If there’s one dinosaur that’s gained notoriety over the years because of the Jurassic Park franchise, it’s the velociraptor. Aside from the uber-popular, well-represented T-Rex, raptors have been featured numerous times in all the installments, slicing through peripheral characters with their long claws and gnawing at the necks of extras. It only seems fitting that in Fallen Kingdom, the certified killing machine once again takes centerstage. And therein lies the problem with this sequel: unless you’re a bright-eyed kid with little to no history of the now five-movie series, there’s really nothing new for you here. This is a movie that belongs to a new generation—young and unassuming and eager to see these gigantic creatures brought to life. One that probably hasn’t experienced the Steven Spielberg original that spawned these box office hits. We'll try not to completely ruin the magic for them.
But if you’re a serious moviegoer (serious meaning you just, well, take your movies too seriously) then this feels redundant. This feels done. This feels like it belongs in the Jurassic era.
Mankind is still recovering from the aftermath of the tragedy that was the Jurassic World theme park. And now, an active volcano on Isla Nublar threatens to wipe out the dinosaurs that remain on the island. Former Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is enlisted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Jurassic Park founder John Hammond’s former business partner, to capture a few of the species left and move them to a private sanctuary. Claire’s ex-boyfriend, raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), is commissioned for the rescue party in order to help locate Blue, the hyper-intelligent raptor he trained. And naturally (you think these people would’ve learned their lesson by now), things don’t go according to plan and a blindside leaves our heroes fighting for their survival.
The movie has its fun moments—there’s a sequence involving Grady, Claire, and a drugged-up T-Rex that pulls some laughs and excitement. The opening scene, which true Jurassic fans have come to recognize as the tragedy that usually sets the tone for the rest of the film, is a monster thrill-fest that doesn’t scrimp on the scares. And then there’s Pratt, whose silver screen charm is enough to carry him through an otherwise clunky script by putting him through the most rigorous (and hilarious) action-driven situations. One could only wish that there was actual chemistry between him and Howard, their PG romance deemed doomed by the writers for a reason—the sparks just aren’t there.
Perhaps the film’s greatest weakness is, in its effort to pay homage to its forefathers, it rips off one too many tropes from those that came before it. It’s a paint-by-numbers dinosaur flick that never deeply explores the side-stories that it introduces (there’s a whole storyline with Lockwood’s granddaughter that is never fully explained and feels forced). Yes, the computer graphics here are so astounding that the lines between what is digital and what is animatronics are totally blurred. But you don’t need to go on a paleontological dig if you’re looking for another example of franchise fatigue. Fallen Kingdom announces itself with a loud roar but sadly is missing that flesh-tearing, bone-chilling attitude that movies of its ilk used to deliver. Ian Malcolm in a cool cameo explains that, when it comes to handling these animals, humanity doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes, proving itself incapable again and again. It’s a fitting allusion to the franchise itself.