You don’t need me to tell you “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” opens this weekend.
If you watched any of the Golden Knights’ historic trip through the NHL postseason — and, judging by the ratings, you did — the movie got nearly as much screen time as that gap in Alex Ovechkin’s smile.
Honestly, if the technology existed, I wouldn’t have been surprised if NBC, the sister company of “Jurassic World” studio Universal, had set a raptor loose on the ice. (As long as the Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson was out there at the time, though, I’m not certain I would have minded.)
Anyway, it’s been three years since the theme park was destroyed, and now Isla Nublar itself is in danger. There’s an active volcano on the island, ready to erupt at any minute, that will kill every last remaining dinosaur.
The fact that not one but two wealthy CEOs, John Hammond and Simon Masrani, decided to build theme parks full of dinosaurs on a remote island with a volcano is simply astounding.
In the years since escaping the park, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has devoted her life to caring for the animals through the horribly named Dinosaur Protection Group. She’s recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) to save as many as she can. Mills, you see, is the assistant to the frail Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the heretofore never-even-hinted-at partner who developed the dinosaur cloning technique with Hammond — despite Hammond’s having been established as possessing zero scientific abilities.
Claire hasn’t seen Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) since their breakup. But Mills desperately needs Blue, the raptor that Owen raised like a child, so Claire drags him back into danger. “Save the dinosaurs on an island that’s about to explode. What could go wrong?” Owen snarks.
Plenty. Just not in ways the filmmakers intended.
Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, half of the writing staff of “Jurassic World,” and J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”), taking over directing duties from Trevorrow, create a handful of exciting moments on Isla Nublar. What they don’t do is demonstrate any knowledge of how lava works. (Hint: Its temperature is more than 1,000 degrees. It isn’t acid; it doesn’t have to touch you to dissolve you. Also, something that hot can’t exactly sneak up on a person.)
But they set roughly the entire second half of the movie inside a creepy, preposterously elaborate mansion. A dinosaur movie has never felt so claustrophobic.
Without giving too much away, there’s a group of shady individuals who have sinister designs on the Isla Nublar refugees, which creates a bit of a dilemma: Do you root for the cold-blooded monsters who could destroy the world? Or do you root for the dinosaurs?
Claire and Owen are joined by hacker Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), aka Screamy von Nerdsalot, and paleo-veterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), both of whom disappear for long stretches and aren’t particularly missed. The combined characters don’t register half as strongly as Lowery Cruthers, the fanboy control room employee played by “New Girl’s” Jake Johnson, who was the unsung hero of “Jurassic World.”
But at least Jeff Goldblum is back as Dr. Ian Malcolm, right? Yes. For about four minutes. And he’s simply testifying at a Senate hearing, urging elected officials to let nature run its course on the island.
Claire, meanwhile, is intent on saving every last one of the creatures — except the one attacking her and Owen. Killing that one, which is only following its instincts, is just fine. It’s a confusing message in a confusing movie.
Even Pratt, one of the most gifted action-comedy actors around, is rarely allowed to showcase his charisma.
The premise of “Jurassic World” was that people who have grown up with dinosaurs — i.e., the generation raised on “Jurassic Park” and its sequels — have grown bored with them and that those who create the dinosaurs must keep upping the ante to create interest. Instead of upping the ante, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” mucks its hand.
The best entries in the franchise elicit a genuine sense of wonder. The only wonder on display here is wondering how things turned out so terribly dull.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.