Years after the closing of Jurassic World, the volcano on the island of Isla Nublar, the home of all surviving dinosaurs, threatens to erupt. Former Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is tasked with relocating the remaining dinosaurs by the former business partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). She assembles a team comprised of dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), paleoveterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), and IT technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), to carry out the rescue.
Of course, things start going wrong almost immediately, in exactly the ways you would expect it to. It’s a Jurassic Park movie, so you’ve got to have shady businessmen, monologues about the ethics of genetic experimentation, and dinosaurs killing people. The venerable T-Rex saving the protagonists by killing a threat, then triumphantly roaring is apparently so incredible that they felt the need to have it occur twice this time around. Engaging characters and clever jokes can make a flimsy plot compelling, but you won’t find either here. The characterizations are paper thin and most of the gags barely register as jokes. It’s actually impressive how badly Connelly and Trevorrow squander Chris Pratt’s comedic abilities. The script’s shortcomings extend to the villains as well. The antagonists are so incompetent, and their plans so poorly thought out, that I’m not sure how we’re supposed to believe that they survived into adulthood.
Unlike its predecessor, Fallen Kingdom has the visual style to make up for some of the deficits in the perfunctory screenplay. Óscar Faura’s cinematography is vibrant and foreboding, making great use of ash, fire, and shadows. The opening scene and the island escape, in particular, contain some truly memorable shots. The many sequences of dinosaurs stalking and attacking humans and other dinosaurs give Bayona plenty of opportunities to show off his talent for crafting suspense. The action scenes are remarkably tense, even if they do demonstrate a disregard for the laws of physics. The eruption sequence, in particular, massively downplays the heat of lava and the speed of volcanic ash. In the Jurassic Park universe, lava appears to only be about as hot as a seat belt buckle left out in the sun.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a modest improvement for the franchise, but the jumbled storytelling does its damnedest to ruin whatever enjoyment you might derive from the viscerally entertaining action and the charismatic cast. The series has to stop being beholden to the formula established 25 years ago. Showing us the same things that happened in Jurassic Park in a mildly different context is not enough to recapture the magic of the original. All of the sequels are just permutations of the same ideas, recycled into increasingly incoherent remixes. The dinosaurs deserve better.