When Jurassic World (2015) broke box office records by making over 1 billion dollars, we all knew a sequel would be inevitable. Even if the plans for a new trilogy were made before the first film even came out, we all know how the modern Hollywood machine works and how a studio can’t resist trying to duplicate the success of a monster franchise hit. But it’s not like anybody was really pining for a sequel to be made. The audience reaction to Jurassic World was mixed and the movie ends with a finality more aligned with Pacific Rim (2013) than the first Jurassic Park film. There just wasn’t the same wiggle room to do the same thing again, but a wise man once said “life, uh, finds a way,” and find a way they did. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) has already cracked 150 million dollars at the box office, but it is definitively an inferior product, like many sequels are.
Fallen Kingdom is set in our present – three years after the dinosaurs got loose in the park and caused mayhem in 2015. The dinosaurs have been living comfortably on the island since the last film, but news of an impending volcanic eruption there – effectively causing a modern day re-extinction event – sparks huge debate in the human world about what should be done about the dinosaurs. A group of scientists and activists led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the previous film is fighting to save the dinosaurs, but the one and only Dr. Ian Malcolm (Chef Goldblum) is back on his bullshit and testifies at a Congressional hearing on the ethical and ecological ramifications of the existence of dinosaurs, advocating for their extinction. Congress agrees and decides to let nature take its course, but unbeknownst to everyone else a group of heavily armed mercenaries have already set up shop on the island to try to track and capture the dinosaurs. Their boss Eli MIlls (Rafe Spall), the aide to Dr. Hammond’s former partner, contacts Claire and convinces her to help him save the dinosaurs and bring on dino-wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) as additional help.
If you’re familiar with the Jurassic Park franchise, then you’ll recognize that the plot for Fallen Kingdom is very similar to that of the original Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World (1997), where a group of pro-animal researchers return to the dinosaur island and attempt to save the dinosaurs from greedy mercenaries and suits who want to abuse the dinosaurs for financial gain. It’s incredibly ham-fisted theming that finds its way into this sequel as well. However, where Spielberg attempts to keep the general tone and structure of The Lost World the same as the first film, Fallen Kingdom cannot decide what kind of film it wants to be and the movie ends up as a straight-up mess as a result. Now to be fair, I really enjoyed Jurassic World. Sure it has problems, but I thought people who didn’t like it were taking what was essentially a dinosaur B-movie with a triple-A budget way too seriously. When Fallen Kingdom cold-opens on the mercenaries in a nighttime rain scene reminiscent of the original film I couldn’t help but laugh at just how ridiculous everything that was happening was. I kept thinking, “how could these dumbasses let this happen?” I thought it was a good sign for things to come, that we would get another fun, not-so-serious dinosaur flick, but I was only half right in thinking this.
Fallen Kingdom essentially plays out like a mediocre kids film in the way it is written and directed. You know exactly how each character is going to act and the only people you really end up caring about are Owen and Claire because they’re the leads from the last film. The evil suits backstab, the mercenaries shoot and are disposable, and the stock sidekicks act their stock characterization. Funny thing about the sidekicks actually, I forgot they even existed because they are just not in the movie for about an hour. I guess the bad script forgot about them since it focuses way way way too much on slow, boring scenes meant to develop sentiment and sympathy for the dinosaurs instead of any kind of plot or character development. It might sound silly to want character development in a dinosaur action film, but Owen and Claire literally do nothing for two thirds of the film except try to make you care about animal rights via CG DINOSAURS THAT ARE NOT REAL and run around. The plot is basically propelled by new characters we know or care little about in a strike-setting the whole film – how dull, and there’s no action until the ending climax.
The only genuinely worthwhile portion of the film is the first 40 minutes, which contains that buckwild volcano explosion from the trailers. The action is genuinely exciting and well-choreographed on top of being incredibly over the top, but it goes without saying that not saving this for last was a huge mistake. After this sequence, we’re treated to that obviously manipulative brachiosaurus scene that babies cried at and the rest of the film falls into those lazy children’s film beats. I guess I didn’t know what I expected with a sequel to Jurassic World, but the fact that I was teased with a ridiculous action film I would’ve liked is a real shame. The only reason the film is even structured like this is because of having to set up the next sequel, which is still done in such a stupid way I couldn’t help but find it funny. So maybe there’s hope the third film will be better, but the funny thing about chaos theory is that things tend to go in a direction you didn’t expect.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a huge step down from its predecessor. The dinosaurs and action are extremely limited, the characters feel forgotten about, and the film is paced and structured so slow and predictably it might be better used as a way to keep your kid quiet than to entertain an adult.