Jurassic World was one of those films that pretty much everyone saw then instantly forgot — then, when reminded that it was a thing, decided they didn't like it at all. Meandering from cliché to cliché, all of the magic from the original Steven Spielberg classic evaporated somewhere around when Owen (Chris Pratt) rode a motorcycle next to raptors. After breaking records, it was a forgone conclusion that more would be on the way. Sadly, after Fallen Kingdom, all hope of a return to past glory is gone.
Let's get this out of the way. Anytime there are dinosaurs on the screen the film is entertaining. Even with the blandness around them, at no point do the dinosaurs themselves bore. Even this film's new dino, the Indoraptor, brings a level of terror missing from the series since the original. The scenes with Blue leave you wanting more, and the T-Rex gets her few moments to shine as well.
But it all just feel so empty. The middle 45 minutes of Fallen Kingdom is outright boring. After the island scenes with the volcano erupting (as seen in the film's trailers), not much happens.
Owen is not a very interesting hero for this franchise. The only parts of his story that are interesting are tied to Blue, and there is not enough of it to sink your teeth into. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, with no heels this time!) is much better than she was in the last film, but by the end (spoilers) she is pointlessly kissing Owen in a moment of tension and yelling a lot. Their companions (Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith) try really hard, but Pineda is the only one who succeeds at all — Smith may be the most annoying character in the franchise.
Part of that is the script's fault. It is all just cliché-ridden and predictable, and the only surprise is one that feels completely forced in and not important to the story the film is trying to tell at all. The biggest problem with this franchise now is that it is trying to keep one foot in the world of science and ethical questions raised by the original. It doesn't work anymore. We answered the question of "Should we have done this?" at the end of the first film. This is nothing more than an action franchise at this point. Own up to it and steer that way.
Director J.A. Bayona does the best he can with what he has to work with, but it is not his fault that the story is meandering and directionless. Weirdly, the score is also overbearing and distracting as well. Heavy when it should be taking a backseat and too quiet when it should be thunderous — it was shocking. Michael Giacchino is usually a highlight, and here he just didn't have it.
The dinosaur scenes are entertaining, but don't go in expecting any better a time than Jurassic World. Hopefully the next film steers into the direction the ending that Fallen Kingdom teases fully. That is the film we need at this point.