Warning: Spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ahead.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth movie of the roaring reptilian series, has arrived in theaters to sprinkle some familiar wonder and stir up even more nostalgia for the original film, despite the fact that audiences have never been deprived of loud, crashing, bombastic summer blockbusters. Yet this franchise has continued to harvest DNA from amber with a familiar theme, and the films have consistently (at least, mostly) done so in fresh and thrilling ways while also making fun of themselves (very important).
That is to say, the films highlight humanity’s insatiable desire for making stupid judgment calls (like bringing back extinct species) that could doom us all. This tendency to avoid heeding history is currently reflected in today’s especially harsh and adversarial political climate, and perhaps watching genetically engineered, killer reptiles deal lessons to humans (who still refuse to learn) is somewhat therapeutic, as strange as it sounds. With that said, let’s get real — these movies were never intended as high art, but still, they’re rankable as far as their popcorn-crunching appeal goes. From worst to best, let’s do this.
5. Jurassic Park III (2001)
Within an entire franchise full of people making terribly idiotic decisions, the characters of the threequel somehow manage to make the worst moves of all. Paleontologist Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), who knows damn well that no one should enter an island full of dinosaurs, is still lured to Isla Sorna (now a restricted island) under false pretenses after a young boy lands there through a parasailing mishap. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni play bickering exes Paul and Amanda Kirby, respectively, who decide it’s worth risking other people’s lives and limbs to search for their son. From the very beginning, Leoni’s character attracts the killer reptiles by shouting through a megaphone, and the sound of Leoni helplessly screaming through the movie rarely ceases.
To make matters worse, the film doesn’t realize its own arrogance as the other installments do. And beyond Grant calling the beasts “genetically engineered theme-park monsters, nothing more and nothing less,” there’s no valuable commentary to smarten matters up either. If you were hoping for fine visuals to ease this viewing experience, you’re out of luck there as well. The dino attack scenes are comparatively unimaginative, and although the third film arrives one decade after the first one, III manages to look (from a technological standpoint) far less impressive. Not only are these characters grating, but the actors’ talents are wasted, and this is essentially a B-movie on a $93 million budget.
4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
The second film isn’t a masterpiece, but this is a palatable sequel, especially for those who wanted more action, and there’s plenty of it to be found with the dinos flourishing in their own island ecosystem (after conveniently overcoming the reproductive hurdle of their all-female status), referred to as Site B or Isla Soma (which, not incidentally, translates to “Sarcasm Island” in Spanish).
Speaking of sarcasm, the film will charm anyone’s pants off, thanks to the return of Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm, chaos theorist extraordinaire. The other characters, including lead Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) and photographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughan), fade into the background while the highlight remains Malcolm, who’s not only struggling with losing his university tenure — for “selling wild stories” about Jurassic Park — but also living up to his ladies-man reputation by not even realizing his girlfriend (Sarah) had traveled to Site B without telling him. He love-hates himself, and you’ll love him for it.
The battle sequences of Lost World also shine with tons of dino closeups and realistic behavior from those characters who become trapped in peril. In particular, a climactic scene during a downpour generates palpable suspense while a dinosaur sends the crew’s bus dangling over a cliff. There’s a ton of carnage, and folks are visibly ripped to pieces, which is either a plus or a minus, depending on one’s tastes, and of course, the “escape” from Site B isn’t the end of the movie because InGen executives can’t help but keep the party going by stowing away a few dinos on the evacuation ship. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see a T-Rex busting through customs in San Diego, and you view humans, rather than dinos, as the bigger danger, then Lost World is worth a rewatch.