For a re­view of “Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom,

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The best thing “Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom” has go­ing for it is di­rec­tor J.A. Bay­ona, who takes a medi­ocre script by Derek Con­nolly and Colin Trevor­row and di­rects the liv­ing day­lights out of it. This in­stall­ment may have merely shal­low ideas, but it’s easy to be dis­tracted in the mo­ment by the verve and style “The Or­phan­age” au­teur brings to the beloved dino fran­chise. It just won’t stick with you the sec­ond you leave the the­ater.

The story of “Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom” is tran­si­tory and tran­si­tional. It merely serves to ex­plain just how and why ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered dinosaurs make it from point A to point B, wherein point B serves as the jump­ing-off point for the in­evitable and forth­com­ing “Juras­sic World 3.” Along the way, Con­nolly and Trevor­row throw in some com­men­tary about the ways in which dinosaurs are ex­ploited for money, as if the com­mer­cial value of the crea­tures wasn’t to­tally ob­vi­ous within the theme parks they so fre­quently de­stroy. The se­cret economies of arms deal­ers and shady phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prac­tices aren’t quite a rev­e­la­tion in that con­text, and while the film hints at larger, edgier ideas, it never truly goes there.

But in terms of clas­sic ac­tion ad­ven­ture, Bay­ona de­liv­ers. There are mo­ments that ref­er­ence clas­si­cal Hol­ly­wood cinema, and glow­ing, sump­tu­ous close-ups of our hero and hero­ine, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dal­las Howard). The two are a lot like the dinosaurs in that they’ve evolved rapidly from one film to the next. Owen has soft­ened and is more em­pa­thetic and pro­tec­tive (a lot like his fa­vorite ve­loci­rap­tor, Blue), while Claire has turned from up­tight cor­po­rate flack to strong, ca­pa­ble, dino-pro­tect­ing ac­tivist. We can tell she’s evolved through her footwear — sturdy knee-high boots rather than im­prac­ti­cal high heels. How­ever, as fierce as they are, the chem­istry be­tween them is slightly dulled with­out the love/hate crackle they had in “Juras­sic World.”

The cast does feel a bit scanty. Owen and Claire take only a vet, Zia (Daniella Pineda), and a techie, Franklin (Jus­tice Smith), on a Noah’s Ark mis­sion to help res­cue sev­eral species of dinosaurs from Isla Nubar, where a gur­gling vol­cano is threat­en­ing to wipe out all di­nosaur life as we know it. They’re there at the be­hest of Eli (Rafe Spall), a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ben­jamin Lock­wood (James Cromwell), a for­mer part­ner of dino DNA pi­o­neer Jon Ham­mond, and they prom­ise the dinosaurs will be trans­ported to a sanc­tu­ary.

The film cul­mi­nates in a show­down at the Lock­wood es­tate, where Bay­ona’s tal­ents truly shine. Af­ter dis­rupt­ing a se­cre­tive, high­stakes di­nosaur auc­tion, the crew squares off with the In­do­rap­tor, a ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered killing ma­chine with a golden stripe and spikes, which is sold to the high­est Rus­sian bid­der. If “Juras­sic Park” is “Jaws” with dinosaurs, Bay­ona puts his own spin on it, turn­ing the film into a gothic haunted house hor­ror film with dinosaurs.

Ul­ti­mately, “Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom” wants to play with ideas of em­pa­thy, free­dom and the ways in which those val­ues get sub­sumed by com­mer­cial­ism. But rather than of­fer an an­swer or com­pelling mes­sage, it sim­ply, dumbly just presents the ques­tion. That’s not enough. With charm­ing lead ac­tors and a ta­lented di­rec­tor, “Fallen King­dom” squeaks by, but with its thin story, it feels less like a film that stands on its own and more like a stand-in to hold us over un­til the next one.

“Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom,” a Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG-13 for in­tense se­quences of sci­ence-fic­tion vi­o­lence and peril. Run­ning time: 128 min­utes. ★★½


The Austin, Texas-based Zell­ner broth­ers make strangely hu­mor­ous films that defy cat­e­go­riza­tion as much as they ref­er­ence cin­e­matic history. Their fea­ture de­but from David and Nathan Zell­ner, “Ku­miko, the Trea­sure Hunter,” took the Coen Broth­ers’ film “Fargo” as lit­eral in­spi­ra­tion for the lead char­ac­ter. Their fol­lowup film, “Damsel,” plays with the West­ern genre to make some in­ci­sive com­men­tary about the mod­ern state of gen­der pol­i­tics.

The Zell­ners bring a sense of me­thod­i­cal still­ness to “Damsel” that might make some au­di­ences un­com­fort­able, as they work with a de­lib­er­ate pac­ing that si­mul­ta­ne­ously frus­trates, wrings hu­mor and al­lows room to breathe and take in the glo­ri­ous nat­u­ral vis­tas. This in­die de­con­struc­tion of the West­ern has shades of Mel Brooks’ “Blaz­ing Sad­dles” in some of its wry comedic mo­ments.

David Zell­ner stars as Par­son Henry, a man from back east, seek­ing a fresh start. He’s also not a par­son, he just hap­pens to be wait­ing for a stage coach with one (Robert Forster) who gives up the cloth and wan­ders into the desert, leav­ing Henry with his suit, Bi­ble and iden­tity. When the ea­ger young Sa­muel (Robert Pat­tin­son) comes into town to col­lect the par­son, he’s hired to of­fi­ci­ate his wed­ding. He scoops up Henry and makes his merry way.

We dis­cover, along with Par­son Henry, that the bright-eyed, lovesick young man in his com­pany — who shows him the ring and his locket, and croons a bal­lad called “Honey Bun” — isn’t ex­actly on the level when he re­veals that the planned pro­posal to his love, Pene­lope (Mia Wasikowska), in­volves kid­nap­ping her back from a ri­val, An­ton, and then stag­ing a wed­ding on the spot. Par­son Henry be­comes his un­wit­ting posse, de­spite his protes­ta­tions, and ends up in­volved in a love tri­an­gle that spi­rals into lethal vi­o­lence.

Pene­lope is no damsel. She’s a self-pos­sessed woman mak­ing her own choices who has no pa­tience for the ma­cho pos­tur­ing of Sa­muel, or An­ton’s brother, Ru­fus (Nathan Zell­ner), a skin­sclad moun­tain man. The only rea­son Par­son Henry sur­vives her rage is his ut­terly sub­mis­sive na­ture, a beta male among al­phas. The Zell­ners use the mas­cu­line rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the West­ern to per­form a shock­ingly con­tem­po­rary satire of tra­di­tional no­tions of the male hero. Our pas­sive par­son per­sists, but the only hero here is our hero­ine.

“Damsel” is the kind of film you ad­mire with­out fully en­joy­ing. There’s a layer of ar­ti­fice in per­for­mance and di­a­logue, as well as the slow plot­ting. The in­ten­tion is to re­veal the de­con­struc­tion of the genre’s con­ven­tions to the au­di­ence, but it prevents the au­di­ence from get­ting swept away by the story and scenic land­scapes. There are some odd­ball laughs through­out, but whether or not one re­sponds is a ques­tion of per­sonal taste.

“Damsel” is a film that’s in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing and beau­ti­ful to look at, but a bit too arch to truly fall in love with. Nev­er­the­less, the Zell­ners have as­sem­bled an ex­cel­lent cast, fully com­mit­ted to the cause, and as per­form­ers, they hold their own across from Pat­tin­son and Wasikowska. Pat­tin­son, who is on a run of work­ing with dar­ing in­die au­teurs, takes a hold of this role with vigor and pours him­self into it. He’s in­cred­i­bly game for any­thing, and his tal­ent el­e­vates the pro­ject, as does Wasikowska, who proves her­self a true West­ern hero­ine.

“Damsel,” a Mag­no­lia Pic­tures re­lease, is rated R for some vi­o­lence, lan­guage, sex­ual ma­te­rial, and brief graphic nu­dity. Run­ning time: 113 min­utes. ★★½


Mia Wasikowska, left, and Robert Pat­tin­son star in the Mag­no­lia Pic­tures re­lease “Damsel,” in the­aters to­day.

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