One thing is for sure, the “Jurassic Park” movies are not an endangered species. The film series, now entering its fourth iteration since 1993’s prehistoric original, has outlived most other monster movie franchises of its vintage. With another one already scheduled for 2021 the dinos-gone-wild-movies show no signs of extinction. It seems audiences have an endless appetite to see people become dinosaur snacks.
The new one, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” picks up three years after the “de-extinct” dinosaurs destroyed Isla Nublar, the island paradise where “Jurassic World” took place. Now abandoned and overrun by dinosaurs, the former theme park and its inhabitants face a new threat—“the flashpoint animal rights issue of our time,” we’re told—in the form of a volcano poised cover everything in a thick layer of molten lava.
Some people, like Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), feel nature should be allowed to take its course even if that means the end of the dinosaurs. Others, like Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond’s partner in developing the dinosaur clone technology, want to see them rescued. Enter two former park employees, dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—the Cesar Millan of the dinosaur world—and former park director Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and small team of helpers, computer whiz and comic relief Franklin (Justice Smith) and paleo veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) who spearhead a campaign to relocate the creatures to a newer, safer sanctuary. “Save the dinosaurs from an island that is about to explode,” says Owen. “What could go wrong?” Lots. There’s more, like a nefarious plan to sell the rescued dinosaurs and a “creature of the future made from pieces of the past” but who cares as long as the creatures are let loose.
Sure enough, half-an-hour into “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” after some call backs and set up, dinos are chasing humans, summing up the two most important elements of the Jurassic franchise—giant dinosaurs and people for them to eat. Other stuff, like narrative logic, plain old common sense and interesting characters, come a distant second to gnarling teeth and big action set pieces.
The usual franchise mumbo jumbo about science tampering with the natural world is in place but it’s even more cursory than in the first “World” film. Instead it embraces the thing that has always been at the rapidly beating heart of these movies, monster mayhem and on that level it succeeds.
Ultimately, however, the stakes are very low. It is obvious who will become a dinosaur entree and who won’t. Also much of the danger has been replaced by more family friendly light moments—i.e. Owen doing a tranquilized acrobatic act to escape molten lava or Franklin’s ladder gag. There is some suspense, but it’s not subtle like Alfred Hitchcock style suspense. Instead it’s will-Owen-get-eaten-by-a-dinosaur-as-Claire-and-Franklin-roll-away-into-a-giant-motorized-orb suspense.
By the end credits what do we learn about “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”? Chris Pratt could probably outrun Tom Cruise without breaking a sweat. The rules of physics and do not apply in Dino Land. When you have dinosaurs you don’t need much else and some sequels are easier to set up than others.