I like dinosaurs. I like dinosaur movies. But I especially like dumb dinosaur movies. Sure, the original Jurassic Park is an adventure classic, but have you guys heard of Anonymous Rex? It’s about an alternative reality where dinosaurs have survived extinction and hide among people … by wearing rubber suits (because dinosaurs and people are famously approximate in size). Oh, and one of them is a hardboiled P.I., and there’s a human that’s passing as a dinosaur by smelling like peaches. (Needless to say, this movie is amazing.) Or what about Tammy and the T-Rex in which Paul Walker’s brain gets put into a robot Tyrannosaurus rex body? Of course, that’s not going to stop him from having a sweet romance with Denise Richards. Talk about classic!
My point is there’s a lot of dumb that can happen when it comes to putting dinosaurs in movies, and the Jurassic Park franchise has never really been immune. Remember when Jeff Goldblum’s daughter evaded some raptors with a sick gymnastics routine in the The Lost World? And I know no one has forgotten that talking raptor in Jurassic Park 3. But with Jurassic World, the franchise hit a new pinnacle of dumb (as Amanda pointed out in our drinking game). The film dared to ask what if everyone involved with a multi-billion dollar theme park was just a complete dumbass, and the results were spectacular. This is a movie where Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle with a pack of raptors doesn’t even crack the top 10 of dumb things that happen. Where could the franchise go next? Could it get dumber?
Well, it certainly didn’t get smarter. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is almost staggeringly dumb. I mean, it’s got dinosaurs wreaking havoc around a stately manor. The trailers promised this was going to be just the stupidest, and boy, does the film deliver. The plot picks up after the events of Jurassic World. Isla Nublar and the park have been abandoned by humans, and the dinosaurs are living it up while safely contained on the island. (“But what about the pterodactyls and the pteranodons that were unleashed in the last movie?” I hear you ask. Don’t worry about it. The movie certainly doesn’t.) But uh-oh, Isla Nublar’s volcano is active again, and it threatens to make the dinosaurs go re-extinct!
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now runs a nonprofit that lobbies to have the animals saved (because that’s a believable course of action for the character), but most of the world (including Jeff Goldblum, in the movie for like one whole minute) is content to let nature take its course … again. She’s approached by the estate of John Hammond’s old business partner, represented by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), to take part in an eleventh hour rescue op. All she has to do is get Owen Grady (Pratt) to tag along because it’s very important that the team recover Blue, the last living velociraptor. Could Mills, who employs very obvious mercenaries (led by Buffalo Bill himself, no less), have ulterior motives for getting the dinosaurs off the island? Spoiler alert: Yes.
Fallen Kingdom delivers in some important ways. The film includes some imagery that is actually quite striking. Director J.A. Bayona uses shadows and reflections to build tension and bring some horror back to the franchise. There also are some really fun set-pieces, including an opening that takes two fan-favorite dinos and uses them to great effect. The erupting volcano and gyrosphere scene plastered all over the advertising is also enjoyable. Taking a good chunk of the action away from the island is a refreshing change from running through the jungle. Although, I don’t think the country estate is quite as fun as the operating theme park in Jurassic World, even if that film is jungle heavy. There’s also a lot a bonding between Blue and Owen. So if you want Chris Pratt looking soulfully into the eyes of a velociraptor, this is the film for you. And honestly, who doesn’t want that?
There are some definite cons, however. The film’s human characters have gotten blander. Pratt is fine, but his usual charisma is definitely blunted, and Fallen Kingdom continues its predecessor’s weird choice to not let him be, you know, funny. Claire had a terrible arc in the first movie, but at least it was an arc. She’s just kinda present this time around; her purpose is literally to get Owen involved. The secondary characters are just awful. Along with Spall’s bland villain, we’ve got a nebbish I.T. guy who’s afraid of everything (original!) and a paleoveterinarian who has never seen a dinosaur in person. (She’s also awkwardly shoehorned into the women’s movement when someone calls her a “nasty woman” to groan-worthy effect.) Also, there’s a child because there has to be at least one child in a Jurassic Park movie. Thank goodness, Toby Jones shows up to be Toby Jones, but overall, it makes me long for the days of Jake Johnson and Vincent D’Onofrio.
The film’s biggest sin, however, is promising us something bigger and badder than the Indominus rex and giving audiences exactly not that. No, the Indoraptor (the genetically engineered killing machine introduced in Fallen Kingdom) is actually pretty lame when compared to its predecessor. They took the T-rex/raptor hybrid and added more raptor, making it smaller and just less cool. Remember how the Indominus could camouflage and mask its thermal signature? Well, the Indoraptor has like this gold stripe for some reason and will attack something if you shine a laser pointer at it. Remember how it took three raptors, the T-rex and Mosasaurus teaming up to take down the Indominus? Well, let’s just say it takes a little less than that to deal with the Indoraptor.
There’s quite a bit to enjoy in Fallen Kingdom, especially if you are entertained by dumb the way I am. But like the Indoraptor, the film just doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its equally dumb but more thrilling older sibling.
Cake rating: Like the first Jurassic World, this movie is best viewed drunk, but if alcohol isn’t your thing, I suggest taking a cue from Tim in Jurassic Park and going H.A.M. at the dessert table.