Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise and the sequel to Jurassic World (2015) has its moments. Director JA Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible) creates a tense atmosphere in the fights between human and dinosaur only at the the tail end of the 128-minute movie. Cinematographer Oscar Faura efficiently conveys scale and splendour through imagery, such as a tiny plane flying by gigantic mountains. The movie frequently, if not always successfully, invokes the iconic scene from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original, Jurassic Park, in which the characters first encounter the dinosaurs and are awestruck.
The biggest failings of the sequel, co-written by Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, are that the human characters never truly become interesting and there aren’t enough dinosaurs. For large portions of the movie, the perfect predators are reduced to whimpering animals that would not be out of place in a petting zoo.
The movie is set three years after the events of the 2015 film, which ended with dinosaur trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) and theme park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) fleeing the island Isla Nublar after an artificially created dinosaur went on the rampage. Owen and Claire are called back to the island by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who is shepherding the surviving dinosaurs to a sanctuary owned by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) before a volcano erupts. Lockwood, however, has other plans for the creatures.
Many of the characters seem to have been created to fit an audience-friendly demographic chart. There’s a tattooed, tough-talking hipster (Daniella Pineda), a constantly frightened geek hacker (Justice Smith) and a young adventurous girl (Isabella Sermon) who uncovers mystery after mystery. These underwritten characters are never fleshed out, and the actors never do them justice either. The only time any of the human interactions become interesting are when veterans such as Toby Jones and Jeff Goldblum appear on the screen.
The film does have a few charming moments and decent action scenes, and all of them involve dinosaurs. But whenever any energy builds up, the film falls into its tired old patterns, resorting to either safety or danger at the last minute. The characters are either completely safe when a dinosaur suddenly pops up, or they are in extreme peril when something miraculous brings them out of harm’s way.
The first film in the series, Jurassic Park, was lean and taut, had little exposition and just the right amount of back story. As the franchise progressed, the writers fleshed out certain elements that did not actually need to be explained or repeated the original theme of whether humans should play god and clone prehistoric creatures. The main thrill of the movies, however, isn’t the animal rights allegory embedded into the narrative. It is the spectacle of giant dinosaurs wreaking havoc on the screen, and Fallen Kingdom doesn’t have enough of these moments.