If you’re excited to see yet another “Jurassic Park” movie, you likely want nothing more than to see dinosaurs causing rampant mayhem and chaos while destroying everything around them (including chasing and eating people). On those points, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the sequel to 2015’s “Jurassic World,” won’t disappoint. This latest adventure isn’t as great as the original 1993 film but also isn’t as awful as the last one either.
It’s been three years since the theme park was destroyed by dinosaurs who broke out of their cages, and the isolated jungle paradise of Isla Nublar is abandoned with no inhabitants except the last surviving dinosaurs. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former corporate greed monger, has seen the error of her ways and now devotes her life as an animal activist. When a wealthy benefactor (James Cromwell) promises a pristine habitat for the creatures to live out their days, Claire enlists the help of former dino trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to relocate them. The suits seem preoccupied with finding the very smart and very rare dinosaur Blue, and a conspiracy soon unfolds that leads to near-tragic results.
The problem with all of the “Jurassic Park” sequels is that there’s nothing new anymore. The primitive script (by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow ) offers up more of the same, from story points (dinosaur cloning) and themes (humankind’s loss of morals and a burning desire to “play god”) to nearly identical set pieces (glass cracking beneath someone’s weight in a dire situation, hiding behind cabinets, a wayward child latching onto the alpha male hero) to a rehashed plot du jour of illegal animal trafficking. When combined with Howard’s worse than D-movie acting, this thing teeters dangerously close to parody territory. I can’t wait for the future Rifftrax narration.
With just as many moral dilemmas as there are explosions, the film asserts a surprisingly angry metaphor for the current state of the country. It’s one that is thinly veiled, with an evil Trump look-alike character (Toby Jones) and a few digs and jabs at the current administration (pay close attention to the news scroll in one of the early scenes). It’s a cautionary tale told through a haunted funhouse vehicle of popcorn entertainment.
While the story may be sorely lacking, the dazzling special effects are not. They’re top shelf across the board, including a truly breathtaking extended scene of a volcanic eruption that may leave some viewers with a lump in their throat. The dinosaurs look as real as ever, and director J.A. Bayona packs in several impressive, showy bits to ramp up the fun meter. This is a summer movie that almost manages to keep its momentum from start to finish. Even the darkly compelling ending has me inexplicably eager for the compulsory next installment.
This isn’t a great movie and at times its dialogue and performances are laughable, but it’s awfully entertaining, consistently thrilling, often scary, sometimes touching, and delivers a high-intensity energy that’s nearly impossible not to at least mildly enjoy — if you agree to accept this sequel for what it is.
Admit it. You’re not going to see this movie because you think it will be great. You’re not going to see it because you think it will subvert your expectations. You’re not going to see it because you think it will be memorable. You’re not going to see it because you think it will add anything to the legacy of “Jurassic Park.” You’re going to see it because you want to see dinosaurs eat people and create havoc.
“Jurassic Park: The Fallen Kingdom” will meet these low expectations. Dinosaurs will eat people. They will create havoc. They will inspire big action set pieces that will keep you engaged. The bad guys will get their what-for. And nothing will go the way the protagonists expect. And you know what? You’ll be pretty darned entertained the whole time.
In a summer season defined by low expectations driven by movies whose categorical imperative is to not foul up the franchise – or its potential profitability – for the next sequel, “Jurassic Park: The Fallen Kingdom” succeeds. It may not make you think, surprise you, or challenge your worldview, but sometimes it’s enough to just entertain. On this level, the movie succeeds.