I would say the thrill is gone but, let's be honest, there hasn't been a whole lot of movie magic in the Jurassic Park franchise since Sam Neill, Laura Dern and a dynamite supporting cast had a field day 25 years ago.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is perhaps the worst of all Steven Spielberg-directed pictures (at least 1941 is an ambitious failure), while I kinda-sorta get a kick out of Jurassic Park 3 and Jurassic World for low-brow thrills. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest entry in this increasingly ear-piercing franchise, operates at roughly the same middling level as those two latter films. If hardly a snooze, there's not a hint of inspiration to be found.
Less a family-friendly adventure than an unhinged monster movie, director J.A. Bayona veers the series into a more cataclysmic, violent direction and the results are only intermittently diverting.
It's been three years since the ferocious chaos over at the Jurassic World theme park, which has left abandoned the island of Isla Nublar. Stateside, Congress is debating whether the remaining dinosaurs on the island should be rescued from an imminent volcanic eruption. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's former operations manager, has spearheaded a non-profit organization dedicated to saving reptiles and, when the government ultimately passes on such a mission, she is recruited by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a former colleague of John Hammond's (Richard Attenborough), to embark on an expedition to move the dinosaurs to a new island sanctuary.
Concerned Blue, the last remaining Velociraptor, will be difficult to locate, Claire convinces Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Blue's former trainer, to join her and the crew on the mission. Upon arrival on Isla Nublar, things don't go quite as expected for Claire and Owen, who are greeted by a by a savage crew of mercenaries with more monetary intentions in mind. They've been hired by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), Lockwood's malicious assistant, to sedate and capture the dinosaurs and bring them back to the states for auction.
That volcano, no surprise, does erupt, but not before a handful of the reptiles have been captured and voyaged back to the U.S. Claire and Owen sneak their way back to the Lockwood estate, which, before long, becomes a house of horrors, as the latest genetically engineered dinosaur, the Indoraptor, escapes and has no hesitation to inflict carnage on everything and everyone in its path.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom offers no shortage of stimulating set pieces but even its best sequences feel familiar and devoid of real imagination. Where Howard is stronger here than the first time around, Pratt looks bored, this screenplay not providing him the same opportunity as the first to constantly charm and quip his way through the proceedings. The supporting cast is uniformly underused, the most egregious instance being the great Geraldine Chaplin, relegated to the most underwritten of roles.
If not the abomination of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom still mostly underwhelms and, more than ever, calls into question the sustainability of this flimsy franchise.