I like dinosaurs. Chances are, you like dinosaurs, too. But I don’t like liar revealed stories, at least how Hollywood has been using them.
Don’t get me wrong, when done right, a proper liar revealed story can add extra depth to already complex stories, while giving the audience a “gotcha” moment that makes sense and, as a result, is deeply satisfying. But when done poorly, liar revealed stories can feel shoehorned in cheaply, and in the worst cases, can create plot holes and inconsistent characters.
But first, let’s get back to the dinosaurs. This is “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom!”
I’m not going to lie (not that I normally do), I didn’t know how I felt about this film when I walked out of the theater. That doesn’t happen to me very often at this point, as going to the movie theater has become somewhat of a hobby for me. When you see virtually every film you care to see in the theater, many of them merge together and you notice large overarching trends your average moviegoer might not be aware of, and as a result, this allows you to process films faster than you normally would have. A background in film studies also helps this, as it allows you to breakdown your reactions in relation to basic aspects of the cinema you just witnessed, and if I like or don’t like something, it’s often pretty easy to find out why.
But “Jurassic World” 2 was different. On aggregator sites, most critics feel mixed about this film, as it has gotten a reputation for its strong performances and brief moments of good direction from J. A. Bayona despite a very weak script, though as “Chronicle” screenwriter Max Landis pointed out in his interview on RedLetterMedia’s YouTube channel, it can be hard to detect what aspect of a story that is lacking is on the script and what is on the film’s editor or director. It is not uncommon for up to 30 percent or more of a film’s originally scripted scenes to be lost in post-production, so as a rule I generally disperse the blame of huge structural issues in a film’s story on the filmmakers as a whole, rather than on the screenwriter; however obvious written flaws like bad dialogue is often safe to assume was the fault of the script, though even with that you can never know for sure (i.e. bad delivery can make even the best written lines sound like crap).
But what makes this film difficult to review is that my personal opinion is reflective of the aggregator sites’ consensus of the film as a whole: I am mixed. I think certain aspects of the film are better than the first “World” movie, specifically how it fleshes out its main characters of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), but certain parts of the film are far worse, such as what “Jurassic World” 2 does with those characters.
The synopsis of the film is simplistic at first, then needlessly complex. I’m going to issue a spoiler warning right here because there’s no way to talk about the film as a whole without mentioning them. But in my opinion, these reveals aren’t going to be any better if you don’t immediately see them coming, not that you won’t when you watch the movie – anyone can see “World” 2’s plot twists coming from a mile away.
So here we go.
Three years after the original “Jurassic World” movie, the film opens to a team of mercenaries who are trying to collect the remains of the Indominous Rex from the first film, and some get eaten in the process, complete with callbacks in the form of the Mosasaurus and the T-Rex. Despite this, they succeed, claiming a DNA sample from the I-Rex. Save that in your head because it’s going to pay off in a big, stupid way later on.
The movie then cuts to Claire Dearing, our business-woman love interest for Chris Pratt from the first movie, who has started an activist organization that advocates for the preservation of Jurassic World’s dinosaurs, who are about to be wiped out by the movie’s inciting incident of an active volcano on the dinosaur island. And before we go any further, we have to pause, because this already makes no sense, and is a major flaw in the movie that bothered me throughout its run time.
- Why does Claire care about the dinosaurs? They tried to kill her in the last movie. I think it’s funny that the only scene Jeff Goldblum is in perfectly communicates how Claire should be feeling in this moment (Yeah, he’s not a main character in the film. I bet you thought he was!).
For context, the dinosaur’s re-extinction on the island had become a hot-button issue in “Jurassic World” 2’s version of fake America, and as a result, Goldblum reprises his character of Dr. Ian Malcolm from the first two “Jurassic Park” films to testify against the U.S.’s involvement in the matter for one scene only. The government agrees to stay out of it because the Jurassic World dinosaurs were created by a private enterprise, and because the topic was highly controversial.
- The previous film had already established that if anyone wanted to, they could create the dinosaurs again. This film even brings back the same doctor that made the original “World” dinosaurs, so even if every dinosaur had been wiped out on the island, they could still come back at any time. It just wouldn’t be those dinosaurs.
- Again, why does Claire care about vicious killing machines? I know this is repetitive, but nothing in the last film – outside of the great save by the “motherfucking T-Rex” (Yes, that’s the official name for it, per Doug Walker) – suggested that she in any way had grown attached to these creatures. In fact, she should feel very bitter towards them; she used to work on the island and no doubt many of her friends and coworkers had been killed when those very dinosaurs broke out in the first film.
Anyways, moving on.
Claire is approached by one Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who was the partner of James Hammond (the guy responsible for the dinosaurs in the first two films). Lockwood is old, and is estate is managed by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), our main villain. Lockwood has a great idea to allow the dinosaurs to live in a secluded sanctuary, which people have no access to – that way the dinosaurs can live, and people won’t get killed trying to exploit them. It’s so great of an idea, filled no doubts with technical challenges and room to tell a story of good intentions gone wrong, that the movie chooses not to go in that direction, scrapping the idea entirely midstream to focus on a half-assed liar revealed story involving an even more half-assed scheme by Mills to usurp Lockwood’s estate and auction off the dinosaurs to wealthy bidders.
Gee, I can’t see where that would go wrong, seeing as every park built to contain these creatures has failed. Surely an auction held at Lockwood’s mansion can hold them!
I get that dinosaurs would have valuable biological elements to them. In fact, one might say that making a zoo for them might be stupid, as their value to the medical and defense industries would be far more profitable. But this is also a movie about dinosaurs, specifically an iteration where we get to see dinosaurs run away from lava next to Chris Pratt and Bryce Howard in glorious PS3-era graphics. And we’ve already seen enough of these movies get ruined by some asshole in a suit, and the movie comes close to breaking away from that. There’s this great scene where Lockwood convinces Claire to go back to the island on the merits of lessons learned, with that lesson being that after four catastrophic disasters, Lockwood has learned not to use these animals for profit, and James Cromwell is a great actor, so it works. You can feel the weight in his words, a weight we’ve seen earned time after time through this movies through needless death and destruction.
It would have been nice to see a different “Jurassic Park” film, one that no doubtedly would have some cool dinosaur action, but one where for once we get to see people try to do the right thing, even in the face of a government that turned its back on them. And it would be nice to see things possibly go wrong for a reason other than greed and stupidity.
Chris Pratt is in the movie for comic relief, his chemistry with Howard, and to sell movie tickets. But the in-universe excuse for him being there is to track down and save a raptor he raised (Pratt was the former raptor wrangler), named Blue. This raptor becomes the new T-Rex of the film; the dinosaur good guy that ends up fighting against “World” 2’s version of the Indominus Rex: The Indoraptor, a creature spliced together from many different DNAs to be a military killing machine obedient to humans (they were still working on the last part). The fight between Pratt’s raptor and the Indoraptor ends up being the centerpiece of the whole film, and I have to say, it’s alright. It’s on a much smaller scale than the first “World” movie, but it’s different and it does the job. Plus, it’s nice to be able to root for a dinosaur we actually care a little bit about. Don’t get me wrong, the hero T-Rex was awesome, and indeed, it gets a few shoutouts in this movie, but there really wasn’t any way for our main characters to develop a relationship with it, so while it was awesome, the T-Rex was more of a spectacle than a character; Unlike the T-Rex, we’re able to see scenes where Blue is growing up and how it contributed to her nonverbal chemistry with Pratt.
With that being said, I wouldn’t say that they developed the raptor that well — it’s not like they took a page out of Pixar’s book in nonverbal character development — but at least there’s more in this hero dinosaur than the last one.
This film also introduces human cloning. I don’t want to get into that.
As a whole, “Jurassic World” 2 is a mess. A beautiful, horrible mess, that still manages to be better than “Jurassic Park III,” but squanders its true potential pursuing the least interesting plot threads it could have followed. It’s an average film with moments of greatness and incompetence, at times feeling greatly contrived and over the top, especially with any CGI-heavy scene, at others real and human in a way that you’d expect more from a Netflix show than a stupid, bloated blockbuster, though this is all thanks to Howard and Pratt’s involvement in the film.
And it does pave new ground for future “World” movies; word on the street is that there’s at least one more in the works, and it could be the most interesting one. Hint: It has to do with the title of “Jurassic World;” it’s as if in the next one, the world might be covered in dinosaurs.
Maybe. Or maybe they’ll just repackage “Jurassic Park” to us a sixth time, this time with the shiny gimmick that we’ll have dinosaurs on the continental United States. And maybe Chris Pratt will die, and maybe Claire will dire, because it would mark the end of the trilogy, and who cares?
I honestly think “Jurassic Park/World” doesn’t have much juice left in it.
Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom gets a 6.5/10