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5 best and 5 worst things about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Ladies and gentlemen, the park is open for business yet again. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is here, bringing with it laughs, scares, and a whole lot of dinosaurs. Picking up after the events of 2015's Jurassic World, the film sees Chris Pratt's Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing team back up at the behest of one of the park's original benefactors. Why? So they can save the dinosaurs still residing on Isla Nublar from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that would wipe dinosaurs from the planet yet again. As you could probably guess, it doesn't quite go as planned. The film is full of thrills sure to satisfy longtime fans of the franchise, but it certainly isn't without its imperfections. For every high there's a low to match, and anyone expecting the best film of the franchise may want to temper their expectations. Be warned: there are spoilers ahead as we break down the five best and five worst things about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

Best: Zia is the bomb

Right from the jump Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gives its audience a character to root for. This character is a brazen spitfire, the kind of person who quickly establishes themselves as one not to be messed with. Based on the film's predecessor and its marketing material you probably think we're talking about Chris Pratt's returning raptor trainer Owen Grady. We're not. The standout character of Fallen Kingdom is Daniella Pineda's Dr. Zia Rodriguez, a paleoveterinarian working with Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing.

Zia is a character the film desperately needs and hugely benefits from. She's a take-no-crap go-getter who fiercely believes in the crew's cause of saving the dinosaurs from re-extinction. She sort of gets the shaft in the film's latter half, not getting nearly as much screentime as she does in the first, but putting the spotlight on her early on earns a lot of goodwill from the audience. She's every bit the bold, brash, and likable hero the film wants Owen Grady to be. Speaking of which…

Worst: Owen is still insufferable

We get what the filmmakers behind the two Jurassic World films are going for with Chris Pratt's Owen Grady. He is, in theory, the perfect action hero. He's cool and suave as he shamelessly flirts with Claire and dripping machismo as he rides a motorcycle alongside a pack of Velociraptors in the first Jurassic World film (admittedly maybe the coolest thing a person could do onscreen). Owen should be a franchise highlight. Instead he's one of Jurassic World's biggest detriments. That carries over in his return in Fallen Kingdom.

Owen is clearly modeled after characters like Han Solo and Pratt's own Star-Lord. The problem is that Owen's writing and performance lacks the self-awareness of that sort of character. We only like watching sleazy jerks in the hero role if they have an arc, if they learn to be better. It also helps to examine why the characters act that way, often revealing that their machismo is a front for insecurity. Owen has none of this. He's a pompous jerk and, instead of realizing he needs to improve, stays the same and is rewarded for doing so. It makes for an utterly insufferable character that you can't help but wish would get turned into T-Rex chow so we could spend more time with less-awful characters.

Best: A roaring start

Fallen Kingdom largely suffers from feeling like two movies crammed into one. One of those movies is a bit of a head-scratcher, but the other, the one that makes up most of the film's first hour or so, is pretty awesome. This is the story primarily spotlighted in the film's first trailer. It focuses on Claire, Owen, Zia, and a small crew with a mission: to travel to the ruins of Jurassic World to save a small number of dinosaurs from extinction by way of volcanic eruption. 

The mission is simple, and so are the character motivations. That's not to say it's dull, though. It features some of the film's tensest moments and best emotional beats — the silhouette of a brachiosaurus crumpling against the force of the eruption is legitimately moving. It's also the only part of the movie that seems to remember that Chris Pratt is primarily a comic actor, featuring a genuinely hilarious moment in which he tries to escape the flow of lava while coming out of a tranquilized state, his hand being the only part of his body with full motor functions. It's hard to not wish the movie had focused solely on this story by the time the credits roll.

Worst: A bizarre plot twist

There's a rule of storytelling that has been dubbed "Double Mumbo Jumbo." It argues that your audience can buy one drastic otherworldly twist or function in the world of the story, but never two. So, for example, an audience can absolutely buy a world in which dinosaurs have been brought back to life through genetic engineering. However, the fabric of that story is irreparably torn if another twist is thrown in. 

That's exactly what happens in Fallen Kingdom. The entire film series is structured around the idea of dinosaurs existing via genetic experimentation. Even some of the weirder elements like the creation of genetically-spliced dinosaurs feel true to that fiction. Fallen Kingdom invokes Double Mumbo Jumbo in its second act, though. A human character, the apparent granddaughter of the former partner of park founder John Hammond, is revealed to be a clone of his deceased daughter. It's a bizarre moment, one that feels massively disruptive to the universe. Despite having a tie to the film's original fictional twist, it feels completely alien here. What's worse is that after being revealed, it's never mentioned again. There's a vague allusion to it during part of the film's climax, but otherwise at no point does anyone acknowledge this game-changing revelation. In a film filled with ridiculous moments, this is perhaps the single most ridiculous.

Best: Raising the stakes

We're five movies into the Jurassic Park franchise and it's hard not to notice the constant hitting of the reset button. For a series centered around a genetic innovation that should change the course of humankind's progression and the laws of evolution being shattered into a million tiny pieces, each film sure does seem to go out of its way to put all of the toys back in the box by the time the credits are rolling. So it's refreshing to see Fallen Kingdom be so unafraid to change the world of the franchise over the course of its running time.

Something happens in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that has happened before in these movies: dinosaurs finally make their way off of the island and onto the mainland. The difference is that this time they're not wiped out, and they don't go back. By the end of the film, dinosaurs have been brought to America and let into the wild. It dramatically sets the stage for whatever comes next in the series and forces the next film to address a very specific new set of problems. Dinosaurs now walk among us without electric fences, trainers, or tracking chips to keep them in check.

Worst: Deja Vu-lociraptor

Sometimes bad decisions in movies make a certain degree of sense in the world's established fiction. We understand the temptation to revisit Jurassic Park in the fiction of the films in the series. While we, as viewers, can observe that there's literally no way a third trip to the ruins of Jurassic Park will go well, we can suspend our disbelief enough to buy into the story. However, this suspension has limits and Fallen Kingdom shatters those limits like a brick through a window.

The downfall of the second park, Jurassic World, is due almost entirely to the creation of Indominus Rex, a genetically engineered dinosaur created by Dr. Henry Wu, a character who's been around since the very first film. It wreaks havoc on the park and destroys the work of everyone involved in its creation. Wu, having now experienced the fall of not one but two dinosaur theme parks, should clearly know better than to play God by now. But Fallen Kingdom asks us to believe that he's dumb enough to create a second genetically engineered dinosaur using the DNA of Indominus Rex, the creature that destroyed Jurassic World to begin with. Not only is the Indoraptor a lazy recycled plot point, it's wholly unbelievable at this point that any character would dare try to create it. Because it's such a huge part of the film's story, it hinges the audience's suspension of disbelief on a flimsy plot point that doesn't hold up at all.

Best: The chase is on

Fallen Kingdom, and most Jurassic Park movies if we're honest, are at their best when dinosaurs are onscreen. Fortunately if there's one thing Fallen Kingdom isn't lacking, it's dinosaurs. There's nary a setpiece that doesn't feature at least one, and when they're onscreen the film is pretty entertaining. This is never more true than during the climactic mansion chase sequence.

The film's third act features the Indoraptor hunting Owen, Claire, and company through an expansive manor with a dinosaur holding facility and genetics lab in the basement. It's some seriously thrilling stuff, at times evocative of the classic raptor hunt in the original film. The Indoraptor is immensely intelligent and even more ruthless, so it's remarkably apt at tracking the humans through the complex. They're forced to keep moving and improvise new ways to throw it off as they weave through corridors, hidden labs, and a hall filled with fossils. It ends with a similarly satisfying dinosaur throwdown, the kind of show you come to these movies to see. The film's story and human characters may be flawed but Fallen Kingdom doesn't disappoint when it really matters.

Worst: Keep it simple

Most Jurassic Park films are ultimately pretty cut and dry. There are people on an island, or perhaps in a city. There happen to be dinosaurs on that island or in that city. The people then have to run from the dinosaurs. It's a brilliantly simple premise rooted in the human desire to survive. Fallen Kingdom tries to be more than that, and it fails miserably in the process.

There is so much going on in Fallen Kingdom. There's an extinction-level event that's going to take out all of the dinosaurs from Jurassic World. There's a rescue mission and then there's a double-cross and then there's a plot to sell those dinosaurs to shady millionaires. There's also a genetically-engineered dinosaur and a little girl with a mysterious backstory (who turns out to be a human clone). It's all needlessly complicated when all it really needs to be is a movie about people running from giant lizards who are going to kill them. Let's be clear: we're not knocking film-making ambition. Trying to become something more than a simple survival movie is admirable. Fallen Kingdom just isn't very good at it.

Best: It's still fun

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is full of characters making stupid decisions at every turn. It's got a dozen logical fallacies and introduces the inexplicably bizarre human cloning plot twist. It insists that Owen Grady is a cool, likable protagonist despite him being the polar opposite of that. Yet as the credits roll, you're still unlikely to feel you've wasted your time watching it.

Fallen Kingdom is never boring. There's always something pretty engaging happening onscreen. Most of its worst moments still feature dinosaurs, and it's pretty hard to make dinosaurs boring. The facets of the film that are there to entertain work, and they work well. The action is well shot and the special effects are truly top notch. It fails when it tries to make you think about its themes or when it tries to make you not wish one of the raptors would just eat Owen already. But when it comes to big, bombastic, turn-your-brain-off summer blockbuster action, it's in its element, and it fully delivers. 

Worst: Going once, going twice

When it comes to villains, the Jurassic Park movies may feature the occasional greedy scientists and military contractors, but the true antagonists are usually T-Rexes and raptors and genetically engineered reptilian nightmares that want to, you know, eat our protagonists for dinner. To its credit, Fallen Kingdom tries something new in creating a situation in which we're ultimately supposed to root for the dinosaurs alongside the human protagonists. Unfortunately, it needs more villains to replace the dinos and it resorts to some genuinely bizarre measures to fill the void.

The film's second act features an cartoonish litany of black-suited bad guys showing up at the aforementioned mansion for a dinosaur auction, complete with Toby Jones – who previously played Hydra scientist-turned-computer-brain Arnim Zola — as a sinister southern auctioneer. It's a scene ripped straight from a Batman comic, a veritable legion of supervillains gathered to use their astronomically large bank accounts to buy ankylosauruses and pterodactyls to…like, have them, for some reason? The dinosaurs aren't trained and weaponized like the Indoraptor, so one has to wonder what the logic behind buying them for use as weapons might be, so there's a logical fallacy on top of the already ridiculous premise. In a movie that features a genetically engineered and fully weaponized Velociraptor hybrid, somehow the most surreal characters are a bunch of humans. Plus none of those mad scientists or men of ill repute are anywhere near as scary as a good old-fashioned Tyrannosaurus Rex.