The premise-establishing scene in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” plays like a “Saturday Night Live” skit with Jeff Goldblum as the host that particular week.
Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm is testifying at a Senate hearing about the fate of the genetically engineered dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, site of a couple of minor (cough-cough) dino theme park disasters in the past.
Here’s the deal. An impending volcanic eruption on the island will wipe out the dinosaurs and render them extinct once again.
The question before the committee: Should we let the dinosaurs die, or attempt to rescue some of the creatures and bring them to the States?
One expects Dr. Malcolm to jump up on the table and say: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Have you people not been paying attention? If you save these dinosaurs, they will EAT YOU!”
Indeed, Malcolm does advocate for nature taking its course and for leaving the dinosaurs to their fate — but of course there are nefarious forces who have their own reasons for extracting the beasts from the island, and off we go on an adventure that grows increasingly ridiculous and dopey with each passing development.
How bad is “Fallen Kingdom”? How terrible is a movie that pounds us with a pretentious, nearly operatic score while indulging in B-movie clichés and calling for the main characters to make idiotic decisions just to keep the story rolling?
I have to dig deep into the Awful Sequel Playbook to draw parallels to this exercise in wretched excess.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is “Rocky V” bad.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is “Jaws 3-D” bad.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is “Lethal Weapon 4” bad.
It picks up three years after the events of “Jurassic World,” which was set 22 years after “Jurassic Park.”
With the aforementioned volcano spewing lava left and right and the dinosaurs facing near-certain extinction, Jurassic World’s former operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the head of the Dinosaur Protection Group, which is desperately trying to, well, protect the dinosaurs.
Just when all hope seems to be lost, Claire is thrilled to hear from Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the onetime partner of Jurassic Park mastermind John Hammond. She meets with Lockwood and his right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) at Lockwood’s sprawling estate in Northern California, and quickly agrees to join their covert operation to rescue 11 species from the island and bring them to a sanctuary where they will be allowed to live and thrive in peace.
Come on, Claire. Ask a few more questions before signing up for this insane and illegal and dangerous mission to rescue angry dinosaurs from an island where a volcano is erupting!
But wait, what about Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, the incredibly intuitive velociraptor trainer? Remember his special connection with “Blue,” the smartest Raptor ever? Could it be Owen is living a quiet life off the grid, happy to be away from all the Jurassic World madness and never even thinking about Claire? Wouldn’t it be something if she showed up out of the blue and talked him into joining the crazy mission?
Yes to all of the above.
Along for the ride: the brilliant and feisty “paleo-veterinarian” Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), who knows everything about these creatures but has never actually seen one in person, and the obligatory techno-geek Franklin (Justice Smith), who squeals and screams at even the hint of danger.
Claire, Owen, Zia and Franklin accompany the massive, military-style operation descending on the island to extract the dinosaurs. The leader of the operation is one Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). He has dozens, nay, hundreds, of automatic weapon-toting henchmen obeying his every command. They don’t seem like Dinosaur Protection Group enthusiasts. Wake up, Claire and company!
“Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom” goes bat-bleep crazy once the dinosaurs are transported to Lockwood’s estate. Toby Jones — the esteemed Toby Jones! — shows up as Mr. Eversol, a creepy arms dealer of sorts who presides over an auction of the various dinosaurs, because it turns out they can be weaponized and turned into nearly indestructible war machines, I kid you not.
One by one, the caged, roaring creatures are paraded out on a runway, as Mr. Eversol takes bids from the crowd.
Imagine the construction crews working for years on the elaborate, underground scheme of cages and a runway, etc. Not to mention all the parking they’d have to provide for international war criminals from around the world! I guess they all signed Non-Disclosure Agreements, and yes, I know I’m finding fault with the credibility of a movie about modern-day dinosaurs.
But wait, it gets crazier. One of the dinosaurs suddenly becomes a clever and cunning horror movie villain, capable of opening doors and tapping its claws impatiently while a potential victim hides.
Meanwhile, we learn a deeply disturbing truth about one character — I mean, a DEEPLY disturbing truth — and it barely registers with Claire and Owen.
Director J.A. Bayona has a gift for creating some arresting visual images. Perhaps the most memorable is a scene in which a long-necked brachiosaurus becomes aware of its fate and lets out a mournful cry.
If only we cared as much about any of the human characters as much we feel for that anonymous beast seen from a distance.
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril). Running time: 128 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.