As a film with a $170 million budget, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" definitely pulls out all the stops - explosions, CGI effects and general grandeur - that money can buy. Too bad you can't buy a good plot with cash.

Eons behind its predecessors, fifth installment to ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise is expectedly lacking in plot

Photo used by permission of Jurassic World under Creative Commons license
As a film with a $170 million budget, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” definitely pulls out all the stops – explosions, CGI effects and general grandeur – that money can buy. Too bad you can’t buy a good plot with cash.

Finally, I’ve answered the eternal question: What could possibly be better than dinosaurs?

Ah, yes – dinosaurs with lava.

I walked into “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” nearly completely in the dark, not out of choice but rather because the trailer revealed almost nothing about the direction of the film.

I know that it’s a bad idea to give away the entire movie in the trailer, but come on, the trailer should at least verify that there really is a plot.

Here, let me give you the gist of the trailer in one sentence: There’s a volcano that’s about to erupt on an island of dinosaurs, so the two main characters from the first “Jurassic World” come to save them, but – shocker – the rescue mission goes wrong.

How that was the only message fit into a two-and-a-half-minute time frame, I don’t know. That takes some serious skill.

The trailer did throw in some dinosaurs to fill in the gaps and try to distract audiences from the lack of originality, and it almost, kind of, but not really worked.

After watching the movie, however, I can attest to the existence of a plot. And it wasn’t even half bad compared to other action movies.

Unfortunately, almost every single aspect of it was recycled. This movie was, in essence, an unoriginal compilation of what once were original scenes.

On the bright side, most of said copied scenes were from the franchise itself, so no fear of copyright lawsuits.

Throw in a T. rex here, some sort of secret dinosaur heist there, and that’s pretty much half the movie. I’d give the other half, but most people could probably figure it out by just recalling random shots from older installments.

While watching, I couldn’t help thinking, “’Yup, that already happened in that other movie. Wait, was I supposed to be surprised by that scene?”

And then my favorite: “That – did they just – that was the exact same scene from the first ‘Jurassic Park’ movie!” (If you remember even vaguely what happened in the movie that started it all in 1993, then you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.)

I may be a staunch advocate for anything dinosaur related, but the “Jurassic Park” franchise seems to be running out of steam.

I’m not saying the plot was boring, since I was sufficiently entertained, but it wasn’t shocking either.

The most redeeming quality to the movie was a point that has been only sparingly touched upon in previous movies – usually for dramatic effect – despite the fact that this was the fifth addition to the series.

One of the driving forces to the storyline was the controversy over whether dinosaurs are good or bad, whether they should be saved or left to die.

Volcano, remember?

Both proponents and opponents of dinosaur existence were in the film, and they provided some intriguing contrast.

I like the direction this movie took on the topic because it’s actually relevant to the future of our society (don’t laugh until you hear me out).

When should scientists draw the line with genetic modification, even with, for example, genetically modified crops?

Dinosaurs may seem like a pretty crazy parallel to corn, but it’s interesting to think about. We live in an age where science is rapidly progressing, and we don’t always think about consequences to potentially life-changing discoveries until it’s too late.

I’m hoping that the “Jurassic Park” series will continue with this idea, but it should come up with an actual plot resolution in the next movie rather than simply milk the controversy further.

Just decide, “Jurassic Park.” Should dinosaurs exist with humans on this planet or not?

With luck, the sixth movie will be the final installment, and the franchise will get away with some of its dignity left.

Speaking of changes between this movie and earlier ones, while talking to my dad about the movie on the ride home, he mentioned that there had been a new director – J.A. Bayona – for this film, which didn’t surprise me at all.

Right off the bat, I had noticed something “off” about the movie in the way that filming was handled – not necessarily a bad “off” but “off” nonetheless.

Bayona is a very big fan of ominous lighting. You know, the kind where it’s pitch black, and then lightning suddenly strikes, illuminating the head of a very scary dinosaur behind the unsuspecting character?

It’s not a bad tactic, but it’s also not a good one. So please, use it only once in a film at most.

To be fair, Bayona’s influence wasn’t all bad, and both he and the screenwriters brought some fresh meat to the movie.

There was just the right amount of comedic relief in a film full of action and suspense, and Chris Pratt delivered some great lines. The dinosaurs were also unexpectedly used to draw laughs every once in a while – even in the midst of gory scenes.

And this movie was gory. I don’t know who was behind the change, but the fifth addition to “Jurassic Park” seemed more bloody than any of its predecessors. Rather than simply show a panoramic shot or black screen while a person was being eaten by some dinosaur, cameras unabashedly stayed on the death from start to finish – blood spurts, detached limbs and all.

Yeah, it definitely got closer to horror-movie status.

However, even as an anti-horror moviegoer, I wasn’t completely turned away from the bloodshed (although I’ll admit that I did cringe a bit, and my shoulders seemed attached to my ears at times).

To be fair, my relative nonchalance might have had more to do with the fact that the person next to me (senior Jacqueline Chao, my ever dearest friend) was laughing hysterically during any and all death scenes.

The movie had its fair share of jump scares too – as all “Jurassic Park” movies do – but it did a decent job of still shocking audiences by using the classic crescendoing music to deliver even the most expected of “unexpected” scenes.

After watching the latest addition to the franchise, there’s no doubt that there will be a sixth “Jurassic Park” movie, but I have to wonder just what screenwriters will come up with that hasn’t already been tried and used.

Although the film was entertaining – there’s no denying that – the series is starting to reach that threshold of “too outrageous to function.”  (And that was me being nice because, let’s be honest, that milestone was passed at least two movies ago.)

There were a few too many incidents where characters put themselves in ridiculously stupid situations just so a scene could be easily set up. But even a person with two brain cells left knows not to approach a deadly dinosaur, and the average Joe would run if a bunch of other characters were screaming at him to do so.

At least previous personas in “Jurassic Park” films have been half-competent. But just as this movie’s bloodiness reached horror-movie level, character stupidity also went up to match.

As for new plot material, putting things underwater or on fire is already out of the equation, and, seriously, there can’t possibly be another island involved. Even the dinosaurs-in-a-city gag has been overplayed at this point.

But if producers are looking for inspiration, I do have one idea that is truly untapped potential: dinosaurs in space.

Personally, I’d say that’s untapped for a reason, but if “Jurassic Universe” takes off, just know that I called it first.

—By Mohini Rye

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