Golly, maybe life really will find a way, even in a franchise whose last installment played like a zombified version of the original entry from Steven Spielberg. Director J.A. Bayona’s most recent feature was titled A Monster Calls, and featured a child dealing with painful news about his mother. Bayona weaves a remarkably similar storyline into a tentpole film about dinosaurs, and even more remarkably, he makes it work to genuine emotional effect. The film asks the question, “Having created monsters, do we have the right — perhaps even the obligation — to destroy them?” The answer comes from the little girl who spends so much of the film screaming, running, and hiding from the monsters in her house. And the dinos are monsters here, make no mistake. It’s not just the (admittedly absurd but still chillingly creepy) scene where the moppet cringes in bed while the bloodthirsty beastie crawls closer and closer. The biological definition of “monster” is “a grossly anomalous fetus or infant,” and the word is taken from the Latin monstrum, which may be translated “unnatural event.” Like Victor Frankenstein’s awful experiment, these critters were cooked up in a lab, and the deviation from the natural order — expounded upon so delightfully by Jeff Goldblum at the film’s beginning and end — has very real, concrete consequences. (Short version: babies need a mother, and monsters will take care of their own.) Some very fine visuals here — silhouettes and shadows — which unfortunately have to do battle with a very intrusive score. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
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