“A rescue op? What could go wrong?” Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) intones. The answer to that hypothetical question is, of course, everything — including the film as a whole. Suffering from a lack of nuance and emotional investment, the faulty execution of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” matches the dystopian tone of its narrative.
With the doomed island from “Jurassic World” still populated by dinosaurs, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is committed to saving abandoned dinosaurs from the path of an erupting volcano, forming a team for a last-ditch rescue mission.
The narrative thus positions morality into an easy binary. Bad guys want to exploit and sell dinosaurs. Good guys want to help the creatures. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” doesn’t add to the dialogue surrounding the ethics of genetically creating organisms, despite muddying the waters with one underdeveloped twist, but it instead focuses its attention on simply providing visual stimulation.
The sequel includes a wealth of impressive set pieces, its action messily spilling over into multiple scenes. One memorable sequence humbly pairs an erupting volcano with a dinosaur stampede. A visceral battle between a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops serves as the cherry on top.
Despite these grandiose action sequences, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” frequently forgets just what kind of movie it’s supposed to be. It makes feeble passes at horror, with the sequence in Maisie’s (Isabella Sermon) bedroom landing like bizarre whiplash after mind-numbingly displays of gratuitous action.
This halfhearted horror scene feels familiar: It starts with a darkened bedroom. A slow-moving hand gently rattles and opens the balcony door. Maisie ducks her head under her covers while a shadowy dinosaur inches ever near, filled with menace. Despite its liberal participation in spooky cliché, it’s utterly jaw-dropping how ineffective this scene is. Its attempted subtlety falls flat after the previous hour of unrelenting carnage.
The audience at this point has seen this dinosaur brutally rip an arm off and ingest a man — there’s no real payoff or satisfying buildup before its appearance in this scene. We get it — dinosaurs are scary.
Perhaps as a compensation for its lack of emotional impact, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” also busies itself with quoting “Jurassic Park” at every opportunity. The iconography from the original is present in this latest iteration, yet these symbols haunt the film like tragic phantoms rather than lending it credibility.
Jeff Goldblum makes a brief reappearance, but his cameo provides little more than fan service, and his limited screen time ultimately hamstrings the charm of Dr. Ian Malcolm. John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) amber-tipped walking stick gets significant screen time and is later shattered — the film treats its source material similarly.
The most egregious and ill-conceived reference happens when the band of rescuers first catch a glimpse of a brachiosaur. The scene is a repeat of one in “Jurassic Park,” its soundtrack rehashing John Williams’ iconic theme. However, the notes feel wrong — in the place of a swelling orchestra is a smattering of feeble piano notes that instead rends the listener hollow.
This is the first time Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) see dinosaurs. This scene, feasibly, should leave an emotional impact. Yet it feels rushed, more of a thoughtless regurgitation than stirring homage.
The brachiosaur is hurried off screen in exchange for bigger dinosaurs with more teeth. While the original film mirrored the awe of first seeing dinosaurs with its audience, the absent sense of amazement is due to the fact that it follows, yet again, a scene in which we just saw a buttload of dinos.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” delivers action and dinosaurs, but it stumbles in its attempts to provide anything more. A lack of wonder and imagination is what has truly gone extinct from this franchise.
Sarah Alford covers film. Contact her at [email protected].