Here’s the thing about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom it looks bad and it is bad. I walked in with, at best, skepticism, and at worst, outright disinterest in anything but monitoring Bryce Dallas Howard’s shoe progression. What projected on the screen was on par with my worst ideas to such a degree that I decided to sit with what I saw for a beat to suss out if it was really so bad.
In retrospect, the series of colossal plot-necessitated mistakes that had to occur before the title credit even rolled revealed everything one really needs to know about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — if falls victim to the age-old sequel problem of having to raise the stakes. It wasn’t enough that the dangerous minds actually got a park with dinosaurs operational and thriving before everything went bad in the last one. Not enough that one hybrid-dino was leering from the darkness. Not enough that one group of baddies wanted to use trained raptors to make war. Nope, it all had to be bigger and badder, so we have a movie where a volcano is threatening the dinosaurs on the island that’s been left to the reign. We have new mashup dinos with terrifying abilities ready to bust loose, we have gates left open and people moving a bunch of predators to the mainland of the United States. And of course, we have the romantic pair at the center of the last picture reunited to save the day. And Jeff Goldblum to narrate a few dramatic lines and cash a monster paycheck.
The whole thing is sloppy, overwritten and too absurd to even be fun. Which is too bad, really, because this franchise has had some golden moments and golden stars attached to it over the years. That we’re now reduced to a movie that asks “Why pick one unlikely plot when we can have five?” speaks to the unfortunate nature of mega-franchises. At some point, nothing matters but the box office, and moviegoers who just want to munch some popcorn in an air-conditioned theatre while the T-Rex lays a beat down on the Raptors are the ones who suffer. While there’s fan service aplenty packed into the bloated narrative of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, there’s no substance. We get Buffalo Bill (yes, that one) making a trophy necklace of dino teeth instead of Dennis Nedry trying to cash in on those sweet, sweet embryos. We get all of the “veggie-saurus” left to perish in a volcano instead of gaping at the magnificence and understanding why someone thought this was a good idea in the first place. We get Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, bound by multi-movie deals, performing material far below their talents. And yes, we get one weird and wonderful dreamlike sequence that puts a classic fairytale monster spin on the new dino. It’s surely from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro (he gets a thanks in the credits) and should probably cost him his Oscar, but it’s so damn lovely and uncanny that you almost forgive him, and everything else that happens before and after. Almost.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom rather defies traditional criticism — it doesn’t matter, anyway, if it’s good, so long as it makes money — because it’s not really a movie unto itself. It has a beginning, middle and end, but it’s ultimately a giant set piece to bridge the world that was established in 2015 and the global showdown it sets the show for in the sequel surely to stomp into theaters a few summers from now. That picture is unofficially (and forever) to be known was War for the Planet of the Raptors, and as surely as I wished every minute that this installment would just end already, I know I’ll go again and watch to see how this trainwreck winds up. More and more, I’m on team dinosaur, let them do as Ellie Sadler once predicted, and let’s all be done with it.