25 years is nothing to sneeze at for any franchise, particularly ones with the same monsters-on-an-island premise in every entry. Nevertheless, Jurassic World revitalized the franchise with strong, likable characters who make a welcome return in this fifth entry in the Jurassic Park saga. While the momentum from the previous movie does continue here (for the most part), one can’t help but feel that “extinction” is in this franchise’s very near future.
Three years after dinosaurs took over the island of Isla Nublar, the island’s volcano has suddenly become active and is now about to erupt, threatening the entire existence of Earth’s last remaining dinosaurs. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a dinosaur-rights activist and hatches a plot to save some of her prehistoric animals. And for that to work, she needs help from her ex Owen (Chris Pratt), who still holds a bond with one of the velociraptors named “Blue”. Together, they venture off to Isla Nublar along with a team of mercenaries, all working for a very rich man named Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and are quickly betrayed by the mercenaries and left for dead amidst the erupting volcano. Luckily, they manage to stow away on an escaping boat and soon learn that the dinosaurs that were rescued are destined to be auctioned off for military use.
This movie’s plot is almost incomprehensibly similar to the plot of The Lost World. Mercenaries, taking dinosaurs off the island, etc., which doesn’t help in separating its identity from the original trilogy as a sequel trilogy. But what makes it work is its brisk pace to get the characters, and the dinosaurs, off the island as quickly as possible. Almost as soon as the movie starts, the volcano erupts, the island is destroyed, and they’re all on a boat heading towards a mysterious location. That coupled with the fact that the dinosaurs are the victims, not the villains, this time around, creating a sympathy only marginally teased in previous entries to date, which is never more clear than the moment when a solitary, weeping Brachiosaurus watches all the boats leaving as the island burns down behind her, only to finally engulf her in its deadly smoke. But no matter how many distractions, the parallels to previous entries are almost always in your face, especially when presented with nostalgic moments like an upside-down car from the tree scene in the first movie, and a two-scene cameo appearance by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).
Most of the second half of the movie takes place in the Lockwood mansion, where the caged dinosaurs are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. It’s a bit of a tonal reversal for the franchise, as the second half of the movie is substantially smaller in scale to the first half. Character development isn’t as strong, with Claire and Owen always running to the next set-piece in their attempt to stop a dinosaur-centric World War III. Lockwood’s niece Maisie (Isabella Sermon) acts as a kind of spy to all the goings-on in her home, especially when her “origins” turn out to have something in common with the dinosaurs, which expands the franchise’s mythology even further into science-fiction territory. But it wouldn’t be a Jurassic Park movie without a new dinosaur to show off, and this one is no exception with the “Indoraptor”. However, because the admittedly terrifying Indoraptor is introduced so late into the movie, not to mention its smaller size and blatant similarity to the Indominus Rex, it’s little more than a plot device to give the characters something to run from in the film’s final moments.
There’s really nothing very wrong with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but there’s nothing too worthwhile about it either. Dinosaurs on a far-away island? Seen it. Taking dinosaurs off the island? Seen it. Scientists genetically engineering a new type of dinosaur? Seen it. It’s everything you like or don’t like about the franchise, but with a new coat of paint. Only now there are shootouts, fistfights, and a final dinosaur-on-dinosaur fight scene that’s way too predictable to be taken seriously. But despite its many shortcomings, it still works as an escapist popcorn flick. It has many eye-popping set-pieces, including a nerve-racking scene where Claire and Owen have to extract a blood sample from a sleeping T-Rex that hits all the right popcorn-movie marks. It also has an absolutely ballsy ending that completely changes the course of the future of the franchise, but which also reminds the viewer that they were watching a sequel-setup movie the entire time. It’s yet another good-not-great sequel living in the shadow of its mammoth original.
3 out of 5