Following the phenomenal success of the first film in the franchise reboot, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to the abandoned dinosaur theme park to save the surviving species from impending extinction in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” a solidly suspenseful if overly familiar sequel costarring James Cromwell, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda and series returnees BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum.
Taking over the directorial reins from Colin Trevorrow this time around is J.A. Bayona, whose expertise in the realm of suspense (“The Orphanage”) and disaster films (“The Impossible”) is put to great use here as he crafts a nail-biting piece of blockbuster filmmaking that is consistently entertaining from start to finish. Thanks to the screenplay by “Jurassic World” co-writers Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, this latest entry in the storied franchise easily pulls off the tricky task of delving into the series’ rich history while also setting the stages for a whopper of a trilogy finale, all the while captivating viewers with its awe-inspiring extended action sequences and unceasing peril. And while the acting of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” like most action-oriented films, never extends beyond the serviceable category, there is more than enough working in its favor, from the inspired direction and astonishing special effects to the memorable cinematography and meticulous production design, to help this sequel achieve spectacular status.
Set three years after “Jurassic World,” “Fallen Kingdom” is once again centered on Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the now abandoned park’s operations manager, and Navy vet Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the park’s former lead raptor trainer. While the remaining dinosaurs roam free on Isla Nublar, the impending eruption of the island’s active volcano is certain to make these species extinct in the very near future – something that Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) suggests is best to restore civilization to its proper order. Claire, on the other hand, still regretting her mistakes that led to the downfall of the theme park in the previous installment, has begun the Dinosaur Protection Group with the intention of saving the island’s remaining dinosaurs – a benevolent endeavor if all goes according to plan.
Unfortunately, the rescue plan that Jurassic Park co-creator Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) has concocted is much more malevolent than anything Claire and Owen had in mind, leading to conspiracies and split allegiances aplenty. As the action shifts to the Lockwood estate, where the full extent of their plot is revealed, the amount of dino-related danger is ratcheted up to a frightening degree.
Continuing where the pair left off with “Jurassic World,” screenwriters Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly follow the formula that led to their first film achieving blockbuster status, and here they tackle similar themes of the abuse of science for financial gain and other ethical quandaries. In this regard, and in the film’s overreliance on chase sequences and callbacks to the previous installments, there is a frustrating familiarity to the proceedings, even though Bayona transcends this shortcoming by creating a sustained level of suspense that is truly impressive. As for the action, there are two truly memorable set pieces – the escape from the active volcano and the showdown at the Lockwood estate – that, with the amount of peril and ingenuity on display, are alone worth the price of admission.
Although “Fallen Kingdom” doesn’t provide its actors with the opportunity to show off much range, co-leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard once again prove equally capable of headlining a summer tentpole, confidently delivering on their respective roles’ action and comedic requirements. Justice Smith (“The Get Down”) and Daniella Pineda prove themselves valuable additions to the franchise as a pair of enterprising young members of Claire’s Dinosaur Protection Group, while “Jurassic Park” vets BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum turn in some solid cameos as corrupt geneticist Dr. Wu and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcom.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” delivers the sci-fi thrills and relentless action that audiences expect from the formidable franchise.
By Lucas Mirabella
Running Time: 128 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.