The series that began 25 summers ago with “Jurassic Park” is back with its fifth movie, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” for one good reason: dinosaurs are cool. That, and they make lots of money.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is more of the same, with at least one element that, as usual, is bigger than its predecessors. This time it’s a brand-new hybrid dinosaur, deadly and smart and relentless. And it gets loose.
Like the other sequels, this one conjures up a pressing reason to get people back to the island where 2015’s “Jurassic World” took place and ended in destruction.
An active volcano threatens to wipe out the island and all the remaining dinosaurs. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who used to run the park, is campaigning to have the great beasts rescued and deposited “somewhere safe.”
She has two new assistants helping her, a spunky young doctor, Zia Rodriguez (Oakland’s Daniella Pineda), and a nervous computer technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith).
She gets word that a frail old millionaire, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who once helped John Hammond on the first dinosaur clones, has a plan to save them. So Claire must find her old flame Owen Grayd (Chris Pratt) — the only one that can track and catch “Blue,” the Velociraptor from the last movie — and get to the island.
Unfortunately, others have more nefarious ideas in mind, and before long the bad guys — greedy, selfish, cold-hearted millionaires — are bidding on caged dinosaurs to be sold for sport, or as weapons.
The movie sends mixed messages when the dinosaurs rip into the bad guys with teeth and claws; neither the heroes, nor the audience, seems to mind, so long as the most loathsome, lowdown targets are hit. It’s pretty sweet revenge, useless, but satisfying.
Spanish director J.A. Bayona — who made the terrific ghost movie “The Orphanage,’ the visual-effects and anguish-laden “The Impossible” about a tsunami, and “A Monster Calls” about a friendly monster and terminal illness — brings a bit of those films to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” but leaves behind the anguish and illness.
Taking cues from Steven Spielberg, he includes a quick shot in a gift-shop window (resembling a moment from “E.T.”), a reference to the famous rear-view mirror, and the pre-reaction shots of characters looking up in awe before showing the dinosaurs.
He also creates a near-perfect, heartbreaking moment: As the ship leaves the lava-strewn island, a Brachiosaurus alone on the dock watches curiously, almost sadly, encompassed by smoke and heat, helplessly looking on as the humans float away.
Another masterstroke was bringing back Jeff Goldblum as chaos theorist Ian Malcolm from the first Spielberg movies for a few quick scenes. In 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” he summed up the series in one line: “Oooh! Ahhh! That’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”
Here, he offers the real theme, the same one as in “Frankenstein”: When humans meddle with nature, they bring chaos and destruction.
He makes the point concisely, and in his singular Jeff Goldblum cadence, but “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” eventually takes the destruction a few beats too far.
The film’s too many subplots grow wearying, and even numbing, in the final act. For too long, characters don’t do much more than stare agape at rampaging beasties, and lots of things get smashed.
While there’s certainly more here than in, say, a “Transformers” sequel, “Fallen Kingdom” is still a sequel that doesn’t have much to add to its series.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Two and a half stars
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda
Written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes