The main draw of the Jurassic Park series is the scenes of carnage caused by genetically engineered dinosaurs after they inevitably escape containment and run amuck. This is certainly the case with all five movies so far. The best of the franchise (namely, the original Jurassic Park as well as parts of series reboot Jurassic World) take almost as much care in creating its human characters as it does the impressive creatures. Okay, maybe not as much, but enough so you care about them when things get real. The latest entry, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, does not do that. I would say it fails to do that, however you cannot fail if you do not try. This screenplay has no time for story or character development. The result is some decent monster movie mayhem, a lot of dumb humans and little else.
The most recent chapter concluded with the theme park shut down and the island abandoned after the exhibits got loose. It has been three years since that happened and the dinosaurs are alone on the island, which is home to a now active volcano. Our heroes, Claire Dearing and Owen Grady, have to risk their lives once more to save these creatures from going extinct again.
If you want character development, you will have to go back and watch the previous film. There is very little information about what has transpired between Owen and Claire since the first Jurassic World ended. Fallen Kingdom has no patience for it. It is pretty much non-stop action. There are some cool moments but, without emotional stakes, it was hard to care about any of it. At 119 minutes (plus a post-credits scene), this is actually fairly lean for a summer blockbuster. That is because they left all the plot and personality out of the script. In its place is a lot of running and yelling.
Fallen Kingdom is a really loud movie, with noise replacing substance. That being said, there are definitely things to like. Director J.A. Bayona has already shown himself capable of quality work with the disaster film The Impossible and the fantasy A Monster Calls. While he does not have the opportunity to use nuance or subtlety here as he did in those, he does make good use of light and shadows to build suspense. He may have a great thriller in him. This is not it, though he does include a few very impressive touches.
The way he lets viewers kind of catch a glimpse of something in the background of a shot seconds before fully revealing it is quite the effective tool. We know of a danger the heroes are unaware of. He does this either with shadows on a wall or the brief flickering of lights. If the payoffs are lacking, that is more the fault of the screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Treverrow (who also directed and co-wrote Jurassic World). Bayona creates tension as successfully as he can; unfortunately, there was little he could do to stop the story from fizzling it out.
The film is well directed and has a good cast (including the returning Chris Pratt (whose movie star talents are largely wasted here), and Bryce Dallas Howard, along with Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Ted Levine), but it takes the humanity out of the Jurassic Park formula, leaving only the chaos. I guess if all you want from your summer movies is action and special effects, this may do the trick. However, if you are looking for at least a little depth, you can skip this one and hope they are more successful with the inevitable sixth entry.
2¾ out of 5
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Rafe Spall as Eli Mills
Daniella Pineda as Zia Rodriguez
Justice Smith as Franklin Webb
Ted Levine as Ken Wheatley
James Cromwell as Benjamin Lockwood
Toby Jones as Mr. Eversol
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow