The dinosaurs are fine in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” It’s the people that are ridiculous and irritating, so much so that this latest sequel – which weaves in warnings about tampering with nature and genetic engineering – is a near-case study in mindless monster franchises run amok.
Picking up three years after “Jurassic World,” the story quickly reunites Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, in more sensible shoes this time) and dino wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt), who have had time to date and break up, the better to have them re-bond over their latest ordeal.
Still, the set-up is pretty absurd, with Claire now running a campaign to save the dinosaurs, who are in danger of becoming extinct all over again because the island where remnants of them have survived is about to be overwhelmed by a volcanic explosion. So Owen, Claire and a couple of new but equally poorly written characters (Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda) are drafted to embark on a mission to help transport the dinosaurs off the island, which, alas, only takes up about half of the movie, before a more nefarious plot kicks into gear.
Released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original, there are several modest callbacks to the earlier films, including a too-brief cameo featuring Jeff Goldblum’s character, there to deliver a cautionary note – again – about the dangers of dabbling in forces beyond our control and altering natural history.
For the most part, though, “Fallen Kingdom” (the fifth entry under the “Jurassic” banner) basically careens from one perilous encounter to the next, in a manner that generally feels more chaotic than exciting. Nor does it help that the heroes keep putting themselves in precarious situations, like trying to extract blood from a sleeping T-rex because, well, never mind.
Action, obviously, is the principal draw here, and the abundant special effects are appropriately dazzling. But there’s such a hectic quality to the storytelling that more becomes less, and the dinosaurs exhibit more depth than the people.
What started as a movie about a theme park thus becomes, perhaps inevitably, more of a theme-park ride than a movie – largely neutralizing other assets, Pratt’s charm and comedic skills foremost among them. And while one could charitably credit the filmmakers with trying to do something a little different, the plot ultimately boils down to “Greed is bad.”
Having already opened in several key territories, “Fallen Kingdom” is well on its way to being a hit even before the first showings in the U.S. Yet while the previous film distinguished itself in part by making its dinosaurs bigger and badder, the latest trip to “Jurassic World” merely manages to make them bigger – and worse.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” premieres June 22 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.