It seems strange to fault Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for being filled with plotholes big enough you could smuggle an allosaurus though. When the first Jurassic Park came out back in 1993, the big T-Rex reveal made for a huge suspension of disbelief. And not just in the “look, there’s a giant dinosaur” kinda way.
When we first see the t-rex enclosure, behind the giant fence, we’re shown a massive trench. A common feature in zoos as added security to keep the more carnivorous animals contained. This gets immediately ignored when the t-rex breaks free. It was even brought up by the film’s script supervisor, who’s job it is to notice these things for the sake of continuity. But Spielberg’s gonna Spielberg, and opted to do it anyway.
And really, no one noticed. The few who did seemed to shrug it off, and it’s turned into more anecdotal trivia then anything. Granted, this was years before the era of the internet that spawned countless message boards, comment threads, and whatever the hell Cinema Sins turned into.
Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh, right. Fallen Kingdom.
So, director J.A. Bayona’s follow-up to 2015’s Jurassic World, like most big-budget, high-octane popcorn movies, has a number of these ‘trench’ moments. So many, in fact, that they do become a distraction — especially when coupled with every character being inclined to do the stupidest possible thing at almost every turn.
That aside, Fallen Kingdom is still a popcorn movie, and when it’s fun, it’s really fun. It’s just the fun bits are rationed out between an astounding amount of unnecessary subplots, exposition, and needless conflict. So much so that it seems contradictory to its nature as a summer action film.
The story starts with a rescue mission to Isla Nubar to save a select number of species before the island is destroyed by a now-active volcano. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has gone from a number-crunching corporate shill to a dino-activist, and is recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the power suit-wearing smooth-talker who promises her it’s all to transfer them to another island that’ll serve as their tourist-free sanctuary.
Mills is the executor to the estate of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who helped John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) conceive of and execute the original Jurassic Park. Claire’s brought on board solely to help convince Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join along so they can trap Blue, the hyper-intelligent raptor from Jurassic World.
However, if it weren’t painfully obvious when you first see him, Mills has an alternate motive. He sees the dinosaurs as a commodity and plans to sell them off to the highest bidder. To do that, he brings in Eversol (Toby Jones), an equally evil arms dealer who’s given an entire scene to proclaim his unhappiness with Mills’ timetable, threatening to stop the dino-auction before the “rescue” mission even gets underway.
There’s also a precocious kid (Isabella Sermon) — because of course there is — who has a whole backstory and big third-act reveal of her own. Oh, and Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) back, though relegated to a kind of bookended narrator whose scenes felt better suited to the trailers than the actual film. Come to think of it, that goes for quite a few of Fallen Kingdom’s scenes.
It’s enough plot (and plotholes) to fill the runtime of two movies, and makes the sequences of dinosaurs running amok feel too few and far-between.
When those sequences do happen, they’re a unique blend of tried-and-true Jurassic tropes and more deliberate nods to Spielberg’s 1993 original. As a result, some are great, and some just come off as flat and derivative.
Ultimately, Fallen Kingdom is a curious juxtaposition of the overwrought and the forthright. A middle child of a revamped trilogy that struggles to be taken seriously, but ultimately proves unable to strike a balance between an attempt at sophisticated storytelling and audience-friendly eye candy.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens in theaters today