Movie critics have spent the last few weeks sharpening their claws on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a sequel to a reboot of a classic that they accuse of being unoriginal, tonally inconsistent, and full of idiotic characters all too willing to put themselves in snapping distance of hot-blooded reptiles. These critiques are valid. The movie, like the dinosaurs in it, is a weird clone, it does feel a bit different than previous installments in the saga and the characters do make uniformly awful decisions. Is Fallen Kingdom a good movie? Not really, but it’s full of prehistoric beasts and fun as hell to watch. J.A. Bayona has made a joyful monster movie for dino-loving kids and dino-loving adults. And, yes, that’s enough.
Three years ago, Jurassic World, the fourth sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park and the first film in a new trilogy, raked in money at the box office despite a thin plot and some ragged performances from child actors. There’s a simple reason why. People like dinosaurs. Specifically, kids like dinosaurs because kids tend to, for psychological reasons, like exaggerated monsters. Dinosaurs are exaggerated and were real, which makes them doubly appealing. What makes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom work as entertainment — if not as a film — is that it’s made with that specific insight in mind. The movie prioritizes dinosaurs, specifically showing them biting and crashing into stuff. The screen is actually crowded with dinosaurs at points. Watching it, this provokes just one question: Why didn’t they do this before?
The answer is likely that previous filmmakers were working to construct new stories. Fallen Kingdom doesn’t do that, at least not up until perhaps its final third. The bulk of the film is a pastiche, a bunch of recycled beats juxtaposed to bring pleasure to the viewers. It’s a greatest hits album, not an artistic statement. Again, that’s not an indictment.
The movie’s plot is borderline nonsensical, but, to be fair, none of the sequels to Jurassic Park have made a whole lot of sense. If this whole enterprise were real, there would probably be a finite amount of those mosquitoes trapped in amber and, after the centrifuge got ‘em, no more cloned dinosaurs. The film franchise has suffered more or less that fate. There’s no more raw material so everything is cloned or reappropriated. It’s funny to hear critics take issue with this as the movies are about, on some level, a criticism of the impulse to bring stuff back from the dead. Critics aren’t telling the folks behind these films anything that they don’t already know.
Jurassic Park changed the way movies were made. It was an important film — maybe not in an academic or intellectual sense, but in a practical one. The new Jurassic sequels are not important in any sense. That’s the appeal. They are silly movies full of dinosaurs. If you want to see that (and millions of people do) then go see Fallen Kingdom. It won’t disappoint.
In Fallen Kingdom, there are good dinos and bad dinos, and when this movie’s dino-loving child Masie (there’s always one), has both kinds in her bedroom, the film really clicks. This is a movie about the appeal of monsters, which ultimately belong to children. The fact that this is a childish movie is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s likely for the best.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out in wide release on Friday, June 22nd.