Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the best sequel in the Jurassic franchise. That doesn’t mean it’s the best movie of the bunch; in fact, it might be the opposite. But purely as a continuation of the previous film, Fallen Kingdom does what neither The Lost World nor Jurassic Park III did particularly well: continue the story from the previous film in a smart, interesting way. As for the execution? That’s another story.
Welcome to the final installment of io9’s Jurassic Rewatch. For the past few weeks, we’ve been going through the Jurassic Park franchise as we approach this week’s release of Jurassic World Dominion. In that time, one of the biggest takeaways has been that most of the Jurassic sequels don’t really incorporate the events of the previous films very well. In The Lost World, the characters go to a new island, not the original. In Jurassic Park III, we never find out what the fallout of The Lost World was. Jurassic World bucks that trend slightly by just fully rebooting things, and with its sequel Fallen Kingdom, director J.A. Bayona does the best job in the entire franchise of picking up the story beats left over from the last movie, and turning them into something new.
That connectivity literally starts in the first scene, where a group of people goes back to the now deserted Jurassic World theme park to acquire the bones of the Indominus Rex, which are where the hungry Mosasaurus left it, at the bottom of the ocean. Things of course go poorly for the team, who are eaten and attacked not just by the Mosasaurus, but the T-Rex as well, but narratively this move is hugely intriguing and interesting. Jurassic World scientists created a whole new species in the previous film. Wouldn’t you want some record of that to continue the creation?
Mad science creations become the driving force for the rest of Fallen Kingdom, but we don’t realize that until later. Initially, we see that the world is divided on what to do with the remaining dinosaurs. Do we keep them alive? Or do we let the increasingly likely to erupt volcano take care of them? Here, again, the film deals with the events of the previous one directly and both Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) find themselves back at Jurassic World. This is where the film begins to lose some of its momentum.
At the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom you realize the story is kind of broken into two parts. There are scenes involving the island, including the arrival and escape, and there are scenes at a mansion. But to fit all of that in there, the film is rushed to a point where nothing sticks around long enough to be compelling. There are scenes here and there that work better than others (such as the wildly exciting and fun one of Claire and Owen trying to extract blood from a sleeping T-Rex), but for the most part, the mission on the island and its fallout, including a wildly bombastic volcano eruption, don’t muster the excitement they aim to. Things just go from beat to beat to beat without any particular momentum.
Mostly that’s because while the set pieces on their own are solid, the story rarely feels that connected to it. That story, we eventually find out, is that Claire, Owen, and their team are told they’re going back to the park to rescue all the dinosaurs. But really, they just need them to capture one raptor, Blue, because Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) needs Blue’s mental capacity to help create his latest creature, the Indoraptor. But Claire and Owen being double-crossed happens in such a staggered way, with Owen being shot and left for dead and then Claire shut into a bunker, followed by the volcano, that the reveal doesn’t naturally sink in. Instead, it hits in waves and isn’t as impactful.
Then there are the mansion scenes which, since the film’s release, have been referred to as the “haunted house” portion. Watching it back, though, that’s only partially true. The bulk of the scenes in the mansion are not of scary stalking, they’re of a dinosaur auction. Which, again, is a unique, cool idea for this franchise but the scene is filled with characters we don’t care about and only a tangential connection to the plot. It’s there basically as an excuse for the prototype Indoraptor to escape and kill a bunch of people, which it does. And while the scenes of the Indoraptor hunting our heroes in the house produce some very memorable visuals, there’s not much tension or threat. The whole thing wraps up way too easily.
Finally, the film hugely confuses things further with the reveal that this young girl we’ve met throughout, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), is a clone, and her “grandfather’s” desire to use the Jurassic tech to make human clones is largely why we hadn’t heard about his connection to John Hammond until this fifth film. It’s not just a lot of mythology to dump into an already packed movie, but it also shifts the focus of the franchise entirely. By the end of Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, the dinosaurs are out in the world and we’re left both wondering what the world will do but also… wait we can clone humans now?
There are plenty of very good sequences in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and it’s commendable for attempting so many new and original ideas in the structure of this franchise. But ultimately, it’s a little too unfocused and detached to have any real, exciting impact. It leaves its audience feeling empty instead of satisfied. Which, if we’re being honest, is the most defining trait of every Jurassic Park movie released after the original.
And now, for the big finale of my Jurassic Rewatch, before we reveal the final rankings, I’m going to go back and read my review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the only one of these films I actually reviewed here on io9. This is the link. I am reading it only after everything you read above is complete.
Okay, I was right on the money. The film has solid pieces but never a true cohesion, and I saw it on viewing one. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before in these pieces, John Williams’ score not being here hurts the film, but is fitting, because it never earns it. Good work, 2018 Germain!
And now, for the final time before the last film…
Jurassic Park Films, Ranked (Updating as I go through)
1. Jurassic Park
2. Jurassic World
3. Jurassic Park III
4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
5. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.