The latest entry in the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, is currently in theaters. The film picks up after the events of Jurassic World and sees the return of Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing and Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, who reunite to help save the dinosaurs on Isla Nubar when the volcano on the island threatens their existence. As always with the Jurassic Park films, things don’t exactly go as planned, and the cast turns into prey for various dinosaurs including the new, genetically manufactured Indoraptor. Be warned: we’re going to get into some spoilers here.
Fallen Kingdom is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways, it’s one of the better films of the franchise, as it helps move the story along in a way that no other film really has since the original. The film also plays out much more like a “Monster Movie” film than anything else. Both of these aspects help give new life to the franchise and set up plenty of potential moving forward. That being said, there are still a lot of issues with the film overall.
For one, if you’re expecting to see Jeff Goldblum in the film, don’t get your hopes. He merely bookends the film with two scenes set at Senate hearings concerning the dinosaurs. There’s no other mention of his character or reference to his involvement in the film whatsoever. There’s a chance he could come back for the sequel, but if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen his work on the film.
If you’re hoping for more from the characters in Jurassic World, you may also be disappointed. Owen and Claire are accompanied by Dr. Wu (BD Wong), who only shows up to tie some threads together in the third act. There are plenty of new characters introduced in the film. Justice Smith plays Franklin Webb, a “tech guy”, and Daniella Pineda plays Zia Rodriguez, a Paleo-Veterinarian. Both characters help Owen and Claire on the island and later in the film, but for some reason, both disappear for about half of the film.
James Cromwell steps in as Benjamin Lockwood, a pseudo John Hammond. He was Hammond’s partner when they were developing the park, and after they had a falling out, he let Hammond take control. Most of the film takes place inside of his house, an enormous mansion with everything they could possibly need. Rafe Spall portrays Eli Mills, a man entrusted with Lockwood’s estate and all of his riches, who plans to auction off the dinosaurs to evil entities from around the world. Isabella Sermon portrays the “granddaughter” of Lockwood, the token kid in the film.
The film doesn’t do enough to make you care for these characters. There’s also no additional development for Owen or Claire; they’re both pretty much the same people we saw in the first Jurassic World, except now Claire seems to actually care about the dinosaurs and views them as more than attractions at a park. What’s frustrating about the film is that there are plenty of spots to expand on these characters, but it doesn’t happen at all. Claire’s driving force could be reflecting on her role at the park and potentially feeling responsible for these creatures, but the film never really touches on that. Owen could grow beyond just being a dude who used to work at the park, especially given that we see how he has a legitimate connection with Blue the raptor, but he doesn’t grow. He’s just there to run away from dinosaurs, try to stop Mills, and escape the mansion.
There are plenty of motives and opportunities for potential development, but the film touches on each one without delivering any payoff. That being said, the film is still entertaining. It’s a film I honestly thoroughly enjoyed, and again, that’s because it was very different from what we’ve seen before. It’s a monster movie, with the monster being the Indoraptor and the good guys trying to get away from it, prevent it from being sold, and escape the house.
The other aspect that did make the film worthwhile is the end of the film. This series has just been a continued rehashing of the first film in different lights. The park has dinosaurs, it’s a bad idea, something goes wrong, people run away from the dinosaurs, people get eaten, the good guys escape. But there’s nothing else to add to it, nothing except people going back time and time again to the island and making stupid mistakes. (Last Spoiler Warning)
This film ends with the dinosaurs being released into the wild. After an explosion releases toxic gas in the area they’re held captive, the characters have to decide if they want to let them die or release them into the wild. The young girl, Maisie, opens the doors, deciding they deserve to live just as much as the humans do. It’s a difficult decision to make, but one that takes this overall story down the right path.
If you’re going to keep telling this story, then it needs to grow into a story about more than the park. It needs to grow and move past the park; it essentially has to become something like Planet of the Apes. I don’t mean that it needs talking dinosaurs, but our attempts to play God by manipulating science and acting as though we’re invincible should be our downfall. If that’s going to happen, you need to get the dinosaurs out of the park, and you need to do it in a way that really makes sense.
The film essentially poses a thesis: if we create these creatures, then we are responsible for their well-being and their actions, no matter the consequences. By the end of the film, we see that thesis presented fully with a final decision to either push a button and save the dinosaurs or let them die horrible painful deaths – the film chooses to push the button. It says, “You’re responsible here, and you have to live with it.”
While the film does have its faults, including the lack of payoff on most of the set-ups, it does enough to help lead into an interesting take moving forward. There’s the potential for the third film in this trilogy to finally push Owen and Claire’s characters forward. There’s potential for plenty of destruction and chaos as the dinosaurs move out into the world. There are so many things that this second film sets up, and sets up well, and I’m excited to see where the next film moves forward.
Hopefully the third film will give us more payoff and will open up the sci-fi and world-building aspects a bit more. But knowing this franchise, there’s no telling what we may see from the next film, aside from the return of Pratt and Howard as Owen and Claire – and probably some more dinosaurs… Probably.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is currently in theaters.