Like a T-Rex impotently scrabbling its undersized arms, unable to reach the handle to flush its waste away, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom fails to overcome its own terrible design. This is a loud and overlong chore, with a potentially watchable movie buried deep in its first act.
Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire, brazenly character-tweaked into a dino-loving activist campaigning to save the beastly residents of Jurassic World from extinction by volcano. Old flame Owen (Chris Pratt) is roped in with her on a rescue attempt financed by a gurning Rafe Spall. Confusingly, he is backed by an utterly pointless Toby Jones – the film can no more choose a villain than it can construct a credible narrative.
Claire and Owen take with them witlessly plucky sidekicks of completely indeterminate age played by Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda. They bumble through the volcano’s eruption in a series of preposterous but broadly enjoyable set pieces that lull you into the hope that this film might not be too long. Before we know it, the island is exploded and the dinosaurs shipped off to an uncertain fate. At this point Fallen Kingdom switches gears into a plodding and badly-orchestrated slasher film. Protagonists sprint around a lazily realised stately home chased by various beasties. At times you could almost be watching Scooby Doo.
Our primary threat is the Indoraptor, a cross between the Velociraptor and the previous film’s Indominus Rex. The franchise appears to forget that the latter dinosaur was itself a similar cross between species, rendering this plotting unimaginably unoriginal. Or, perhaps, no one cared. This supposedly hyper-intelligent nasty chases relentlessly once released, apart from when it suits for it to instead creep and menace. The idea that, this many films in, we could still be scared by another similar-looking and behaving dinosaur of this type is absurd.
This second half of Fallen Kingdom is utterly facile, but manages the impressive feat of also conjuring maddeningly overwrought plotting. Illogical moments, dialogues and decisions are not just slipped in unnecessarily, but also deliberately foregrounded. A (far, far) better script may have pulled off the audacity of its concluding moments and their implications for its sequel. Instead, the ending has the distinct feeling of director J.A. Bayona shrugging with relief as he passes a soiled baton back to Colin Trevorrow.
Bayona does not utterly embarrass himself, given Trevorrow and Derek Connolly’s awful script, conjuring a few nice images (a small-scale moment of regret as a boat pulls away is heartfelt), and repeatedly threatening to make interesting use of reflections and silhouettes. Similarly, Pratt, Howard et al feel entirely neutered by the terrific stupidity of the material they’re wading through.
Had Fallen Kingdom consisted of a 90-minute expansion of its volcano segment, with an antagonistic act of god to fear instead of a cast of idiotic clichés, it might have ended up serviceable. Instead, much like its modern gene-spliced baddies, this franchise is constructing ill-advised collages of each of its iterations’ worst features before sending them out to stalk the innocent. An execrable waste of time.