Movie reviews: Stakes are low in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom'
Published Friday, June 22, 2018 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 22, 2018 10:37AM EDT
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM: 2 STARS
On thing is for sure, the “Jurassic Park” movies are not an endangered species. The film series, now entering its fourth iteration since 1993’s prehistoric original, has outlived most other monster movie franchises of its vintage. With another one already scheduled for 2021 the dinos-gone-wild-movies show no signs of extinction. It seems audiences have an endless appetite to see people become dinosaur snacks.
The new one, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” picks up three years after the “de-extinct” dinosaurs destroyed Isla Nublar, the island paradise where “Jurassic World” took place. Now abandoned and overrun by dinosaurs, the former theme park and its inhabitants face a new threat—“the flashpoint animal rights issue of our time,” we’re told—in the form of a volcano poised to cover everything in a thick layer of molten lava.
Some people, like Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), feel nature should be allowed to take its course even if that means the end of the dinosaurs. Others, like Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond's partner in developing the dinosaur clone technology, want to see them rescued.
Enter two former park employees, dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—the Cesar Millan of the dinosaur world—and former park director Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and small team of helpers, computer whiz and comic relief Franklin (Justice Smith) and paleo veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) who spearhead a campaign to relocate the creatures to a newer, safer sanctuary.
“Save the dinosaurs from an island that is about to explode,” says Owen. “What could go wrong?” Lots. There’s more, like a nefarious plan to sell the rescued dinosaurs and a “creature of the future made from pieces of the past” but who cares as long as the creatures are let loose.
Sure enough, half-an-hour into “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” after some call backs and set up, dinos are chasing humans, summing up the two most important elements of the Jurassic franchise—giant dinosaurs and people for them to eat. Other stuff, like narrative logic, plain old common sense and interesting characters, come a distant second to gnarling teeth and big action set pieces.
The usual franchise mumbo jumbo about science tampering with the natural world is in place but it’s even more cursory than in the first “World” film. Instead it embraces the thing that has always been at the rapidly beating heart of these movies, monster mayhem and on that level it succeeds.
Ultimately, however, the stakes are very low. It is obvious who will become a dinosaur entree and who won’t. Also much of the danger has been replaced by more family friendly light moments—i.e. Owen doing a tranquilized acrobatic act to escape molten lava or Franklin’s ladder gag. There is some suspense, but it’s not subtle like Alfred Hitchcock style suspense. Instead it’s will-Owen-get-eaten-by-a-dinosaur-as-Claire-and-Franklin-roll-away-into-a-giant-motorized-orb suspense.
By the end credits what do we learn about “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”? Chris Pratt could probably outrun Tom Cruise without breaking a sweat. The rules of physics do not apply in Dino Land. When you have dinosaurs you don’t need much else and some sequels are easier to set up than others.
PAPER YEAR: 2½ STARS
“Paper Year” is a coming-of-age story about two people who should have already come-of-age.
Out-of-work actor Dan Delaney (Avan Jogia) and aspiring writer Franny Winters (Eve Hewson) are impulsive twenty-somethings who married quickly, without any kind of life plan. Unemployed and carefree for much of their first year of wedded bliss, the dynamic of their relationship changes when he comes home one day with an announcement.
“I forgot to tell you,” he says, “but I got a job. A real adult person, adult job” looking after the mansion and dogs of a b-movie star.
As he stays home looking after the dogs, she takes a job as a junior writer on the game show “Goosed.” “We’re going to be rich,” he says. “Can I get a Nintendo?” Her career is on an upward swing while he stays in lounging by the pool, watching porn and playing videogames. Will they make it to their first anniversary as their careers go in two different directions? “What do you mean work?” he says. “It’s just you writing for your dumb job.”
“Paper Year” is a low-key examination of relationships, brought to life by strong performances by Hewson who, if she continues doing work this strong will soon lose the label of “Bono’s daughter, and Delaney. The pair has an easy way about them as they navigate the landmines of an unplanned life.
Writer-director Rebecca Addelman provides realistic dialogue and relatively low-stakes situations that allow her actors to shine. Harassment at work, respect at home and straying feelings are all delicately addressed. It’s never terribly dramatic but neither is it stagey. Addelman and company are more interested in keeping it natural, allowing the characters drive the situations, not the other way round
THE CLEANERS: 3 ½ STARS
Nothing is forever, not even the internet. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube posts frequently disappear but where do they go and who makes the decision to wipe them from your feed? A new documentary, “The Cleaners” from German filmmakers Moritz Riesewieck and Hans Block, reveals the people who decide if your post is too violent, too pornographic or even too political.
Call them “content moderators” or “digital scavengers” whatever you like, they are the folks who scrub your favourite sites of objectionable material.
But what, exactly, qualifies as objectionable?
Riesewieck and Block introduce us to a handful of scrubbers, most compellingly, the ones outsourced to the Philippines. We meet anonymous censors—their job contracts don’t allow them to share their names or the company they work for—like a devout Catholic woman who says she is keeping the Internet safe by eliminating “sin” and a man who recalls watching multiple beheadings. All spend their days looking at disturbing images and hitting either "ignore" or "delete" in response. Although nameless we learn of the mental toll of the job. Suicide, nightmares psychological problems are common.
We learn something about how they make the decisions of what we can and cannot see, but with every click of a mouse even more questions arise. Do they have too much power, sitting anonymously behind a computer screen 7,000 miles from Silicon Valley?
It is an almost unspeakably complex situation. Does deleting terrorist videos silence the terrorists or those who want to use those images to shine a light on atrocities being committed around the world? Who should be allowed to decide what is credible journalism and what is propaganda? Should social media companies co-operate with countries to ban material that is critical of their governments? How regulated do social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube need to be?
“The Cleaners” is a slick film with a film noir feel. It suits the exploration of the dark side of the cyberspace but ultimately the doc doesn’t shine much of a light on its subject. Stylish though it is, the film flits from topic to topic with the swiftness of fibre optic broadband. It covers too much ground, raising questions that are never answered. To be fair the subject of Internet censorship is relatively new and rife with legal and moral complexity.
At the very least this entertaining but unexacting documentary should inspire conversation about the control large, unaccountable corporations have over the flow of information into our homes.