In the fifth movie in this franchise, the pleasure, as always, is in the immaculately rendered, entirely believable dinosaurs. But the director and screenwriters don’t seem to trust the creatures, so they throw in lots of distractions.
There’s no optimism, in movies or beyond, quite like the optimism of the characters who populate the “Jurassic World” (formerly “Jurassic Park”) franchise; these people, despite absurdly abundant evidence to the contrary, genuinely believe that they can rescue or kidnap or otherwise interact with irritable carnivorous dinosaurs and nothing will go wrong. Nothing! Ever! Except all those things that went wrong before! Which they are not talking about, because if they did there would be no movie.
It’s been three years since “Jurassic World,” and now “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the fifth movie in the franchise (clearly, these folks will never learn) reunites us with Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the running-in-heels heroine of the previous film. Claire is now, wouldn’t you know, a dinosaur advocate in sensible boots, and she teams up with handsome dino whisperer Owen (the ever-charming Chris Pratt), paleoveterinarian (!) Zia (Daniella Pineda) and genius hacker/person-who-would-rather-not-be-near-dinosaurs Franklin (Justice Smith) to rescue the surviving Jurassic World dinosaurs from a nefarious plot that … makes no sense at all, if you think about it.
Anyway, let’s just say that there are a number of snarly villains here who wish to use the dinosaurs for ill, and that the dinosaurs have a remarkable ability to focus their munching on the nastiest characters (and, alas, on one very unfortunate goat). As always with this franchise, the pleasure is in the immaculately rendered, entirely believable dinosaurs, who have personalities and nuance and terrifyingly glinting eyes — and one of whom experiences an operatically spectacular demise. (Might they look even better in IMAX and/or 3D? Quite possibly, but I can’t say; for some reason, the film’s studio elected to show it to the press in non-IMAX 2D.)
But director J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible,” “The Orphanage”) and the screenwriters don’t seem to trust the creatures, so they throw in lots of distractions, such as an erupting volcano in the movie’s first half (You think you can outrun a dinosaur? Try outrunning molten lava!) and a truly bizarre subplot involving a little girl, James Cromwell in a neckerchief and the criminally underused Geraldine Chaplin. (Watch Chaplin in “The Orphanage” to see how she and Bayona can do much better, on far less of a budget.) But even the heavenly chorus that’s working overtime on the soundtrack can’t drown out the lack of chemistry between Howard and Pratt. And the movie too often defaults to people running around screaming — which is, to be fair, the backbone of this franchise, but it gets awfully old here.
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Nonetheless, things wrap up with an ending that not only leaves the door open for a sequel, it invites the sequel in and offers it a drink. Nothing will go wrong next time — I’m sure of it.
★★ “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Rafe Spall, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum. Directed by J.A. Bayona, from a screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. 130 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. Multiple theaters.