"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is the follow-up to the "Jurassic Park" soft reboot "Jurassic World", and the fifth entry overall in the "Jurassic Park" series. Confused? That is perfectly fine, because the movie is, too. "Fallen Kingdom" cannot decide what movie it wants to be, so it presents itself as two movies for the price of one. It will ultimately depend on personal preference which half of the film you prefer, if at all, but I preferred the oddball second half far more than the first.
"Fallen Kingdom" picks up a few years after the events of the previous film. Isla Nublar, home to the resurrected dinosaurs, just so happens to be the site of an active volcano that is about to erupt. Animal rights activists want government intervention to save these endangered species, while others (specifically Jeff Goldblum, in what amounts to a begrudging cameo) insist the dinosaurs should be left to die since their very existence is unnatural. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the dino-loving heroine of the previous film is approached by a representative of the heretofore unmentioned business partner of John Hammond, the crazy rich guy behind the original Jurassic Park. The slick investor-bro representative offers Claire a chance to rescue some of the reptiles from the island since the government refuses to intervene. One brief scene of recruiting Owen (Chris Pratt) the raptor trainer later, and the two protagonists (plus two deliriously unfunny comic relief sidekicks) once again find themselves knee-deep in dinosaur action.
The film often feels like a retread of "The Lost World", particularly the dinosaur rescue mission. Just like in that film, the operatives hired to assist the heroes with rescuing the big lizards have ulterior motives. There is the requisite betrayal as the heroes realize the rescue mission is profit-minded rather than altruistic. The island erupts, there are action scenes of fleeing from lava, a daring escape onto the bad guys' ship, and so on and so forth. If nothing else, these scenes are shot competently, sometimes even shot well. There is a particularly affecting image of a brachiosaurus slowly being engulfed in a cloud of ash that could have been a powerful closing statement had this been the end of the film. Instead, the film continues on. The sequel to a reboot stops to reboot and start a new story in the middle of the film. What crazy times we live in.
The second half of "Fallen Kingdom" decides it wants to be a goofy B-horror film, which is an abrupt change from the whiz-bang adventure of the previous hour, but it is a change for the better. The first half of the film lacked a sense of identity, merely blending together with other generic summer fare. Once the dinosaurs are back stateside, the evil representative guy reveals his master plan: selling dinosaurs on the black market. He does not elaborate on this plan much further, aside from the implication that these creatures could have military use. Sure, okay. To further add to the ridiculousness, the representative shmuck decides to engineer a custom-built velociraptor (the "Indoraptor") in the style of the engineered T-Rex of the previous film. Obviously, the creature gets loose, eats some of the paramilitary goons, and runs amok. There is a solid half hour of Howard, Pratt, and a generic child actor being chased around a spooky old mansion by a giant mutant velociraptor. It is every bit as dumb and loud and silly as you could hope for. There is even a shot of a Good Guy raptor running away from an explosion like an action movie hero. Some might be turned off by this nosedive into craziness (the mutant raptor can even open doors this time), but for those with a love of weird monster movies, there is plenty to enjoy.
I was not particularly enjoying "Fallen Kingdom" until the second half of the film. The parts with the mutant raptor realize that the characters of the "Jurassic World" films are not why people come to see them. It delivers on dino action in full, to a ridiculous degree. Everything is absurd and illogical, but it works in the way those pulpy Lincoln & Child-type sci-fi/adventure books work. It is strictly lowbrow fun, but what an hour of fun it is. I wish the first half had been as entertaining, but it is certainly worth sitting through that part to get to the zany dinosaur-in-a-mansion part.
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