Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Three years after the insanely huge Jurassic World soft rebooted the Jurassic Park series, it’s sequel, Fallen Kingdom, is here and makes some improvements to make it a slightly better movie than it’s predecessor, although both are firmly on the “dumb” side of dumb fun.

After the disaster of the Indominus Rex at Jurassic World, the park has been left to rot and the dinosaurs to fend for themselves.  A volcano on Isla Nublar has become active and is on the brink of exploding and wiping out all the dinosaurs on the island, making them extinct once again.  Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now running a dinosaur preservation charity group and is approached by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the aide to wealthy billionaire Benjamin Lockewood, the heretofore unknown partner to John Hammond in his early days of genetic engineering.  Mills gives Claire the opportunity to rescue 11 species of dinosaurs so they can be transported to a sanctuary Lockewood has created and they can live on in peace and safety. The mission’s main priority though is Blue, as she is the last of her kind and one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.  Claire reluctantly has to recruit Owen (Chris Pratt) to return to the island with her, which is awkward as they broke up in the years since Jurassic World. Also tagging along are Zia (Daniella Pineda), a former Marine turned paleoveterinarian, and Franklin (Justice Smith), a systems analyst while Mills sends a mercenary team led by Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) to assist.  Mills true intentions are quickly revealed and he is actually looking to sell the captured dinosaurs on the black market to fund research on the Indoraptor, a new genetic weapon created by Henry Wu (BD Wong).  

The marketing for Fallen Kingdom was kind of strange in that the first 1 and ½ trailers or so were all focused on the on-island rescue mission but it’s actually flipped more toward the mansion/auction/Indoraptor plot.  The movie only spends about 20 minutes or so on Isla Nublar before Claire and Owen and co. are hiding on a ship and then infiltrating the Lockewood estate and it’s Dino Crisis/RE style lab beneath. After four movies of island hi-jinks, the mansion is a fun change of pace and gives some new opportunities for dino mayhem but there are hints of a bad ass, Predator style hunt on the island movie (especially in the movie’s cold open) that I would 100% be into (give me someone like Dolph leading a team of bad asses, fighting dinos *chef’s kiss*).  There are quite a few dumb character choices that exist only to further the plot and an insanely casual reveal of something that could throw off the balance of entire Jurassic univerese but, for the most part, it’s a fun romp that if you can suspend your disbelief with will deliver the blockbuster dino action you are looking for, although nothing quite tops the all out dino rumble that Jurassic World ended on and the Indoraptor, while effectively vicious looking, doesn’t have the same weirdness as the Indominus (there’s no Predator style camouflaging this time around).  For JP hardcores, there’s more easter eggs here, like a revisit to old T-Rex paddock from the first film and the whole movie kind of feels like The Lost World if Ingen’s scheme worked and they got a ton of dinosaurs off the island.

Character wise, this is probably where most of the improvements are over World.  Gone are sad Judy Greer (Side Note: please no more sad, divorced mom Judy Greer, she is one of the funniest people in Hollywood) and her terrible, annoying sons and Zia and Franklin and Lockewood’s grandaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) are much more interesting and likeable characters,  Ted Levine enthusiastically devours scenery as Wheatley, the pure evil version of characters like Roland or Muldoon from JPs past, and Rafe Spall and Toby Jones are perfectly fine as slimy weasels in the vein of The Lost World’s Peter Ludlow.  Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are as charming as ever and have great chemistry but the movie utilizes the extremely tired trope of breaking them up arbitrarily to start when it’s obvious to even the most dim witted audience member that they will be back together by the end.  It’s been happening for at least 2 decades (The Antonio Banderas Zorro movies, National Treasure, etc) and it’s a fairly lame way to try and inject some drama. Also disappointing, although not completely unexpected, don’t expect a whole lot of Goldblum (if you want some prime Malcolm, check out Jurassic World: Evolution as the good Chaostician guides you through the game)

If you’re looking for some dumb, fun dinosaur action, Fallen Kingdom delivers and, while nothing can ever top the original Jurassic Park, it does make some changes that improves it over its predecessor while falling behind or sharing some it’s issues.  If you liked JW, you’ll most likely enjoy Fallen Kingdom as well and it sets up a truly insane sequel that I am in for.

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