The beloved Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) appears briefly during Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for a gratuitous cameo, testifying in front of a congressional committee to tell them they have to stop messing around with dinosaurs. These creatures are supposed to be extinct, so when the volcano on Isla Nublar — the island featured in the first Jurassic World — threatens to exterminate dinosaurs a second time, he thinks they should let it happen. Because, he intones, the consequences of saving them could be so much worse.
Goldblum’s shameless cameo is emblematic of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s many missteps in how it recycles the same faces, dinosaurs, and conflicts that we’ve already seen too many times. Yet, his appearance bookends the movie, propelling it into new — and potentially exciting — territory for the sequel. Dr. Malcolm basically delivers a prophecy about the worst-case scenario for messing around with dinosaurs, and it comes true.
Full spoilers follow for *Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom*.
Director J.A. Bayona takes the helm in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a movie that makes great efforts to destroy almost everything each previous movie has established. The titular Jurassic World park on Isla Nublar was destroyed three years prior, but in the present day, the aforementioned volcano threatens extinction 2.0 for the dinos.
Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) return to the island under the pretense that they’re working to save a sampling of a dozen or so species. Claire’s been hired by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the sniveling right-hand man to the super-rich, elderly Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a new character bizarrely retconned into the story as John Hammond’s original partner. Together, they developed the genetic science that brought the dinosaurs to life years ago.
The volcano’s eruption and the fiery destruction of the island is a spectacle that’ll forever etch the image of a wailing, burning Brontosaurus into your brain. The subtle majesty of dinosaurs is mostly lost in Fallen Kingdom, and this one poor, dying beast silhouetted by fire and ash is a brutal reminder that we’ll never again see a dinosaur movie as good as Jurassic Park.
So, what do we have to settle for these days instead?
As it always does, “life finds a way” in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Claire, Owen, and a pair of sidekicks help rescue a dozen or so species from the island. But a villainous, capitalist-driven enterprise also finds a way, as it’s revealed that the people our heroes have been working with were in it for the money. They should’ve seen this coming, right? Because I totally did.
Working with mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), Eli Mills betrayed his employer’s trust and spliced together even more dino-DNA to create the “Indoraptor.” It’s basically the Indominus rex but more Velociraptor than T. rex, so it’s smaller, smarter, and has raptor-like front claws.
These nuanced differences don’t matter much because each hybrid is just more of the same: another terribly unnatural and insanely dangerous creature that shouldn’t exist. The Indominus rex could cloak itself. This one can open doors and play dead to capture its prey. So it goes.
The entire third act of Fallen Kingdom takes place on Sir Benjamin Lockwood’s California estate, where a bunch of generic James Bond villains converge to buy the last living dinosaurs. Lockwood’s brilliant and frantic granddaughter named Maisie is the obligatory Jurassic kid here.
Inevitably, all hell breaks loose on the estate when some dinosaurs get out of their cages, surprising nobody.
Almost nothing new or interesting happens in Fallen Kingdom until this cartoonish third act kicks into high gear, and it feels a lot like a silly, dinosaur-themed episode of Scooby Doo. It’s a monster mansion freak show as the characters hide from actual dinosaurs in a small dinosaur museum by shimmying around a platform. Blue the Velociraptor yet again fights a dinosaur that’s bigger and better than she is, and, spoiler alert, she wins. There’s no majesty — a big problem for a franchise whose first outing overwhelmed Sam Neill (and the audience) with emotion at the mere sight of a dinosaur, accentuated by John Williams’ stirring score.
Fallen Kingdom mostly fails at making you care about any of its characters or dinosaurs, mainly because we’ve seen almost all of this once or twice before. It’s a jumbled, flashy repeat of uninspired greatest hits. But when the remaining dinosaurs are released into the wild rather than blissfully eradicated, Fallen Kingdom bravely enters untread territory. If the series can’t recapture the magic of the first Jurassic Park (or even the first Jurassic Wolrd), then it will try to do something totally, wildly different.
Rather than focusing on a luxury vacation reserved for the rich, during which parents let bratty children ride baby Triceratops, this franchise instead pivots into full-on dinopocalypse. So when we next see these characters again in 2021, Jurassic World’s title could be literal.
Plenty of those generic Bond villains also escape with the genetic data for some dinosaurs. So not only does North America essentially become the biggest Jurassic World ever, but there’s the implication that “bad guys” around the world will start building their own dinosaur armies en masse. And because you can grow an adult dinosaur in five minutes these days, things are bound to escalate super quickly.
The real question is how Colin Trevorrow might build something totally new with Jurassic World 3, due out sometime in 2021. He’s already promised no more hybrid dinosaurs, so that’s a promising start.
Fallen Kingdom was another mediocre movie in this franchise that spent and maybe wasted its runtime by destroying everything the franchise was built on. It slipped into the same old boring tropes of previous films in the franchise to ultimately — finally — create something new. But is this too little, too late?
In his testimony, Dr. Malcolm prophetically warns of a dark future brought about by humanity’s obsession with these dinosaurs, and when it comes to pass in the end, you can’t help but imagine the possibility of a Jurassic Park movie that’s like Planet of the Apes meets Resident Evil: Extinction but with dinosaurs. It would be ludicrously far from the majesty of the original Jurassic Park, but at least we wouldn’t have to watch another lazy rehash of the same old stuff.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits theaters on June 22.