Three years after the Jurassic World dinosaur park on Isla Nublar was abandoned for the usual reasons, it looks like nature is going to take care of the lizard issue for us: the long-slumbering volcano on the island is about to erupt, handily wiping out the resident population of genetically resurrected prehistorical animals (why does nobody mention Isla Sorna any more?)
Some people aren’t happy with that, and former park overseer turned dino-rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is recruited to help with a rescue operation, relocating as many dinosaur species as possible before things go boom. Also along for the ride is former velociraptor trainer and Claire’s ex, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who wants to rescue Blue, his favourite raptor. This being a Jurassic Park movie, however, you can be sure that the motives of oily exec Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) and his expedition leader, mercenary Ken Leavey (Ted Levine), are less than altruistic. Still, the Jurassic Park universe is a moral one, and it punishes avarice with plagues of hungry dinosaurs – which is exactly what happens here.
What’s your bar for enjoyment here? We’re five movies deep into the Jurassic Park franchise, and exactly one of those – the first – has been unambiguously good. The rest have hovered around the 2.5-3 star mark, but have still delivered the series’ key appeals: hungry dinosaurs chasing and occasionally eating photogenic people. If that’s your jam, you’ll find it in abundance here.
What you won’t find is a whole lot of logic, internal consistency, and scientific fidelity. If the franchise’s approach to paleontology irks you, you won’t believe what they do with vulcanology – at one point a dino shakes off a splash of hot lava to the head. In terms of narrative construction, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is pretty dumb, but it does manage to fulfill its basic function of providing a framework within which dinosaurs can run amok.
Director JA Bayona (A Monster Calls), a newcomer to the franchise, acquits himself fairly well, handling the action with aplomb and even managing the occasional nigh-iconic moment – nothing the series ever does will match the first reveal of the brachiosaurus in JP1, but a couple of points here come close.
The big problem with Fallen Kingdom is that it feels weirdly interstitial, a film designed not to stand on its own feet but to move the franchise forward to a point where it can start doing some really interesting things. Without drifting over into the spoiler lane, the film leaves us in a place we should have been, oh, back around Jurassic Park 3, and the promise of what could (and should) be coming next almost completely overwhelms what we’re actually experiencing in the theatre now.
In the end, Fallen Kingdom is a pretty unnecessary movie, but it’s a mostly enjoyable one. It’s a couple of hours of big budget mayhem, garnished with the movie star charisma of Pratt and Howard, with an able supporting cast (Toby Jones and James Cromwell turn up) and a sufficient dinosaur-to-running time ratio. It resolutely refuses to do anything unusual or outrageously inventive with its premise, but colouring inside the lines isn’t a capital crime.
Also, Jeff Goldblum shows up. That’s worth a couple extra points right there.