Jurassic Park is a franchise that has escaped extinction multiple times. The first film a megahit of worldwide proportions, and it spawned the inevitable sequels. Unfortunately, those sequels were never able to capture the lightning in a bottle of the first movie. Of course, initial failure was never enough to deter John Hammond, and it wasn’t enough to deter this franchise. It came back in a big way with Jurassic World, a movie which gave us a combination of all new characters and a very familiar island. While that movie was satisfying, the question lingered: could they provide a great sequel? Or, like the very first movie, would the sequel end up disappointing fans?
Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom premiered, and it turns out that the answer to this question is: “yes and no.” The movie avoids some of the colossal mistakes of the previous sequels, and ends up being quite a bit more entertaining than something like Lost World. At the same time, though, the movie replicates some of the flaws of the franchise while finding its own brand new mistakes to make. That brings us back to the eternal question: is this movie good or bad? Well, it all depends on what you are looking for. Are you in it for action and romance? Are you in it for drama and characterization? Or do you just really want to see some vicious dinosaurs eating some hapless humans? All of this and more will be revealed. Just keep reading to uncover Jurassic World and the 10 things we loved and didn't!
WARNING: Spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ahead!
20 LIKED: NEW SIDEKICKS
When it comes to sequels (and sequels of sequels), there are plenty of things that look good on paper and end up looking bad in the movie. However, the idea of adding young sidekicks to Owen and Claire’s adventure actually sounded bad on paper, too. Imagine our surprise when they were one of the best things about the movie!
Not only do Zia and Franklin inject some much-needed humor into what could otherwise be a pretty bleak movie, but they serve as great surrogates for the audience, like with Franklin’s frequent paranoia that he will encounter the legendary T-rex. And Zia manages to walk an impressive tightrope between being strong and vulnerable, refusing to be just another character archetype. Overall, we want to see more!
19 DIDN'T LIKE: WE WEREN’T “WOOED”
One of the coolest things about the first Jurassic World was the return of Henry Wu. Not only did he provide a very concrete link to the first film, but he essentially functioned as the true “Big Bad”-- the brains behind the whole operation. Unfortunately, his return in this movie is pretty disappointing.
He basically exists in this movie to give some warnings about tampering with dinos, act horrified at the auction, and then get knocked out. In many ways, this feels like a regression: instead of being a villainous mastermind, he’s back to acting like a junior scientist from Hammond’s lab.
18 LIKED: MAISIE LOVE
The Jurassic Park franchise has always bucked the trend when it came to child actors. Many moviergoers rightfully dread kid actors because of the inevitable bad acting and characterization. However, like the kids in the very first Jurassic Park, Maisie turns in both an impressive performance and a compelling character.
The revelation that she is actually a clone of her mother is also very fascinating. It shows that the franchise is finally (if very belatedly) considering the other ramifications behind the science used to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. Exploring the potential of human cloning ups some doors that future films in the franchise will hopefully walk through.
17 DIDN'T LIKE: DISAPPOINTING DINO
The Jurassic Park movies have sometimes been the victim of its own success. For instance, the first two sequels were good movies in their own right, but they suffered from not being as great as that amazing first film. And in a similar level, the franchise sabotaged itself by giving us the T-rex in the first movie.
The T-rex was so iconic that every attempt to come up with a bigger villain has seemed like a lame retread. Indominus Rex, for instance, was not very compelling in Jurassic World, and this movie’s main dino baddie, the “indoratpr.” is even more uninspiring. It feels like the opposite of what these movies should be: just a silly CGI monster instead of something that seems tangible and real.
16 LIKED: GRIZZLY JAMES CROMWELL
Another thing Jurassic Park sequels have struggled with was the loss of John Hammond. He appeared in the first two movies, but after the death of actor Richard Attenborough, the franchise never seemed to capture his mixture of imagination, ambition, and humanity again. However, Fallen Kingdom comes pretty close.
The character of Benjamin Lockwood, played by James Cromwell, adds both gravitas and humanity to the proceedings. He basically functions as a great echo of Hammond himself, as he dreams only of saving the dinosaurs in a world that mostly looks at them as a source of profit. And his role in the central mystery of “who or what is Maisie” is just the cherry on top!
15 DIDN'T LIKE: AUCTION PLOT NOT WORTH BIDDING ON
At the center of the movie is a rather singular bad guy plot: they are going to auction off the surviving dinosaurs to the highest bidder. At this point, these individuals (or their countries) can then create their own army of dinosaurs, which is something that seriously concerns Henry Wu.
Unfortunately, the auction plot is a hot mess. First, it’s wild to think that giant dinosaurs and dozens of international criminals all came to Lockwood’s estate without anyone noticing. Second, the auction amounts seem weirdly low -- people are paying millions for creatures and tech worth billions. Finally, their willingness to sell the beta version of the indoraptor is irresponsible and insane. What did they think would happen with it?
14 LIKED: HORROR MOVIE INFLUENCE
Generally speaking, audiences and critics alike enjoyed the first Jurassic World. However, one scene stood out in a bad way: the death of Zara, Claire’s personal assistant. If you’ll recall, she’s grabbed by a flying pteranodon before another tries to grab her, then she falls in a tank and is nearly drowned by the creatures before finally being eaten by the mosasaurus.
It felt cruel and exploitative, but the franchise seemed to learn a lesson: sometimes, less is more. In Fallen Kingdom, we don’t get a lot of blatant blood or gore. In fact, much of it is like a light horror movie, complete with shooting lurking dinosaurs in flickering lights like an old movie monster. The final effect is quite thrilling!
13 DIDN'T LIKE: SWIFT BETRAYAL
The motivation to get Owen and Claire back in the saddle for this movie is the opportunity to save some of the dinosaurs on the island from dying when a volcano erupts. Very quickly, though, they find out it’s all a ruse, and they were just being used to capture blue so that future dinosaurs could be developed by the bad guys.
In our always humble opinion, though, the betrayal happens way too quickly. It’s nice that they wanted a change of scenery for this movie, but they get off the island so quickly that it barely feels worth it to go there. All in all, we could go for a little more island and a lot less of that damn auction!
12 LIKED: DARK ENDING
The Jurassic Park franchise has often felt like a study in contrasts. A big part of their original inspiration was monster movies, with these dinos being the latest in a long line of larger-than-life creatures to terrorize humanity. Nonetheless, the directors of these monster movies always felt compelled to give us a happy ending.
Well, Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona did not get that memo and he delivered a refreshingly dark and somber ending. Before the credits roll, dinosaurs are loose and attacking humanity, all while Dr. Malcolm reminds us that could all be wiped out by these creatures. Ultimately, we see that the emotional choice to save the dinos from certain death will have some frightening ramifications.
11 DIDN'T LIKE: SEQUEL BAIT
Of course, not everything in that ending was good. Interspersed with scenes of dinosaurs loose and attacking, we see that once again, bad guys are making off with genetic samples of the dinos. The movie is very clear: it looks like we’ll be doing this all over again. And honestly? We’re a little sick of it.
The “sequel bait” stuff alone is bad storytelling. But as Malcolm himself asks, how long will humanity keep making these mistakes? These movies have always struggled to come up with fresh ideas, and the final shots of Fallen Kingdom see to promise more of the same in the future. It’s tough to get excited about that.
10 LIKED: EASTER EGGS
When a franchise goes on this long, it’s tempting for moviemakers to focus entirely on innovation. However, longtime fans like to be rewarded with cool easter eggs and references to previous movies. And as it turns out, Fallen Kingdom is a movie with some pretty fun callbacks!
Some of them are more blatant, like the return of Dr. Malcolm to talk about how chaos spreads. Others are visual, like Maisie hiding in the dumbwaiter echoing Lex doing the same in Jurassic Park. And eagle-eyed viewers will also notice things like miniature recreations of the original park and paintings of John Hammond. There’s enough easter eggs to make fans go back for a second viewing!
9 DIDN'T LIKE: LACK OF CAMEOS
Overall, Fallen Kingdom is a really solid movie. And it feels a bit petty to look at a solid movie and criticize it for some of the things it didn’t do. However, we couldn’t shake the feeling that this movie was hurt by a lack of other notable cameos.
The biggest cameo was Ian Malcolm (more on him in a minute), and the second biggest was Henry Wu. And...that’s it! In a franchise with so many notable characters, it felt really bad not to get at least a reaction shot from some others. An appearance by Alan Grant or Ellie Sattler (or even better, both) would have made the movie that much better.
8 LIKED: MALCOLM FINDS A WAY
In many ways, Dr. Malcolm was the surprise breakout character of the first movie. Malcolm doesn’t have the biggest role, but Jeff Goldblum’s quirky charm (and his willingness to do cheesecake poses for certain shots) quickly made him a fan fave (and the lead man for the sequel). Needless to say, we really liked seeing him in Fallen Kingdom.
Malcolm effectively bookends the movie, introducing us to the threat of these dinosaurs to our way of life and then being instantly vindicated as he continues on this topic at the end of the movie (as we see the dinosaurs running loose and menacing humanity). Ultimately, our big hope for any future sequels is simply getting more Malcolm!
7 DIDN'T LIKE: SIMPLISTIC PLOT
The first Jurassic Park movie is so iconic in part because it deals with many complex ideas. It wasn’t just a matter of surviving monsters run amok -- the movie also tackled ideas about evolution, the role of science, and how our ideas about humanity’s guiding ethics and principles are constantly changing.
Compared to that, it’s tough not to find Fallen Kingdom’s plot a little too simplistic. Once the “twist” happens, it’s basically a movie about our heroes escaping imprisonment in a big mansion. And the execution of that plot is tight and entertaining, but as they say, there’s just not much “there” there. This plot makes things like Lost World look downright ambitious!
6 LIKED: THRILLING FIRST SCENE
A big, uphill climb for Fallen Kingdom was the need to get audiences excited about this franchise again. They chose to do so through a refreshingly simple course: an awesome first scene! By the time the scene is over, you’re on the edge of your seat and ready to watch more.
The scene focuses on the hapless crew that was sent to the park in order to retrieve vital dino DNA. It doesn’t go smoothly, though, with one member of the crew narrowly surviving death by T-rex, only to end up eaten by the giant mosasaurus instead. For this guy, it turned out that death, not life, found a way!
5 DIDN'T LIKE: YAWN-WORTHY VILLAINS
Unfortunately, Fallen Kingdom ends up falling prey to a persistent franchise issue: lame bad guys. This movie goes a long way towards making us care about the dinosaurs, and they were once our chief antagonists. Taking their place are some really disappointing human antagonists.
Eli Mills, for instance, is just a bland dude looking to get rich...and ultimately not that different from Mr. Eversol, who is a bland dude who is simply looking to get more rich. The most compelling bad guy is military man Wheatley, but all he does is act gruff, get teeth, and get dead. It’s tough to really root for the heroes when the bad guys are...well...bad!
4 LIKED: GREAT PACING
In the grand analysis of the film, we could have used more settings (more on this in a minute). However, we have to hand it to the filmmakers: the pace of this movie is relentless, and if you find yourself bored here or there, you’re guaranteed to not stay that way!
The movie has the normal amount of Jurassic action scenes. However, there’s also some fun stealth scenes with our heroes, some classic jailbreak action, and even the kinds of rooftop chases more at home in a movie with superheroes than one with dinosaurs. The movie ended up helping us bond with the edge of our seat, as we didn’t move from it very much.
3 DIDN'T LIKE: BAD PLACING
We’ve alluded to this a few times already, but now we’re going to just come out and say it: too much of this movie takes place in one location. And while that was able to help with some unconventional scenes (we’ve never really had dinos in a mansion, for instance), it got stale after a bit.
And yes, we can hear you from there: most of these movies are in one location, but that location happens to be a huge island with many different environments. Once they leave that island, this movie is almost exclusively in a mansion. That means the environmental diversity of previous films is replaced with “yet another hallway” and “yet another big room.”
2 LIKED: EMOTIONAL RESONANCE
There is a trap that this franchise could have easily fallen into where it became just a dino-themed action movie. And the danger of that is especially keen when more and more of the dinosaurs become little more than CGI creations. However, this movie packs quite a bit of emotional wallop along with the action.
It’s tough not to tear up, for instance, seeing the doomed dinosaurs on the island as the volcano explodes. And it’s similarly rough watching the survivors about to be poisoned to death at the end. How emotional is this movie? You’ll find yourself rooting for dino survival at the end even though it means the future death of humans.
1 DIDN'T LIKE: THE DAMSEL IN THIS DRESS
The franchise has pretty unambiguously set up Claire and Owen as the two main stars of these movies. In fact, a character in Fallen Kingdom refers to them as the “mother and father” of a new age. And while both of them are very charming and engaging in their own way, Claire really gets little to do.
Sure, you can point out some cool moments, like when she saves Owen with a well-timed endoraptor distraction or helps him escape a truck with a waking T-rex. For the most part, though, she stands around bantering with Owen until he ends up saving the day. And while we love banter, we’d also love to see Claire bring more to the table.