JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

I don’t think I’m going to cover all the bases I wanted to here because I’m writing this a few weeks removed from watching this film again. Upon rewatching, I realized this would only be the second time I had seen it. Then I wondered why? Over two hours later, I remembered.

Fallen Kingdom feels like a stepping stone to another idea. As if one of the screenwriters said, “wouldn’t it be cool if dinosaurs were on the loose in the world again and people have to learn to coexist with them? Too bad they’re stuck on an island.” Then there’s a brief pause, the screenwriters stare at one another and then the other one says, “But what if they got OFF?” And that became the basis for this movie. But because clever screenwriting is difficult for some people, they chose to lift numerous elements from The Lost World and essentially remake that film while adding their own ideas so it’s “different enough.”

Previous Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow decided to hand the reins of this film to Spanish director J.A. Bayona for reasons that I can only assume amounted to not wanting to direct an inferior sequel, which he knew it was. He co-wrote the freaking thing. And I can’t necessarily fault Bayona for everything. You can attempt to polish and sculpt a turd into something amazing, but at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.

The film has glimmers of good ideas. But they are either never paid off, rip-off something else, or pay-off in the worst way imaginable. And we’ll get into them as we go along, so buckle up listeners. This is gonna be like falling off a cliff in a gyrosphere.

Just like that…

So clearly, as previously stated, no one EVER learns a lesson in these films. And the opening scene proves that immediately. We see the aftermath of Jurassic World’s destruction meant to be set a few weeks after it all went down. Knowing this little detail helps explain how the Mosasaurus was alive at the beginning of the film, but not at the end of the film. People are ONCE AGAIN trying to do something unholy with dinosaurs as some team goes back to the island to collect Indominus DNA. Because it worked out so well last time.

Fast forward three years, another detail that would have benefitted from a subtitle, and Isla Nublar is about to face the wrath of Mother Nature… or God… or whatever imaginary creature is planning to off this island of imaginary creatures. The U.S. government debates on whether or not they should do something. But being the U.S. government, we already know they already DON’T do anything, so their involvement here is a moot point. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm for this little bookend cameo that feels very pointless and shoehorned in. I like Goldblum. And I like Ian Malcolm. But was his “testimony” necessary for this? I feel like the survivors of the more recent Jurassic World debacle could speak to this topic just as well.

Claire has moved on from being the corporate face of the park to being the founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group, which is looking to save the dinosaurs from going extinct again. But… they aren’t REAL. They are abominations created by man that SHOULD NOT EXIST in the world’s new eco-system. The island, at least, made sense. It’s isolated, self-sustaining. It works. Obviously, they want to just move them to a NEW island and that will fix everything. But will it? Isla Nublar seemed to be a genetically designed paradise for dinosaurs. Another island will just instantly work? Doesn’t make sense to me. And the U.S. government clearly agreed with sane reasoning, showing how fictitious this film really is.

In any case, this decision prompts Sir Benjamin Lockwood, a former associate of John Hammond that we’ve never heard of until this moment, to assemble a team to go to the island and rescue the dinosaurs. Hmm… that sounds familiar. Lockwood is played by the always amazing James Cromwell. The man is always a welcome sight to me, no matter how bad the film may be. Just occurred to me that he and Bryce Dallas Howard were in Spider-Man 3 together as Captain and Gwen Stacy, respectively. Then again… let’s cast Cromwell as Spider-Gwen…I’d be down for that.

While here we are also introduced to YET ANOTHER kid in this damn franchise, Maisie Lockwood. One might immediately expect her to stowaway onto the ships or whatever because we need kids in peril. However, she doesn’t do that meaning we know that the dino action is going to have to come to her.

One specimen that seems to take precedent on the island is our friend Blue, the smartest velociraptor that was ever imagined. But since nobody knows how to find her, Claire enlists Owen Grady, doing his best Chris Pratt imitation, to go find his old friend. The fact they were most interested in Blue should have raised HUGE red flags. But since the dying old man asked nicely, then it should be fine. Lockwood isn’t a bad guy. He’s just done some… questionable science some might find immoral. But we’ll get to that.

Then the movie becomes the Lost World but with the threat of a volcano. Ted Levine plays Ken Wheatley who initially comes off like he’ll be an ok guy, but we know better than that. He soon shows his true dick colors and is there for no other reason than to secure ol Blue. So much so he leaves Owen Pratt to die in lava. Seriously, the man should have been burned by the lava. I’ve never been around the stuff, but basic science would denote an estimated safe distance of 10 feet, at the VERY least. And that’s a generous estimation. Too close for me. Grady was right on top of it and came out unscathed. Bullshit. But I keep forgetting this is fantasy and junk science.

That’s two feet…TOPS!

In any case, the team gets a number of dinos off the island before all of Isla Nublar goes up in flames. Ok maybe not ALL of it. But they sure sell the idea, even though there’s a huge section of the island that looks unscathed. But the movie said it’s gone, so I should trust it knows what’s happening. Before moving on, this looks like a pretty large island. Large enough to house numerous species of dinosaur, yet somehow between this film and the last film, the characters all seem to stomp along the same ground. How convenient they found the gyrosphere from the last movie?

Back at the Lockwood compound, we find that Lockwood’s aide Eli Mills, played by Rafe Spall, has bigger plans for all the dinosaurs. That plan being money because why wouldn’t it be? That’s what every plot involving corporations revolves around. We’re gonna sell dinosaurs to other people who may or may not use them as weapons. People, keep in mind, have NO idea how to handle a dinosaur. So even if these transactions were successful, the dinosaurs were going to wreak havoc across the globe no matter what. But hey… that’s not his problem. He got his money, right? Seriously, Mills is the biggest dick in the entire franchise.

We see Henry Wu is back and working for this knob head. He seems to have gone completely off the rails and is just all about creating these dino hybrids now. Here, we have the Indoraptor which is supposed to be better than the Indominus Rex because it’s LIKE a bigger, smarter raptor. Nothing about this thing made me feel like it was a step above the I-Rex. Just… another one. “Oh my god another genetically enhanced dinosaur. What are we going to do?” Let the dinos fight it out because if there’s anything worth watching here, it’s Blue fighting the Indoraptor. And how does ol Blue take care of this monstrosity? The same way fan favorite character Kelly Malcolm did: gymnastics! You can’t tell me that wasn’t a homage. Finally, the fate of all the captive dinosaurs is up in the air. Claire and Owen KNOW they must die. But wouldn’t you know it, Maisie lets them go. Why? “Because they’re like me.” or whatever she said.

Dinos are now free and roaming the Earth once more. With that, now they can make the movie they REALLY wanted to make. And sure the prospect of THAT idea is cool. But this is what we had to go through to get there. People can piss on the others all day long, but THIS is the weakest entry. And considering the track record of diminishing returns, I have low expectations for Dominion.

There is so much wasted potential here. Justice Smith and Toby Jones are great actors with nothing to do. The “idea” of weaponizing dinosaurs was brought up again, yet no follow through. If you’re gonna go off-the-rails then go hard! Let me see Jurassic World turn into Dino Riders. It’s the crossover those of us that grew up in the 80s have been waiting for.

The franchise wasn’t far off from this…

The clone sub-plot feels like it had a purpose that was never fully realized. Ok so Maisie was the clone of Lockwood’s deceased daughter, and her existence or Lockwood’s obsession with clones led to a falling out with Hammond. These are fascinating plot points that could be worth exploring. Why wouldn’t a grieving father take advantage of the ability to replace his child? What are the moral implications? Etc and so forth. I know this isn’t a dino-centric subplot but it could make for interesting character development. But the whole thing is squandered. Ok so she’s a clone of the daughter. And? Yet she understands the dinosaurs because she too is a clone. Get fucked.

Speaking of things that can get fucked, there may be other moments before this film where someone says, “the franchise went too far,” or whatever. This franchise lost me the moment the Indoraptor smiled AT THE CAMERA. How can we take anything seriously went you just had your freaking mutant dino pull a wink and nod out of its ass? You might as well allowed it to speak! It’s not off the table now! At least when a raptor spoke in a previous film, it WAS A FREAKING DREAM!!! But I digress.

If there was one thing I could speak positively about in this film, it’s the shot of the Brachiosaurus being left behind and dying on the island. There’s alot going on there. While I’m not a fan of the idea that THIS particular Brachiosaurus is the very first one we EVER saw in these movies, it does work in the context of the scene. It becomes the beginning and the end of Hammond’s dream. It’s beautiful and haunting all at once.

I’m surprised I had this much to say about this film since I do remember checking out several times as I attempted to watch it again. Had this film done worse at the box office and not set up another film, I could easily believe that this would have ended the franchise dead in its tracks.

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