'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom': Dinosaurs eat all the right people, but movie is more appetizer than meal

In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs get loose in a spooky Gothic castle.

The building turns out to be full of British accents, giving the whole thing a Hogwarts vibe. Hmmm. A suspicious person who Googles “Harry Potter” and “Jurassic Park” will discover that the two franchises are blended this summer in a new show called “Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration” at the theme park, where Harry Potter and Jurassic Park already coexist.

I guess that kind of corporate synergy is hard to pass up. Profit finds a way, and on that score you have to give Fallen Kingdom credit for honesty. The movie is about money-making imperatives, and since that’s not a very cinematic subject, it’s also about a dangerous volcano and gigantic ocean-going predators attacking surfers.

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There’s a massive eruption on the fabled Isla Nublar, home of the Jurassic Park and its genetically engineered animals. The catastrophe threatens to destroy the remaining dinosaurs roaming the island, and their re-extinction becomes a cause célèbre for dinosaur-rights activists, led by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) the former theme-park manager who has come to love the creatures she once saw mainly as a source of entertainment.

She’s traded her corporate heels for compassion and khaki, and when a Jurassic Park cofounder and billionaire Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his right-hand man (Rafe Spall) offer to bankroll a rescue mission, she recruits dino wrangler and potential boyfriend Owen (Chris Pratt). Off they go to the doomed island, along with heavily armed commandos (led by Ted Levine).

The movie is initially Jurassic Classic — newcomers (feisty dino-vet Daniella Pineda and computer nerd Justice Smith) stare in open-mouthed Spielbergian wonder at the dinosaurs, trigger-happy mercenaries behave arrogantly, and hidden agendas are revealed.

Fallen Kingdom, though, isn’t meant to repeat the franchise so much as to send it off in a new direction. The rest of planet Earth, perhaps? That’s what chaos theory guy (Jeff Goldblum) seems to promise in the trailer.

First stop — that spooky castle, where Cromwell lives with his precocious granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon). She is starting to grow alarmed at the strange goings on. Who are those strange men turning up on the estate? (They are Toby Jones and BD Wong from the earlier pictures.) What are they up to?

The movie is competently directed by J.A. Bayona, who has a background in disaster movies (The Impossible) and horror (The Orphanage), and both come into play here. The opening sections has a feel of a competent if familiar effects movie, but the film changes mood and tone when story movies the foreboding castle — perhaps a nod to Mary Shelley, among the first to warn us of the hazards of scientists who interfere with the natural order.

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For Bayona, it’s a chance to shoot dark corners, shadows, lightning bolts, and — eventually — dinosaurs.

A ferocious new genetic freak is loose in the building, and it is more monster the raptor — we see (and hear) its claws picking at window latches outside the room where Maisie quakes under her blanket. But the effects artists fail to make the scale of the beast and the mood of the story line up — the creature seems to change size, and often seems to have the wrong weight and substance for its surroundings.

On the other hand, it eats all the right people.

As for the movie, a transparent transition to future stories, it’s more appetizer than meal.

MOVIES

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

  • Directed by J.A. Bayona. With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Toby Jones and B.D. Wong.
  • Running time: 2 hours, 9 mins.
  • Parents guide: PG-13 (violence)
  • Playing at: Area theaters