Sequels rarely surpass or equal their originals, especially in the Jurassic world. There’s a reason why The Lost World and Jurassic Park III aren’t treated as canon within the world of the reboot. The fun of Jurassic World was similar fun to the original Jurassic Park itself: audiences get to see what an actual dinosaur theme park would look like. The original movie only showed a prototype, but the reboot showed the park in all its populist, commercialized glory and then had the joy of seeing it get destroyed. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom not only tries to add in big details as canon that never existed in the original, it also feels a lot less ambitious in the process.
At the beginning of Fallen Kingdom, a couple men are in a submarine underwater around the now abandoned (by humans) park attempting to get part of the skeleton of indominus rex. As one could imagine, the endeavor is partially successful and then goes terribly awry. It’s a fun, tension-filled action scene to start the film. It also can set the tone and success of the entire movie. Logistically, it makes no sense. There’s no explanation or timeline as to how long it’s been since the park was operating. One of the submarine men says that they don’t need to worry about attack because the dinosaurs are all dead, and yet when the film really begins (and the whole plot thrust of the film) it’s all about saving the dinosaurs. How and why do the men on this mission believe the dinosaurs are dead when their existence is all over the news?
The film’s problem is that half of it embraces the B-movie, cheeky tone. The other half wants us to take this film as some sort of allegory for human hubris, climate change, and our current political climate.
When the film truly begins, after the fun teaser, the United States is in a political debate as to whether to rescue the dinosaurs alive on Isla Nublar, which is being threatened by a imminent volcano explosion. Claire Wearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a lobbyist for a dinosaur rights group. She, accompanied by her co-workers dino-vetinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and tech-wiz Franklin (Justice Smith) get the opportunity to go on a rescue mission to get the dinosaurs off the island and placed safely in a sanctuary. This mercy mission is funded by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who audiences are told was Hammond’s private right-hand man in the creation of the original Jurassic Park way back when. Lockwood has never been referenced or appeared in any other JP film, but sure. The only added catch is that they really need Claire to reunite with her old boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) because they need to save the wily raptor Blue, and he’s the only one that can do it.
From there, this is a much smaller film in plot ambition than the original or its reboot. It’s rich people bidding to buy dinosaurs. Most of the film feels like Hostel but with dinosaurs. There’s not enough time spent on the island. Some of the most fun little moments are when a destroyed sign for Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville are shown, and there’s a tiny dino scampering among stuffed dinos in a destroyed gift shop. There should have been so much more of the commercial destruction and what the island looks like taken over by the dinos, but alas there’s very little.
Dallas Howard and Pratt still have lovely banter and chemistry, but this film’s high heels is Pratt’s overly foundation covered face for someone supposedly rugged; it’s glaring. What’s also glaring is Dallas Howard having no other use in this film but screaming and climbing things, this time at least in more sensible footwear. Also this film shoehorns a kid, Lockwood’s dinosaur-obsessed niece Maisie (Isabella Sermon), into the plot. Unlike the original and the reboot, where protecting kids against dinosaurs is a useful character device for softening hard hearts, this little girl mostly just serves to be incredibly annoying with an awful British accent. When her purpose is revealed it’s clever, but not deep and overshadowed by how cloying and “child actor-y” she is in most of the film.
The film only succeeds when it leans into the ridiculous, cheeky, action film that it is. The best moment is when a dinosaur plays dead and then gives a literal wink to the audience before destroying one of the big-baddie humans. If Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gave viewers more moments like that, and less “nasty woman” jokes and Toby Jones doing a Donald Trump impression, this film would have been a strictly fun summer confection instead of a scattered mess.