I knew all along that Fallen Kingdom would never live up to Jurassic Park, so going in, my expectations were low. I was hoping for something that was terrible, but in a delightful way; to a degree, it met my expectations. That being said, I hate that this is the state of the franchise. Sure, the original Jurassic Park is at its core a monster movie that is meant to entertain. But it is so much more than that: it proves that a monster flick can actually tell a story, and a good one at that. That is no longer what these movies are about. Ian Malcolm laments to Hammond about the problem with his park, and it translates beautifully to the problem with this franchise:
“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it.”
Every sequel to Jurassic Park exists for the sole purpose of slapping it on plastic lunchboxes. JWFK is just the latest to dishonor the original. Be warned, there be spoilers ahead.
Fallen Kingdom’s plot moves at a ridiculous speed in order to distract viewers from the magnitude of shit we are being forced to swallow. Within minutes we go from Mosasaurus eating some people to the revelation that Claire has become a dinosaur rights activist. We shift to a big creepy mansion, a volcanic eruption, and suddenly we’ve arrived at a T-Rex to Raptor blood transfusion. Not kidding, this doesn’t even make up the first half of the movie.
Needless to say, Fallen Kingdom has some plot problems. The dinosaurs are shipped stateside so that they can be be auctioned off to wealthy people who need a 4 million dollar dinosaur for … for what? The reasons listed provided are farming and war. So I guess that Brachiosaurus is going to plow the fields with his family a la The Good Dinosaur. Plus, it’s all jacked up Russian dudes who are cleaning up at this auction. Apparently they are planning on riding their Ankylosaurus herd around the Kremlin whilst taking their darling wittle Indoraptor out for a scenic stroll. Yeah, yeah, Indoraptor is a war machine, I get it. But do you just ship it home and then feed it cattle and homeless people until a war starts a’brewin’? This hearkens back to an issue that Michael Crichton himself faced when he was drafting Jurassic Park. The whole reason that the novel takes place in a theme park is because there was no other logical reason he could think of to resurrect dinosaurs. Thus, we bring back these creatures purely for the sake of making lots of money.
Yes… and lots of money… playaaaa!
Any other reason makes for a clunky plot. This is why Jurassic World kind of works. And why Fallen Kingdom absolutely does not.
Anyways, Lockwood lives with his little granddaughter, Maisie, who is not allowed to look at family albums and everyone acts weird around the whole movie. Two minutes into meeting this girl I shout at my husband, “THIS GIRL IS A CLONE.” We were in a full movie theater, so he did not appreciate my angry yelling. But I had to get it out there so I could later gloat that I saw it coming. HEY EVERYBODY, I SAW IT COMING. Lockwood had his dead daughter cloned and is raising her as his granddaughter. And this revelation is just tossed about amidst some Indoraptor carnage and we never really come back to it. This seems like a pretty big deal, maybe a bigger deal than trying to sell Arlo and his family to some billionaire wheat farmers. Lockwood is secretly running his own human cloning operation in his basement and no one cares because there is a Pachycephalosaurus up next for auction.
As if that’s not bad enough, JWFK also falls prey to is something common in these sequels: Too. Many. Dinosaurs. When that first teaser trailer dropped, the sheer number of dinosaurs gave me concerns. The trailer was maybe three minutes long and it spewed out AT LEAST 11 different species. When it comes to Jurassic Park movies, less is more. Lots of dinos crammed in a trailer tells me that the plot is going to be severely lacking. And guess what? The plot is severely lacking. On the surface, it would seem that the opposite should be true, but hear me out. Jurassic Park is 127 minutes long, and only 14 minutes feature dinosaurs. In a dinosaur movie. We get a tiny glimpse of a Raptor in the film’s opening sequence, but we don’t actually see a full dinosaur until the Brachiosaurus reveal, which occurs twenty minutes into the movie. This is because the filmmakers took the time to set up the exposition, to tell an actual story. Everything is not about what you see. In fact, a lot of it is about what you don’t. Filmmakers had to work with the technology that they had available to them at the time, which meant that dinosaurs were not tossed in every scene just because it could be done. Dinosaurs were used carefully and purposefully. And the movie holds up today because they were used only when it could be done convincingly and done well.
Now we have this mess known as Jurassic World, where dinosaurs are simply tossed about willy nilly. You cannot appreciate any of those dinosaurs escaping the volcano because there are so goddamn many of them. I don’t know what I saw. T-Rex, Galiminus, Ankylosaurus and I’m pretty sure I saw Mosasaurus flopping around trying to escape that stupid volcano. Again, Malcolm says it best:
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Just because you can utilize an obscene number of CGI dinosaurs does not mean that you should. Spend some of that budget on the script next time.
On the flip side, there is not nearly enough of the things that we actually want to see. I’ve been waiting since 2015 to see Mosasaurus get a leading role. But no. She gets maybe two minutes of screen time tops. It’s the same with the Indoraptor. This thing gets teased for the entire movie, and she doesn’t even show up until the last half hour or so of the movie. But the most gaping of holes is left by the man, the myth, the legend: IAN MALCOLM. I will say that the Malcolm we see here aligns with the original JP Malcolm of old (The only Malcolm that matters. This is a topic for another post, but The Lost World Malcolm is arguably an entirely different character, #notmymalcolm). Nevertheless, he is BARELY IN THE MOVIE. I knew that this movie was going to be a special kind of terrible, and the only hope I had was attached to the return of Ian Malcolm. I’m sure the filmmakers knew that lots of fans would feel this way, and they used poor Jeff Goldblum to lure us into this regurgitated version of The Lost World. I feel conned and tricked. He was great, but there needed to be a lot more of him. Honestly, I don’t know what filmmakers could have done to make me happy here; evidently I was hoping to see two hours of Jeff Goldblum majestically riding the Mosasaurus through hoops of fire and into the sunset. Actually that definitely would have been superior. Definitely.
Aren’t they lovely? Aren’t they glorious?
Speaking of The Lost World, really that’s all Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is. The dinosaurs are out now, we better wrangle them up and take them to the mainland. Kindly old bazillionaires with mosquito canes invite people to their mansions in order to coerce them into doing the right thing and helping these poor creatures. This inevitably results in the rescuers being tricked by meanies looking to make quick buck off of the dinosaurs. Chaos ensues. Seriously, can we not come up with anything more original than this?
We are clearly doomed to an eternity of the same three movies over and over again. First movie: dinosaurs escape dinosaur park. Second movie: rescue dinosaurs and take them to the mainland because people love seeing T-Rex in the big city. Third movie: ehhh we won’t even really write a script, let’s just get someone from the first movie and throw them in with some dinosaurs and get Tea Leoni to scream for two hours. I guarantee they will follow this same worn out format when the next iteration of the films comes out. I can see it now: Jurassic Galaxy. Chris Pratt can even reprise his role, since he’s so good at playing Starlowen.
I accept that sequels make money and for that reason, people will never ever stop making sequels. And sometimes the sequel can be better. I can’t think of any examples right now, but I have heard that this can be true. It’s just that this type of storyline does not respond well to the sequel treatment. The intrigue lies in the setup. You know from the beginning of Jurassic Park that those dinosaurs are getting out of there. We want to see the collapse, the chaos. The aftermath of all of that is far less interesting. Crichton’s Westworld is currently suffering from the same problem. Season 1 was amazing, because, in essence, it’s the same plot as Jurassic Park. Season 2 is just not as appealing. It feels like a chore to watch it. I went to see Fallen Kingdom feeling the same way, and while I hoped that it would have a little of that Jurassic Park magic, really I went out of obligation to loving that first movie. I didn’t want to see it. But I had to know what happened. You know, just in case it was two hours of Ian Malcolm riding a Mosasaurus. Let me save you the trouble – it’s not.