Jurassic Park, the Jurassic franchise has prided itself on the shock and awe of roaming dinosaurs fenced alongside the very humans behind their de-extinction. The premise laid out by legendary director Steven Spielberg started innocently enough: What would happen if a zoo of cloned dinosaurs started to malfunction?

Now, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the message has inched toward animal abuse and cloning. Unfortunately, the dirty paws of Hollywood seem to care more about a run-of-the-mill storyline far short on substance.

The best thing about any Jurassic movie is and always will be the dinosaurs. That’s definitely the case in Fallen Kingdom. But one-noted human characters shift the tone all over the place, with peaks of action followed by actually boring dips of spoken exposition.

Not all of the human characters fall flat though. Pratt is as charismatic as he is a snarky smart mouth in Guardians of the Galaxy, but I couldn’t help but wish he was in more scenes with a more substantial role.

Then there’s … no one. Howard has a brief moment of character development by the end of the film, yet isn’t really pivotal in any other scene besides having access to the island’s security system.

The worst character, as part of the fictional human cast, is by far the villain. Spall plays Eli Mills, a money-loving businessman who lies and sells dinosaurs all to make a buck. There is no legitimate back story, and I feel bad for Spall for having to create a character out of a cliché.

Fallen Kingdom isn’t all bad though. There are glimpses of awesome and violent action, especially from the terrifying Indoraptor, a hybrid clone of a Velociraptor, the Indominus rex and a Tyrannosaurus rex. This thing is a killing machine, though is insatiable hunger is only on screen for the last third of the movie.

Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow seem to think a screenplay could work which relies on the first half of the movie being on an exploding island and the second half being at an estate in Northern California.

Trevorrow and Connolly have Safety Not Guaranteed and a co-writer spot for Star Wars: Episode IX under their belts. They continue to show they have writing talent, but their lack of bravery for not being different and unique have them on my unofficial list of let-downs.

The pair have the frame for a cool and fun movie, just like Jurassic Park in 1993. They could have made Fallen Kingdom not only an experience for the ages but also confronted difficult questions such as ‘Do clones have the same rights as humans or animals?’

Fallen Kingdom barely shaves the surface.

The intelligence of robots or clones may seem like science fiction but, unlike the science behind genetic modification in the Jurassic series, artificial intelligence and cloning are all too real, poised to present broad challenges to society over next couple of decades.

Falling back into the world of dinosaurs, Fallen Kingdom has the potential for a blockbuster smash hit, as its first film was. Though I prefer this up-to-date Jurassic World than its 2015 predecessor, audiences get a scatter-brained tonal shift every couple of scenes and characters that can be thrown away.

Still, the dinosaurs are the stars, and the Indoraptor will go down as one of the scariest creatures in film history.

Bet your kidneys there are some annoying characters and stampedes. Without those, it’s not a Jurassic movie.

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