Dinosaurs have captivated children since their remains were first discovered, and the latest installment of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” is childhood imagination on full display: volcanoes gushing molten lava, men driving armored vehicles and, of course, dinosaurs being truly terrible lizards. Unfortunately, director J.A. Bayona’s playful engagement with childhood fantasy bleeds into the rest of the film, making it feel more like a child’s disjointed daydream than a coherent, well-assembled blockbuster.
The film follows Jurassic World’s former operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former dinosaur trainer there, as they try to rescue Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption. The duo agree to help Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) transport them to another island sanctuary, secured through Eli’s management of Sir Benjamin Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) estate — the former business partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond. However, neither Claire nor Owen question Eli’s ability to conjure a new island sanctuary seemingly out of nowhere. Predictably, this becomes a problem once Claire and Owen exhaust their utility to Eli. He only wanted Blue, the velociraptor whom Owen had raised in the previous film; his henchmen tranquilize Owen and abandon Claire as soon as the animal is secured. Eli’s plan had not been to rescue the dinosaurs. Instead, it’s revealed that he intends to auction the animals for commercial purposes from an elaborate complex in Lockwood’s basement, built unbeknownst to Lockwood himself. But the success of his plan and the fate of the dinosaurs depends on a lack of meddling from Claire and Owen.
The suspension of disbelief required for that sequence, which makes up less than half of the film, is enough to jar anyone out of the film’s diegesis. And opportunities to draw viewers back in are repeatedly squandered by myriad absurdities: Dr. Henry Wu’s (B.D. Wong) latest genetic freak is seriously called the “Indoraptor,” while Lockwood fails to notice a dinosaur containment facility has been built under his house.
After the success of its predecessor, this iteration feels like someone lazily filled out a mad lib to develop the plot. The poor writing isn’t limited to plot construction, as the film’s tension rests on the premise that dinosaurs are worth preserving. Maybe they are, but the film’s dinosaurs are such cartoonishly violent, unrealistically animated creatures that they are hard empathize with.
The film also unconvincingly asks viewers to invest in new characters that feel randomly strewn about the film. During Claire’s visit to the Lockwood estate, Lockwood’s grand-daughter Maisie is introduced. Though she has a role to play in the plot, it’s so small that her character feels like it was created because of an apparent need for children in “Jurassic Park” movies. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum’s more established Ian Malcolm is present for only a pair of scenes, seemingly just to reiterate that “life finds a way.”
There is little worthwhile about “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” It’s a tired sequel to a tired franchise, made for the sake of churning out another movie, not because there is more of the story to tell. Neither Pratt’s nor Goldblum’s performances are particularly noteworthy, and there seems to have been little behind-the-scenes innovation to make the dinosaurs’ visual effects more convincing. While some of its action setpieces may entertain, the film’s poor construction and unoriginality will likely leave audience members disappointed.