Review: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' a dino-sized disappointment
It's time for the "Jurassic Park" series to go extinct.
"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" — that's "Jurassic Park 5" for those keeping score — shows how tired and bereft of ideas this franchise has become. Let's face it: There are only so many different ways to cook up a humans-versus-dinosaurs premise. And "Fallen Kingdom" makes a desperate grab for that last straw, focusing on dinosaur rights, which we learn in a news bulletin early in the film is "the flashpoint animal rights issue of our time."
Yes, the Jurassic Park dinos, who turned on humans and ran amok in "Jurassic Park," "The Lost World," "Jurassic Park III" and "Jurassic World," now need our sympathy. Forget their track record and the fact that every time humans and dinosaurs mix, things go predictably awry. But yes, let's save the dinos! What could go wrong?
"Fallen Kingdom" at least seems aware of these been-there-done-that concerns, paying lipservice to them before brushing them aside and going on about business as usual. "What could go wrong?" Chris Pratt's Owen Grady asks, when he's recruited by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to return to Isla Nublar, the home of the now-shuttered dinosaur theme park, to rescue as many dino species as possible before an erupting volcano wipes out all life on the island.
He's persuaded against his better judgment, the mission funded by Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a former partner of original "Jurassic Park" dino scientist John Hammond (played in the original film by Sir Richard Attenborough). Lockwood's estate is being managed by the shifty Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who, it turns out, has alternative plans for the dinos, and intends to auction them off to super rich dudes who will use them for whatever purposes super rich dudes would have for dinosaurs.
The thrill of the "Jurassic Park" series goes back to Steven Spielberg's original film, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, and the wonder of seeing brontosauruses and T-Rexes and velociraptors alive on screen. There was a joy in those original reveals (especially against John Williams' warm, now-iconic score), and Spielberg, in peak form, made the film a horror movie carnival ride whose peaks still electrify today (even if the CGI isn't as impressive as it was the first time around).
The subsequent films in the series have never recaptured the wonderment of the first film, although 2015's "Jurassic World" was an unexpected smash, riding both the fervor of fans who grew up with the original and were pining for a new "Jurassic" adventure (it had been 14 years since "Jurassic Park III) and the white hot stardom of Pratt (who was launched into the stratosphere the previous summer with "Guardians of the Galaxy").
Three years later, "Fallen Kingdom" is lazier and less inspired than its predecessor, and even Pratt's star has cooled. (He'd do well to take on a role in a non-franchise film sooner rather than later.) And director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible") seems content to let everything play out as expected; only a dizzying one-take underwater sequence, with two characters trapped inside a sinking gyrosphere, has any real pizzazz, let alone suspense.
The movie also falls into the trap of thinking a bigger, badder dinosaur will overcome its shortcomings, so we're introduced to the Indoraptor, an upgrade of the last movie's Indominus rex. But guys, hear me out: the T-rex is plenty. If it's not, the problem isn't with the dinosaurs, it's with the script and its execution.
The film tosses a few punches at the Trump administration, for topicality purposes; aside from one character referring to Claire as a "nasty woman," there's a shot of a character with a really bad, really floppy blonde hair-do getting chomped up by a dinosaur. Point registered. But the wow factor of the "Jurassic Park" series is long gone, replaced by a routine sense of tedium. Close the park for good already.
'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom'
Rated PG-13: for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Running time: 130 minutes