Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a summer popcorn movie. That’s all it is. It knows it, and we know it. Having said that, is it good? Eh. Is it worth a trip to the movies on a 90-degree day in the dog days of summer? Absolutely.
The second installment in the new Jurassic trilogy brings back our new-trilogy heroes, Owen and Claire, played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, as they are forced to team up once again to save the dinosaurs inhabiting the area once known as Jurassic World from an impending volcanic eruption. Once they get there, they encounter new threats unexpected.
If you are a die-hard fan of this franchise, you may look at this movie a number of different ways. I was pleasantly surprised by director J.A. Bayona’s commitment to horror-movie aesthetics. Effective use of shadows and lighting make the film look quite scary when it wants to be. It has a few surprisingly dark moments, and in these moments, the film really works. Unfortunately, they are fairly infrequent. While franchise devotees might really enjoy this, they might also be unimpressed at how little is being done to shake things up in these movies.
Pratt and Howard are also quite good again. He’s got the same salt-of-the-earth everyman charisma, and she doesn’t have to run around the jungle in stilettos this time. Characters from the original trilogy are slowly creeping their way into this one, Jeff Goldblum shows up briefly; still no Laura Dern. The new additions, Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith, both are good as well. Pineda has a big personality, and I look forward to seeing her in other things. However, neither of these people have a lot to do.
Bayona adds a few things that make this film look better than it is. This is the middle chapter in a trilogy and it feels so tired. The new Jurassic films pretty much live and breathe on the audience’s nostalgia. They do enough to convince the viewer to see the next one, but not quite enough to shock or offend. They definitely don’t give the feeling of taking you somewhere you haven’t been before. This entry goes over a lot of the same themes as the 2015 Jurassic World, such as the ethical dilemma of man tinkering with nature, and how people misuse technology for the sake of financial gain. For as magical as these movies can feel at their highs, they haven’t quite been there in a while.
In the end, all a movie like this has to do is have cool CGI creatures doing visually impressive things. It has that, but no real wit or character development to be found. It has a bunch of talented performers doing adequate work. Is it a movie I’m going to watch again, and continue to be impressed by? Absolutely not. It does the same thing as the last one, almost beat for beat. It’s not exceptionally thoughtful, witty or poignant. Every trick and every move is so obvious. It’s a rigidly planned studio movie that is supposed to be just satisfying enough to fans to crack a billion dollars at the global box office and get a third movie made. Will anyone think of this as one of the best Jurassic films? Absolutely not. But for a summer popcorn movie, it just might be enough.