There were many criticisms of Jurassic World, and I am delighted to report that they dealt with two of them in the sequel. Firstly, Claire finally gets to run around in sensible boots instead of high heels, and secondly, they’ve given up on theme parks. Also, they dropped the mandatory moppet count to one. This kind of thing matters in movies like this, becase by the time you’ve paid for the donuts and the CGI, there’s rarely enough money to pay for writers. If you cut the moppets down to one, you can get just enough writers into the budget to give a single moppet enough personality that you might care whether or not she’s in peril. Not that I actually did, but I almost did.
For the rest, it’s the same problem that I keep grumbling about. There are dinosaurs. They fight, and they eat things. Each other. Bad guys. Unimportant good guys. Goats. Because the Jurassic Park movies are aimed at a PG13 rating, the eating things bit tends to involve a whip pan away from anything icky. Not that I particularly want to see someone being eaten alive by a dinosaur, but it tends to suck a lot of the menace out of having dinosaurs around the place when you never see them do anything. There’s only so much you can do with sound effects.
The Jurassic movies seem to happen in an alternate reality where Jeremy Clarkson is a strategic thinking guru. The world is dominated by various kinds of billionaires, all of whose planning for anything is Clarkson’s insouciant “What could possibly go wrong?” It ought not to come as much of a surprise that a corporation which thought a dinosaur theme park was a good idea would then put it on an island with a volcano in the middle of it. Luckily for them, the other weaknesses in the plan did for their billion dollar investment before the volcano erupted.
Luckily for the audience, the volcano eruption doesn’t take up too much of the movie; it’s just a framing device to get some of the dinosaurs off the island and into genpop. There is, sadly, still enough time for Chris Pratt to wake up next to oozing lava and have to twitch his way out of its path. Adorably, the movie reckons that as long as something at a thousand degrees doesn’t actually touch you, you won’t have anything to worry about, unlike in the real world, where being less than a foot from lava is a cue for your clothes to catch fire, and then you.
Anyhow, much of the cast escapes from the island, including lots of dinosaurs and Ted Levine’s attempt to imagine what Bob Peck’s character would have been like if he’d been raised in a Skinner box full of rats and scorpions. Ted’s Wheatley is a guilty pleasure in a movie rather short of them. The other guilty pleasure is the slippery Henry Wu, who shows up in all of these movies for a couple of minutes to be the greatest living expert on cloning dinosaurs before vanishing with bags of evidence just before the roof falls in. If the villains had any sense, they’d make Henry the boss. He’s the only sane man on their side.
Then the shadowy corporate goons set out to auction off the dinos to people even more corporate and shadowy than they are, which all goes about as well as every other villainous plan in the Jurassic universe ever has. There is running, and there is screaming, and finally, long after I’d lost interest in the fights, the dinosaurs get out into the wild to set the scene for the inevitable sequel. And in those last few minutes, Fallen Kingdom does the only interesting things it manages to pull off. Firstly, they give the moppet a Sophie’s Choice moment over whether to let the remaining dinos die in a basement, and secondly they set up a problem for the next movie which actually had me thinking, Hmm, I’d like to see how that works out. Which is vexing; the ending is rushed and perfunctory and hasn’t been set up properly by the action (because the action was too busy trying to be action, rather than advancing the plot), and it just left me thinking that if they’d got the balance and pacing right - and had fewer dinosaur fights - they could have had a damn good movie on their hands.
Maybe next time.