If ever there were a film that felt like the second installment of a trilogy, it’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The film has it all: winky nods to the first film, a mostly serviceable plot, and an ending that promises that the third film is the one we’re all really waiting for. Okay, so calling it “filler” might be a bit harsh, but let’s just say it’s a fairly efficient way to get us from here to there.
“Here” is an island in Costa Rica, former home of the Jurassic World resort, where the surviving dinosaurs are in danger of extinction, thanks to a giant, soon-to-erupt volcano. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former operations manager at Jurassic World, is now running her own crew who include skinny tech guy Franklin (Justice Smith) and paleontologist veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda). They want to save the dinosaurs, so when Claire is approached by a guy named Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who claims that his boss, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), wants to put the endangered creatures in a nature sanctuary, she’s eager to help. But to do that they’ll need the aid of a dinosaur wrangler—does she happen to know any? Oh, hello, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).
About those winking nods to the first film: In Jurassic World, much was made of Claire’s inappropriate high heels as she ran through the Costa Rican jungle. The first time we see Claire here they zoom in her shoes and—sacre bleu!—she’s in heels again. But it’s just a joke. Soon she’ll change into sturdy boots. As for her relationship with Owen, I guess they’re supposed to be sparring ex-lovers who still really like each other, but I only know this because I’ve seen lots of rom-coms and filled in the blanks. Except for one kiss that basically pops up out of nowhere, the romance between those two is pretty much nonexistent. And like Jurassic World, the film still has a slightly patriarchal bent: Franklin might be anxious and fretful but Owen is still a manly hero who beats off the bad guys and whom Claire clutches dearly when she’s in danger. But because the women are smart and (occasionally) resourceful we’re supposed to think the film is feminist.
“You’re a nasty woman,” mercenary dinosaur hunter Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) says to Zia at one point, a direct “you go, girl!” shout out to the feminist “Nasty Woman” movement. (Note to the filmmakers: We are not won over that easily.)
One welcome addition is a spirited little girl named Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the granddaughter of Benjamin Lockwood. She has a bedroom filled with dinosaur toys—amusingly stomped on by an actual dinosaur at one point—and is just small enough to fit in the dumbwaiter, so you know she’ll end up being useful. That being said, her bonding with Claire and Owen comes way too quickly—we’re supposed to believe that she’s already devoted to them as guardians after less than an hour in their presence. This is a film that always sacrifices emotional stakes for another dinosaur chase.
As for the dinos themselves? Suffice it to say, the film’s commitment to paleontological accuracy isn’t exactly exemplary. One little head-butting dinosaur acts as comic relief; another dinosaur suddenly moves in super slow motion because…well, it’s scarier that way; and our hero raptor, Blue, always seems to bust in at the right moment to save the day.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is fine. Truly it is. It has a few laughs, a few scares, some decent action set pieces, and the special effects—especially the sound production (chomp-chomp)—are on point. Now, when’s the next one coming out?