I loved 2015’s Jurassic World. I know, in this day and age of internet cynicism, it’s a popular movie for people to hate on because the characters make some illogical choices here and there (apparently the people complaining forgot they were watching a movie about a dinosaur amusement park running amok), but damn it, it was the sequel the original 1993 Jurassic Park always deserved. Just as important to me on a personal level, it also reminded me of that almost mythic outlook on dinosaurs that I had as a kid. Dinosaurs are always interesting, but Jurassic World made them wondrous again.
That’s why it saddens me that it’s sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, lacks that magic. It’s still ultimately a thrilling and exciting addition to the franchise, and even cleverly veers the series into horror territory. But it never has that same sense of wonder as its predecessor or the 1993 original.
Three years have passed since the events of Jurassic World, and now the island that housed the ill-fated amusement park is facing an impending doom, as a volcano on the island is now active and threatens the remaining dinosaurs (man, this theme park was doomed from the start! If it’s not an Indominous Rex it’s a volcano!).
Returning heroes Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) become a part of an expedition to rescue as many dinosaurs from the island as possible, before the inevitable eruption (take a hint people! God wants these suckers dead!). The expedition is helmed by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Jurassic Park founder John Hammond’s old partner. Lockwood wants to save the dinosaurs, feeling that mankind brought them back to life, and thus it’s their responsibility to save them. But the well-meaning billionaire is gravely ill, and his conniving right-hand man Eli Mills – who is in charge of Lockwood’s company’s future – has ulterior motives for the rescued dinosaurs. This of course leads to a series of set pieces taking place both on the doomed island, and Lockwood’s castle-esque home.
This brings me to one of the reasons I was disappointed with Fallen Kingdom, too much of the movie takes place in Lockwood’s mansion, making things feel considerably smaller than they did in Jurassic World. On the plus side, this benefits the film when it ventures into the horror genre territory, as many of the thrilling set pieces have a claustrophobic feel to them. But after Jurassic World gave us the whole island – let alone the theme park – to house both adventure and suspense, this sequel feels strangely unambitious by comparison. It works for what it is, but Fallen Kingdom often feels like it would be better suited as some kind of spinoff with different main characters, as opposed to the continuation of a movie as big as Jurassic World.
Another downgrade is in both the film’s human and dinosaur villains. Mills comes off as a generic businessman villain, which falls short of Vincent D’Onofrio’s hammy-yet-somehow-dead-serious Vic Hoskins of the previous film. Meanwhile, Fallen Kingdom introduces us to the “Indoraptor,” a new hybrid dinosaur created from Jurassic World’s Indominous Rex and a Velociraptor (didn’t the Indominous Rex already have Velociraptor DNA?). Not only is the Indoraptor not featured nearly as much as its predecessor, but it fails to leave a terrifying presence like the Indominous Rex did.
Before things start sounding too negative, I will say that I had fun watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Yes, it still features characters making baffling decisions that seem to go against the obvious, but I guess I’ve also never been chased by a hungry dinosaur, so maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. More importantly, the action set pieces, and the darker moments that veer into horror, are effectively entertaining. I admit I jumped out of my seat on more than one occasion, and clenched my knuckles in anticipation to the outcome of an action scene just as frequently.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a good piece of entertainment, then. The problem is that its 2015 predecessor was a great piece of entertainment, and in many ways matched up to the beloved 1993 film. Fallen Kingdom follows suit with the usual assets of the franchise (people running from hungry dinosaurs), and continues some of the lingering plot threads of Jurassic World to connect it into a proper trilogy. But for all the pieces Fallen Kingdom gets right (action, suspense, and trying its hand at horror), it lacks the sense of awe and wonder that made both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World standout.
There’s still another film to go in this Jurassic World trilogy within the greater Jurassic Park franchise, and here’s hoping that the third installment can add a bit of newness to the series while also bringing back its magic. Action and suspense are fun and all, but nothing I can’t see in other movies. When I see one of these dinosaurs on screen, I want it to mean something.