3 out of 5 stars.
The dinosaurs are out of the park and into the great big world, as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the sequel to the 2015 reboot of the “Jurassic Park” series, starts to live up to that title. The film picks up three years after the destruction of the park in “Jurassic World.” The dinosaurs are still living on Isla Nublar, but an impending volcanic eruption threatens their existence. The world is locked in debate as to whether the dinosaurs should be saved, or left to go extinct yet again.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now head of the Dinosaur Protection Group. She is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond’s former partner who helped him create the technology used to clone the dinosaurs. Lockwood and his aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) have a plan to relocate the dinosaurs to a new island, and want Claire to go to Isla Nublar, as she has the security clearance to help track the dinosaurs. And as they need to make sure they save Blue, the last Velociraptor, his former trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) is coerced to come along.
“Fallen Kingdom” doesn’t seem to know what sort of movie it wants to be (besides a movie about dinosaurs chasing people). Of course things on the island don’t go as planned, but the part of the movie that follows these sequences is so different, as we suddenly switch from a mission to save the dinosaurs to just trying to survive the dinosaurs, as they roam around the confines of a mansion while corrupt individuals prepare to sell them for millions to mercenaries to use as weapons—but the endgame, at least for Claire, is still to protect rather than destroy the dinosaurs. “Fallen Kingdom” presents some interesting ethical dilemmas, but the script isn’t intelligent enough to fully carry them out, so many of the characters’ motivations remain muddled. More time is spent on dino action, which is really what most moviegoers show up to these movies in droves for, and following around the most exaggerated villains the franchise has seen yet, but the film takes itself too seriously considering how ridiculous it really is.
That action is pretty fun though, and offers up a different vibe than we’ve seen in the previous “Jurassic” movies. The film opens effectively, with a group of mercenaries on a mission to retrieve DNA samples from the Indominus rex from the bottom of the ocean, and the scene offers some of the best thrills of the movie. Once the story progresses to the mansion, the action takes on more of a horror tone, with the characters having to sneak and hide from the dinosaurs prowling around the house. Director J.A. Bayona, who has some background in horror, does a nice job making some of these shots truly terrifying, like a dinosaur emerging from the darkness, visible to the audience but unseen to the characters.
Several of the characters from the previous film are back, along with some new faces. Pratt and Howard reprise their roles, and they are still fun to watch together, even though Claire is less staid and quicker to jump into action in this film. Isabella Sermon joins them as Lockwood’s daughter Maisie, who plays a large role in the story, and Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda add a fun dynamic as a vet and a technician who work with Claire, even though they weirdly disappear from the film for large periods of time. There are a few cameos as well, most notably Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as Ian Malcolm for the first time since 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”—a cameo that is sadly wasted, as virtually no reference is made to the character or his history and the role could have been filled by anyone.
Malcolm does warn the characters about the dangers of repeating past mistakes, a sentiment that hopefully the filmmakers will pay attention to when embarking upon the third installment of “Jurassic World.” The film, which was written by Derek Connolly and the first film’s director, Colin Trevorrow, recycles a lot of ideas that the franchise has already explored, despite trying some new things. The characters just flat out never learn. And yeah, the visual effects look great, but there isn’t anything particularly awe-inspiring about the dinosaurs in this film. Maybe it’s because, like the characters who live in this universe, the audience has grown accustomed to seeing them on screen. The sense of wonder that was present throughout the first “Jurassic Park,” and that was even there to some extent in “Jurassic World,” is absent from “Fallen Kingdom.” And without that inexplicable feeling that you’re watching something wonderful, something that many of the characters refer to as a miracle, this film is little more than a high-budget creature feature.
Runtime: 128 minutes. Rated PG-13.