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'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' review: Well-made thriller with dark undertones

Chris Pratt with a baby velociraptor in "Jurassic

Chris Pratt with a baby velociraptor in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."  Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

PLOT A volcano threatens the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar once again with extinction.

CAST Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon

RATED PG-13 (several gruesome deaths)

LENGTH 2:08

BOTTOM LINE Horror director J.A. Bayona adds a bit of shiver to this successful entry in the dino franchise. Movie opens June 22.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the fifth film in the dinosaur franchise, is a blockbuster with unsettling undertones. Some of them come courtesy of the Spanish director J.A. Bayona, whose best-known films — “The Orphanage,” “A Monster Calls” — have touches of horror. Some of the dark moments, though, reflect larger concerns about the world: What we’re doing to it, and what the results will be.

“These creatures were here before us,” says chaos theoretician Ian Malcom, played by Jeff Goldblum in a brief but welcome return. “And if we’re not careful, they’ll be here after us.”

It’s always tempting to read cultural relevance into a blockbuster. “The Dark Knight” echoed post-9/11 fears of terrorism; “War for the Planet of the Apes” reflected new concerns about democracy’s future. Often it’s coincidental, but there is something slightly freaky about watching a movie filmed in Hawaii (as all “Jurassic” movies are) that centers on an exploding volcano mere days after the devastating eruption of Kilauea. “Fallen Kingdom” is at heart just well-made entertainment, with all the action, effects, romance and humor that have kept this franchise alive since Steven Spielberg’s original film in 1993. It’s the quieter, more sober moments, though, that will stay with you.

Written by Colin Trevorrow (who directed the previous installment) with Derek Connolly, “Fallen Kingdom” sticks to the series’ dependable template. On one side of the dinosaurs are the do-gooders, represented by animal lover Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her sometime boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a roguish raptor trainer. On the other side are the profiteers, played by an excellent Rafe Spall and Toby Jones, who want to turn the dinos into living weapons. When that volcano explodes on the dinosaurs’ home of Isla Nublar, each side races to evacuate the animals.

The new twist on the “Jurassic” genre comes with Maisie (Isabella Sermon), a little girl who lives in a spooky old mansion that will eventually be invaded by raptors, ankylosauri and the iconic T. rex. Her connection to all this is a little tenuous, but her location gives Bayona an excuse to go Gothic, especially when a cunning new genetic creation, the Indoraptor, slinks into her room and slides a sadistic claw up her bedsheet.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” packs a lot into its two-hour running time and moves at such a terrific clip that we barely have time to register just how potentially dire things are getting. Fortunately, Goldblum’s Malcolm is here to explain it to us, and to drive home just how ominous this movie’s title really is.

DINOSAURS CUTE AND PRE-CGI

Seen all the “Jurassic” movies, but still craving more on-screen dinos? There are options, but be warned: This genre is not at the top of the cinematic food chain. Here’s a quick guide to what’s out there:

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966) A minor classic from stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen. The dinos may not dazzle like today’s CGI creatures, but they have a warmth and personality that computers still can’t fully replicate. Bonus points for casting Raquel Welch as Loana the Fair One in an animal-pelt bikini.

THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988) Directed by former Disney bigwig Don Bluth, this animated film is more cute than terrifying, which makes it best for very young viewers. The plot centers on several tiny dinos (with names like Littlefoot, Duckie and Petrie) who embark on a journey toward the Great Valley.

THE FLINTSTONES (1994) This live-action version of the animated television show, starring John Goodman as Fred, tends to split opinions: Some found it a boisterous if slightly crude comedy, while others found it an ugly-looking grotesquerie. The barks of Dino the dinosaur are archived audio of Mel Blanc from the original show.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008) While not an official remake nor sequel to the 1959 film, this family-friendly adventure marks one of the last times Brendan Fraser, that dependable charmer, appeared in a major role. Here he plays volcanologist Trevor Anderson, who discovers a prehistoric world within our own. A pre-”Hunger Games” Josh Hutcherson stars as Anderson’s 13-year-old nephew, Max. — RAFER GUZMAN

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