You can go see “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” or you can save yourself the time and money by chugging a six-pack of Red Bull and running through the dinosaur exhibits at the Harvard Museum of Natural History until you can’t breathe. As experiences go, they’re equally adrenalizing and equally ephemeral.
The movie jettisons any claims it has to being anything other than a Universal Studios theme park ride early on, and if that’s all you want — and that’s all many people do want — go ahead and climb aboard. The two leads from 2015’s “Jurassic World,” prim Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raffish Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are reintroduced and sent off to Isla Nublar to rescue and relocate the remaining dinosaurs before a volcano makes everything go kerblooey, but we’re mere minutes into “Fallen Kingdom” before an apocalyptic climax is upon us.
The characters dodge and weave to avoid romping, stomping ankylosaurs, styracosaurs, and allosauri; lava bombs are landing everywhere, and the whole movie pretty much pitches itself off a cliff. Where can we go from here? Straight into the haunted mansion, apparently.
Director J.A. Bayona, working from a script by Derek Connolly and the previous movie’s director, Colin Trevorrow, rearranges bits from the earlier films and serves them to us at a faster pace. It’s the same old dino-hash, but it does keep your own lizard brain engaged. Claire and Owen are accompanied by two younger tech wonks, paleo-veterinarian Zia (an appealing Daniella Pineda) and computer expert/scaredy-cat Franklin (Justice Smith). There’s an evil army guy (Ted Levine), a gently delusional old coot (James Cromwell as Benjamin Lockwood, the ailing partner of Richard Attenborough’s Hammond from the original “Jurassic Park”), and, in Rafe Spall’s corporate smoothie, a rather boring villain.
And there’s the contractually required endangered tyke, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the old coot’s granddaughter and the resident fly in the ointment as “Jurassic World” hunkers down into an extended stay in Lockwood’s estate, to which the dinosaurs have been relocated. That’s right: The back half of “Jurassic Park” takes place in a house. It’s a novel setting, if an absurd one, and it delivers the sight of a velociraptor perched atop a slate tile roof like an outtake from a “Harry Potter” film.
That’s not an idle comparison. It’s been 25 years since the first “Jurassic Park,” and the movies have moved on; all that remains relevant is our eternal fascination with dinosaurs. “Jurassic World” capitalizes on that and on the digital effects that seem more realistic with each passing year. It’s enough for a fun fright night at the movies but lacks anything else: character, mystery, wonder, danger. The film’s a rush for an audience that only wants the high.
You grab at the stray moments of humor and connection, signs that someone human is at the wheel. Claire is introduced with a close shot of her high heels and, later, a close shot of her sturdy jungle boots — a sly shout-out to one of the sillier costume choices from the last movie. It’s fun to see Jeff Goldblum turn up at the beginning and end as Ian Malcolm from “Jurassic Park,” issuing dire warnings about Tampering With Nature. And, yes, movie fans, that’s Geraldine Chaplin as Maisie’s aged nanny, making “Fallen Kingdom” the trivia fiend’s connective link between “Jurassic Park,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Limelight” (1952), and “The Gold Rush” (1925).
Still, when you’ve gotten to the point where one of the dinosaurs — Blue, the smartest and most empathetic of Owen’s pet velociraptors — is more sympathetic than the humans, you’re nearing the franchise end of the line. As in the chapters preceding it, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” has to find a bigger, better, meaner monster, and so the last movie’s Indominus Rex is trumped by the appearance of the Indo-Raptor in the basements and hallways of Lockwood’s mansion. He’s not all that interesting but he beats Spall’s nominal villain, and his showdown with the smaller, more agile Blue points this movie toward something genuinely unexpected: a saurian “Planet of the Apes.”
What I’m saying is that next time we should probably cut to the chase and get rid of the humans entirely. Except as kibble.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
Directed by J.A. Bayona. Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Isabella Sermon. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs; Jordan’s 3-D IMAX Reading and Natick. 128 minutes. PG-13 (intense sequences of science fiction violence and peril)Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.