When Jurassic World debuted with what was then the biggest opening weekend of all time, I was shocked. When it (for a time) became the third-biggest movie ever, I was perplexed. I certainly wasn't in the camp that thought it was nearly as good as Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster, but I also wasn't among the even louder group that thought it was one of the worst movies of the summer, and lumped Colin Trevorrow in with the worst directors ever. To me, it was a competently made but soulless product.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom never feels like more than a competently made but soulless product, but it does have one crucial difference: J.A. Bayona has actually put his stamp on this. The director of the creepy Spanish thriller The Orphanage and the harrowing survival drama The Impossible actually has a discernible style, which covers for continued script problems and stock characters.
This sequel takes place three years after the events of the previous film, with a volcano threatening to wipe out the dinosaurs remaining on the island. It's laughable that the film wants us to feel these animals' plight, that both the docile and bloodthirsty dinos alike should be rescued (on a taxpayer-funded mission, no less). Enter a philanthropic billionaire (James Cromwell), playing John Hammond's previously unseen partner on the original park. His estate manager Eli (a slimy Rafe Spall) recruits Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) to save as many species as possible from destruction.
Of course, the trailer has already given away that this was a double-cross, with Eli only interested in auctioning off the beasts to evil billionaires around the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is just as easily predictable. Our heroes continue to make it out just in the nick of time, the bad guys are among the dumbest characters in movie history, and a vicious raptor is suddenly the hero. Of course, none of this is unusual for the franchise, but at this point it all feels a little rote.
Which isn't to say I didn't have a good time. Seeing it on the biggest screen possible, with the best sound possible, will make this ideal summer escapism. But like its predecessor, I won't be thinking about this movie in the months to come. It's not bad enough to hate, but not good enough to passionately defend.
Bayona certainly knows how to draw out tension, which Trevorrow did not. But once again, the film's best sequence – when a new predator named the indoraptor stalks a young girl – already revealed itself in the trailers. But he also pays too much reverence to Steven Spielberg, with nods to the original film, as well as Indiana Jones and Jaws. (There's also a wholly unnecessary subplot that feels like some discarded pages from A.I.)
Fallen Kingdom is certainly more stylish than its predecessor, but falls victim to the same problem that has plagued every sequel to the iconic film: it makes the mistake of thinking bigger is better, using advances in special effects to create bigger creatures, forgetting that we actually cared about the people who might get eaten, even those annoying kids.