It's only taken 25 years for us to get another semi-decent dinosaur film out of the Jurassic Park franchise. Perhaps it's like a baseball player who after enough at-bats will eventually hit something even if largely by accident. It could of course be that after the original two sequels (which were both horrible) and the continuation three years ago with Jurassic World (which was okay, though shockingly dull with generally terrible writing for the characters) the bar was so low that almost anything would have felt like a step up, but Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is actually a pretty good ride.
It's been the continuation of real-world time after Jurassic World (so three years later), and the island featured throughout the films as the home of the dinosaurs, Isla Neblar, is suffering a major volcanic event and about to be destroyed. As the world argues whether the remaining dinosaurs (who still inhabit the island after the abandonment of the park) should be saved and transferred to another location or left to perish. Cue a congressional hearing where Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is advocating that the volcano is nature's way of course correcting and putting the dinosaurs back into the pages of the history book.
Jurassic World's old operations manager, Claire Dearing (played once again by Bryce Dallas Howard), has been running a save-the-dinosaurs advocacy group, trying to get congress to rescue them. When congress declines it turns out that John Hammond, the original creator of the park had a business partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who wants to preserve Hammond's legacy and wants to fund an emergency rescue operation. Claire goes and gets Owen Grady (aka the Raptor Whisperer, played by
Star-Lord Chris Pratt) to join the band and they're back to the island (yes, it really does sound like an abandoned script for a mid-series episode of Lost).
They can't save them all, and in fact can barely save specimens of 11 species. Of course, before long the island is going from bad to worse with pyroclastic clouds and lava flows sprouting everywhere (which comes as no surprise — because trailers). Then there's the sudden and shockingly unsurprising that the rest of the "rescue" mission team winds up being really animal poachers who are capturing them to take them back to the mainland to sell off to the highest bidders for military and biopharma purposes. Claire and Owen don't take kindly to the prospect and the rest of the story you can surmise from there.
What's good about it: The pacing is better, the visuals are tighter, and in general the story isn't a bad one. Bonus points for reusing a good deal of the original Jurassic Park sound cues throughout the film.
What's bad about it: Even without the help of the trailers, the characters may as well be wearing huge signs declaring, "I will backstab you in Act 2!" and "Tech guy who hates the wilderness but will wind up having a critical skill by the end of the film!" Various characters are required to do things that are either wildly out of character or just shockingly stupid for no reason other than advancing the plot.
Also, timing is everything. At this point we've recently had the tragic loss of property on the Big Island of Hawaii from lava flows. The audience at this point is generally fairly literate on how various types of volcanos and lava work, and the heat emitted by point-blank proximity to rivers of it. The scenes of Pratt flailing around it — nope, that's not how any of this works.
That said, it's not bad, and in fact a lot of dinosaur-goodness fun. Claire is wearing more sensible shoes this time around, and Owen does a better job of holding his own.
Definitely worth seeing in a Dolby theater (or, failing that, one with the best sub-woofers in your area), because isn't it all about when the T-Rex lets out his roar?
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