“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (PG-13)
You will need to buy the jumbo popcorn to get through the 128 minutes of near-miss deaths, jump scares and dino carnage that devours “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Or maybe you’ll need to munch on the buttery, salty treat to endure the boredom that eventually sets in when the totally implausible story craps out and devolves into just another haunted-house flick. Where is Steven Spielberg’s adventurous spirit when you need it? At least this time Bryce Dallas Howard gets to run around in sensible boots instead of spike heels. Small miracles.
Director J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”) — working from a script by “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly — sets the course for mayhem in an opening sequence showing two dudes piloting an underwater vehicle, searching for the remains of the gigantic Indominus rex that met its demise in the last movie. “Relax, if there were anything in here we’d be dead by now,” one character says. You can guess what happens next.
Fast-forward three years. A volcano threatens to erupt, wiping out whatever is left on Isla Nublar, namely any of the dinosaurs that survived the events in “World.” Howard’s Claire runs the grassroots Dinosaur Protection Group. Dino-whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt) is out of the raptor-wrangling game, hundreds of miles away drinking beer, playing pool and building a log cabin. Jeff Goldblum is testifying before Congress about animal rights, genetic power and “manmade cataclysmic change.”
Meanwhile, John Lockwood (James Cromwell), who was John Hammond’s (the late Richard Attenborough) partner at InGen, the company from the Spielberg “Jurassic” flicks that initially cloned the dinosaurs, throws Claire a lifeline. She’s summoned to the creepy Lockwood Estate, where the smug Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), Lockwood’s crony, gives her piles of money to save the dinosaurs and transport them to a sanctuary city, err, island. The script — which is incredibly heavy on exposition — sends Claire, Owen and two franchise newcomers, Paleo-veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and skittish systems analyst Franklin (Justice Smith), to the island to track and locate the dinosaurs, most importantly Blue, one of the trained raptors Owen raised, but time is ticking because the island is about to blow.
What ensues is little more than a retread of all that came before: Last-second escapes from the clutches of a raptor’s mouth, dino-on-dino battles, children in peril, double crosses, scientific mumbo-jumbo, slimy dinosaur fluids, and all the paleo-pandemonium one can stomach. Admittedly, a few of the kill shots, both beast and human, are pretty epic. Eleven-year-old boys will lose their minds. An image of the gentle-giant Apatosaurus burning up in a cloud of smoke and lava is effectively sad and compelling. The rest of the way is missteps, contrivances and overall ridiculousness. Pratt’s roguish charm is practically neutered. The script doesn’t give him much to work with. I’ve never seen him this wooden. The action eventually shifts back to the Lockwood Estate, where Eli plans to sell the dinosaurs to the highest bidders. Once confined inside the walls of that antiseptic castle with multiple levels and laboratories, the movie stops dead in its tracks. Bayona has lost the “Jurassic” loving feeling, swapping that vibe for cheap haunted-house thrills and kills.
The supporting cast is given a few moments to shine. Smith’s Franklin has a running joke about his aversion to T-rexs that is worth a few chuckles. Toby Jones is dastardly as a dinosaur auctioneer. Ted Levine is a ruthless mercenary with a fetish for dinosaur teeth. Isabella Sermon plays the young Maisie, Lockwood’s granddaughter. The real scene stealer, though, is the Stygimoloch, a head-banging dinosaur with an unusually large noggin who comes through in the clutch. Unlike the movie, the Stygimoloch at least is boneheaded for a reason.