The bar that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has to clear is just “be less of a sexist mess than Jurassic World”. That’s it. The bar could not be lower. Jurassic Park has never and will never spawn a good sequel because it’s a one-trick pony, story-wise, and every subsequent Jurassic movie will repeat that trick: Dinosaurs escape, people get eaten. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth Jurassic and second World movie, is the first Jurassic Park sequel to understand that this franchise is essentially a fruitless endeavor, completely creatively bankrupt, and to actually have fun with that. Not have fun with the legacy or the nostalgia, but have fun with the sheer pointlessness. The result is pretty much exactly what you want out of a Jurassic movie: lots of dinosaurs, and lots of people being eaten, and no weirdly brutal secretary deaths to make you feel bad.
There are a couple obvious nods to Jurassic World in Fallen Kingdom, the first being all the establishing shots of Bryce Dallas Howard’s shoes. She returns as Claire, the uptight businesswoman now turned eco-warrior trying to save dinosaurs from re-extinction (umm…why?). The first shot of her in the movie is of her shoes—high heels—as she goes into work. Later, when she is once again heading into the wilderness to find raptor-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, halfway to Full Marlboro Man), we get another shot of her shoes, this time: sensible boots. This is all Jurassic World had to do in the first place, but they f*cked it up so now Fallen Kingdom is picking up the slack and using Claire’s wardrobe to signal her pragmatism.
The other thing Fallen Kingdom fixes is the death scenes so that no innocent person gets eaten by a dinosaur. Literally everyone who gets eaten 100% deserves it and you actively cheer for them to be ripped apart by actual monsters. Colin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World, is still on board as a co-writer, and it’s like he’s saying, “Here’s a bunch of scumbags being eaten by monsters, is this what you want?” Yeah, dude, that’s literally all you have to deliver.
With Trevorrow out of the director’s chair, Juan Antonio Bayona steps in. This is the least emotionally distressing movie Bayona has made ever, but he still puts his signature nightmarish stamp on Fallen Kingdom. And it looks WAY better than Jurassic World. Bayona makes heavy use of chiaroscuro and silhouettes and the famous Jurassic Park car-mirror shots and the result is a much prettier film. There’s a bit with a dying brontosaurus that is especially good. The opening scene, in particular, is GREAT. Bayona understands the dinosaurs are f*cking monsters and he frames them appropriately. That opening scene is just *chef’s kiss*. He also doesn’t bother trying to outdo Jurassic Park. Almost every action sequence in Fallen Kingdom is a remix of action sequences from Jurassic Park, and it works. I mean, the bit in the girl’s bedroom doesn’t really work because it’s DINOSAURS in a LITTLE GIRL’S BEDROOM, and that is just silly. But for the most part, the dino-action is solid.
The plot is less solid but that’s only because continuing to justify the existence of dinosaurs in this world is incredibly stupid. Jeff Goldblum is back as Dr. Ian Malcolm pretty much just to make that point. The volcano on Isla Nublar is suddenly active and threatening to kill off the last dinosaurs when it erupts, and everyone in the world is like, “Yeah, that’s probably for the best.” But not Claire and Owen! Feeling guilty over their roles in previously exploiting dinosaurs, they decide to go back and try to save some, including Owen’s raptor-pal, Blue. There is an animal rights message tucked in Fallen Kingdom, which is a bit misplaced when the animals in question are unstoppable man-eating monsters that only exist because of our hubris and also, now they’ve been weaponized. Extinction is not the worst outcome. WEAPONIZED DINOSAURS is definitely the worst outcome.
Proselytizing aside, Fallen Kingdom is what you want out of a Jurassic movie. Is it good? Not really. Is it loud? Very. Is it dumb? SO DUMB. Is it fun? Yeah, it is. Thanks to Bayona’s generally excellent visuals and reimagining of Jurassic Park, it is very fun. It’s super stupid, not defending that, but it is precisely the kind of dumb-fun a Jurassic sequel ought to deliver. If they’re going to insist on continuing this franchise—and the sequel-baiting ending of Fallen Kingdom assures us they will—the least they can do is make fun movies with good action. Just by virtue of making Fallen Kingdom fun, it’s already a better Jurassic sequel. Not good, but better.
Attached - Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard at Sirius XM last week to promote Fallen Kingdom.