Jurassic Park began as a cautionary tale exposing humankind’s hubris to tame nature, but after several movies, I am beginning to believe the franchise is now about a group of people who were just not very fond of living. In the first Jurassic World, having learned absolutely nothing from the past events, InGen built a bigger and more luxurious titular theme park/resort upon the site of the original Jurassic Park. If that was not bad enough, the new owner of InGen, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), had commissioned a new breed of dinosaurs that were larger and more aggressive than a T-Rex as the new tourist attraction (what could possibly go wrong?), and a shadowy faction within InGen had the bright idea of weaponizing dinosaurs. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief for the stupidity of it all. The 2015 reboot of the beloved Jurassic Park franchise was chock full of bad decisions that were doomed to fail, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was a full commitment to Jurassic World’s silliest plots.
After the complete destruction of Jurassic World, the dinosaurs roamed the grounds of the now sealed park. All was well until recent observations indicated the volcano on Isla Nublar had become active once more. The dinosaurs faced an impending extinction crisis. The dinosaur conservation movement spearheaded by former Jurassic World Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) failed to convince the US government to intervene, but all is not lost, for she was contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), one of the original creators of cloning technology, and offered an opportunity to spirit the dinosaurs away to another conservation island without the knowledge of the government. And so Claire recruited a team of specialists, which consists of a feisty vet, a computer nerd stereotype, and Claire’s former love interest and animal behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). They set out for Isla Nublar to rescue the dinosaurs before the volcano erupts. An expedition to a ruined park. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is quite a lot. The story of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was a Jurassic Park Greatest Hits compilation: betrayal, shady businessmen, dinosaurs in cages, dinosaurs breaking out of cages, protagonists hugging chest-high covers while predators stalk them in the dark. The plot points were as predictable as they came. The two hour and eight-minute runtime did not add anything significant to the franchise.
The corporate villains with a death wish weren’t the movie’s biggest problem. Throughout the movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom never ceases to push its dinosaur protection message, but the platitudinous message fell flat on its face from minute one. In real life, regulations were put in place to protect endangered species because the danger of extinction was man-made, and the extinctions would have had negative impacts on the biosphere. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, are walking eco-disasters that could easily disrupt an established food chain. The fact that no scientists in the movie were aware of the concept of invasive species was mind-boggling. I emotionally checked out of Claire’s goal within the first five minutes. And the movie made the most sense when Owen was playing the reluctant hero; it’s for the best to just leave the dinosaurs to die.
Fallen Kingdom’s heavy-handed attempt to make me empathize with the dinosaurs did it no favors either. In past Jurassic Park movies, dinosaurs were presented as majestic yet dangerous, just like mother-nature herself. But ever since Jurassic World, the franchise shifted its stance, trying to highlight the bond between humans and the select few dinosaurs—most notably Blue, the raptor from the militarization program (it is such a logistics nightmare if you think about it). Through never before seen expository video logs, the movie tries to sell Blue as an empathetic creature for the drama that follows. The dinosaurs of Fallen Kingdom felt less like the primal forces of nature and resembled dragons from How to Train Your Dragon more. It was also unbelievable how frequent Blue and the iconic female T-Rex showed up in the story to save the day. The money shot in the trailer where the T-Rex rescued the gang from another dinosaur and roared against the backdrop of erupting volcano could be completed with a wink at the camera and freeze frame.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom utilized a combination of CG and animatronics for its dinosaurs, and the effects were well done. The result was a more immersive visual experience than the first Jurassic World. Some set pieces and action scenes were exciting, but ultimately the movie was hampered by bland human characters and a failure to garner emotional investment.