The stakes are clear. At the outset of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we are told that a volcano on Isla Nublar is going to erupt and all the dinosaurs (still living there after the last movie's catastrophe) are going to die. The whole first act of the movie centers on Claire and Owen tagging along with a group who wants to save 11 species from double-extinction. The news reports and court hearings we see make it sound as though this could be the end of dinosaurs, again, and there's nothing anyone can do to prevent that from happening.
Except, there's no way in hell it's stopping here. The dinosaurs don't have to be alive to be cloned and re-cloned, their DNA spliced and reconstructed. Heck, during the outset of the movie we see an underwater craft collect a viable sample from the now-dead Indominous Rex from the last movie.
Yes, the fiery death of maybe a thousand (?) of the last living dinosaurs is a tragedy to be sure, but thanks to the magic of Jurassic movie science, every single living creature is basically Cell from Dragon Ball Z -- if one tiny little microbe survives, you can bring the whole thing back. Indominus Rex died in the water, and its DNA was salvaged with no trouble (okay, besides the multiple murders). And we know for a fact that scores of dinos met that exact same fate as the I-Rex in Fallen Kingdom.
It does seem like the mission to get an I-Rex sample wasn't exactly public knowledge, but that doesn't matter. This world already knows that these creatures were resurrected with prehistoric goop locked inside 100 million year-old amber. Last week's volcano is nothing.
As the bad guys note, stealing and dealing endangered species isn't exactly what you'd call legal. They do get away with it, because hey, it's not like the abandoned island has a police force. But uh, wouldn't there be all kinds of cameras recording their every move? The reports we see on TV show that this is a massive, global story that everyone is aware of, and broadcasting the "second extinction" of the dinosaurs would no doubt mean huge ratings. Of course, that would mean the dinosaur smuggling ring -- which operated in broad daylight -- would be exposed, and then the rest of the movie would be null and void.
I'll admit it: I've never been to an underground dinosaur auction. I'm just not that classy. Even so, the depiction of such a black market in Fallen Kingdom is more than a little puzzling. Yes, the little electronic cage runway for the dinosaurs seems ludicrous, as does the absurd lighting and aesthetic of what's basically a mansion basement, but we can chalk that up to making a hard sell to potential buyers. What doesn't make sense is the idea that a dinosaur, the last of its kind living and breathing on this planet Earth, would sell for something as low as $10 million.
Now, at this stage in the Jurassic universe, dinosaurs are a little less of a novelty than they were before. Their existence was revealed about 25 years beforehand, so maybe the excitement would have worn off already. But again, we're still talking about a healthy dinosaur, one that has been born in bred in the most advanced facilities on the planet. This healthy dinosaur is also part of international news, since they have recently become one-of-a-kind in the saddest way possible. Why you'd sell anything as rare as this for the same price as a luxury yacht or a studio apartment in New York City is beyond me.
The Jurassic World films have great setpieces, but it's becoming more and more clear that these "big moments" take priority over trivial things like story and characters. Take the blood transfusion scene, for instance. Seeing Owen and Claire get up close to a sleeping T-Rex to take a sample is one of the highlights of the movie. While Jurassic films are inherently about awe and scale, putting the heroes in a tiny box with a gigantic predator flips the script in a disarming-but-fun way.
But the problem here is that Claire and Owen shouldn't have to get anywhere near that T-Rex. Zia needs that dino blood to save Blue's life (let's just... try to move past that part), but it's not like keeping Owen's favorite Raptor alive is some clandestine mission. The mercenary dino smugglers specifically kept Zia alive so she could make sure Blue pulled through.
There was no need to send Claire and Owen into mortal danger when Zia could have just as easily told one of the mercs to get the sample. They'd have to comply, because capturing Blue was worth a big bonus to the buyers. Though if Zia did that, there'd be one less setpiece, and this movie really needs them.
Benjamin Lockwood's character is a head-scratcher. Who is this dude, again? If he was around when John Hammond created InGen, why didn't we hear about him until now? At least the last Jurassic World didn't pretend Simon Masrani was around the whole time -- he bought InGen from Hammond and sought to bring his predecessor's vision to life. Masrani was his own character with his own charm, and when he died it was actually a little sad. In Fallen Kingdom, James Cromwell seems to be playing some kind of empty Hammond doppelganger. It's sort of fitting in a metatextual way, but the character only exists for like two plot points.
The emptiness of Lockwood is best exemplified in his baffling lack of awareness. He might be an old man with limited mobility, but the idea that a secret laboratory/dinosaur jail/smuggler auction house was built and assembled under his own mansion without his knowledge is just unbelievable. Did he never notice that a giant freight elevator was installed in his home? What does Lockwood think is happening when dozens of trucks (and dozens more buyers) show up to the loading dock on the night of the auction?
I would say that it's like something out of Dexter's Laboratory, but even Dexter's parents eventually found out their son's secret. In a cartoon.
From the start, Maisie is established as being very skilled at the game of hide-and-seek. Seems like there's not much else to do in great big mansion with no other children. This sets up the idea that Maisie can feasibly escape from the various humans and dinosaurs in the movie that wish to do her harm. Maisie has a Thing, like how in the original Jurassic Park, Lex was good at computers and Tim was good at being a huge waste of space that can't even hand a shotgun to people who are trying to keep Raptors out of the computer room.
So there's no reason at all that Maisie should think her last hiding spot should be on top of her bed, under the covers with her head peeking out. We already know she's smarter than that. The only discernible reason that this intelligent child would make this silly decision is so that the compelling shot above could occur. This adds to the feeling that Fallen Kingdom is a series of "big moments" loosely stuck together in random order. Plenty of big-budget movies are built the same way, but at least they're courteous enough to use a little more masking tape.
The awesome power of science, the unstoppable force that is nature and the folly of men who think they can control them are all big parts of the original Jurassic Park from the very start. Fallen Kingdom, however, kinda shoehorns its themes into the third act. Claire and Owen are accused of being the "parents" of the new and terrible Jurassic World that has been unleashed (even though five movies tell us it was really John Hammond and Dr. Wu). A great deal of weight is given to Claire's final decision: Will she let the dinosaurs go free, or keep the door shut and let them choke on the uh *checks notes* arsenic gas that is slowly filling the mansion basement?
In other words, she can kill these majestic creatures to keep science from running amok any further, or open the doors and risk the (living) dinosaurs being further exploited by man. Paraphrasing here, but someone tells Claire "You can't close Pandora's Box," to which she responds "We have to try."
Does she, though? Besides the lives of the dinosaurs themselves, there is literally nothing to be gained from letting them go free. If the dinosaurs die, their DNA can easily be recovered. The cloning technology isn't going to choke on that gas. Men are going to continue warping dinosaur genetics for profit, and it doesn't matter if the T-Rex is dead -- they'll just make another one. There are still plenty of dinosaur corpses in the water off the coast of Isla Nublar, the flying and aquatic dinosaurs made it out just fine, and hell, there are probably still several nuggets of amber chock-full of dino DNA out there, too. In that moment, Claire believing that she has the power to close the book on cloned dinosaurs forever is as arrogant and short-sighted as the people who keep cloning dinosaurs.
Maybe the worst part of it all? Nobody ever remarks on the immediate cost of releasing prehistoric carnivores into the general populace.
We're supposed to feel for Maisie. When she takes it upon herself to open the dock doors after Claire decides against it, Maisie explains that the dinosaurs are like her. A late-game plot twist reveals that Maisie herself is a clone of Lockwood's late daughter, and she thinks that dinosaurs deserve the same treatment that she would get. That kinda makes sense in a kid logic kind of way.
Except Maisie is a small nice human being and not a gigantic carnivore that will kill random people on the street. By allowing the dinosaurs to leave the compound, Maisie is directly responsible for multiple deaths, a couple of which we see on-screen minutes later. As a viewer we're fine with that smarmy villain finally getting his due, but it's not as though the T-Rex's rampage will discriminate between good and bad guys. After the credits roll, there will no doubt be further bloodshed, but it's never addressed because it doesn't fit with the half-baked Sophie's Choice part of the narrative. Instead, people will die offscreen, all because a child empathized with unstoppable prehistoric murder machines.