Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – It’s… Complicated

It takes all of 20 minutes to realize Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a pretty stupid movie. I’m not the first to say it. I won’t be the last. I do, however, want to try to explain my statement because, despite me calling the movie stupid, I have very confusing ideas about the movie that I’ve still not reconciled days after seeing it.

Confusing is a great word to use, because this movie is that to its very core. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, and I’m not so sure Universal cared. In addition, it also carries with it some very toxic ideas about how we should approach nature and animal rights, particularly in the face of people meddling with science.

But we’ll get to that toxicity momentarily.

I want to start with something positive by saying the movie, like all the other sequels, is entertaining for what it is. I was not upset by the movie other than the questionable nature of its message which I will explain below. I did have an enjoyable time even if I knew I wasn’t watching that great of a movie. It probably also didn’t hurt that I saw the movie on $5 Ticket Tuesday and didn’t pay full price. It might be most disappointing to say that this movie was just average. It exists in an area of the muddled middle where movies often are set out to pasture to be forgotten and die. The only difference is that this series is already guaranteed to have another installment within a few years, so it won’t be forgotten at the very least.

Allow me to warn you right now, there will be spoilers in this movie. VERY LARGE SPOILERS. The reason why is that I can’t explain the multi-layered, complex, and convoluted stupid that this movie employs without giving away the entire plot of the movie.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (hereafter referred to JW2) is about Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) leading a rescue mission to the ruins of Jurassic World to save 11 species of dinosaurs hand-selected by a businessman financing the mission. In particular, they want to make sure to rescue Blue, the alpha raptor from the previous movie. This brings Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) back into the fold as he was the trainer that taught Blue obedience. Shortly after finding Blue, Claire and Owen are betrayed by the obvious mercenary group that accompanied them on the mission. The plan all along was to bring the 11 species back to the States to sell off clones to the highest bidding countries. For Blue, her importance was to help in the creation of a brand new alpha alpha predator. Eventually, the bad guys’ plans go awry and the dinosaurs are freed and unleashed in North America.

Alright, so, let me get little nitpicks out of the way first. Claire and Owen are not particularly great characters. I think we’re supposed to just go with them because we spent last movie getting to know them, but there is not a hint of an arc for either character. They are pretty much as charismatic as paper dolls. The main reason I can discern is that we’re given a new trio of supporting characters to deal with that ultimately take away from Claire and Owen.  We’ll get to the three new characters in just a moment.

Another nitpick is the “comedy” of this movie. One character is referred to as a “nasty woman” (a reference to a Trump line against Clinton in their 2016 Presidential campaign), and another character is shown to be a man small in stature with hair similar to Trump. These things date the movie badly and completely unnecessary to curry favor from a particular type of viewer. That stands out badly to me because I know they are trying to make a political stand on the rights of living things, but they don’t know how to do that other than using references that viewers 25 years from now will not understand.  There is no dating of “Must go faster.  Must go faster” or a dinosaur eating a selfish business man while he’s hiding in an outhouse.  Using the President’s hair style and approach to contention is not a good idea for your popcorn blockbuster meant to be consumed by all.

The movie is also very derivative of previous movies. It references the original Jurassic Park way too much and even references the previous movie in THIS series. That’s very distracting, and generally makes me groan, but it’s how every single franchise movie is made in this era so I will let it slide as a nitpick.

The major issues come, first, in the three new characters added to this movie. First we have Franklin. Ugh… This character is about as worthless as they come. He’s a computer systems nerd who has barely ever been in nature, let alone having to survive against rampaging dinosaurs.  I would have been just fine if he had been eaten by a dinosaur because he tripped over his own shoelaces somehow.  Next we have Zia Rodriguez, an idealistic vet who specializes in dinosaurs but has never seen one. She’s the previously referenced “nasty woman” and is a very flimsy character. I guess she’s a feminist? She seems terribly unfriendly and too snarky to be liked. I think the movie just took the stereotype of a feminist and just paperclipped her to this movie’s script. Every moment we had to deal with either of these characters, I desperately wished a T-Rex would come along and kill us all.

Before we get to the final, and most important, of our new characters, I want to talk about the villains – or, as I should say, the cartoon, mustache twirling characters that stand in as villains. This is yet another movie that has money and greed be the motivator for villains to do a thing. It is yet another Jurassic Park movie in which bad guys want to make money off selling dinosaurs for war or other nefarious reasons. I swear, these villains would have been what 10 year old me would have created in 1987. “Let’s make dinosaurs the perfect killing machine on the battlefield!” I don’t think people realize that dinosaurs are still flesh and bone, and not actual tanks or bombs.  You’re spending tens of millions of dollars for something that would literally be easier to defeat than a tank.

Finally, we get to our third new character, and a very central piece to the morality of JW2, Maisie Lockwood. Her “grandfather” was a retconned partner (someone who had the scientific know-how to create clones of dinosaurs) of John Hammond, who opened the original Jurassic Park. Her “mother” was killed in a car accident. Maisie is now cared for entirely inside the Lockwood estate, which is the only setting in the entire second half of the movie. Maisie isn’t actually Lockwood’s granddaughter. No, she’s an actual clone of his daughter. There is a human clone in this movie.

So here’s where I have to draw a line to say gimme clones of dinosaurs, but I draw the line at human clones.

In the climax of the movie, the dinosaurs were brought back from the now destroyed Ilsa Nublar where the park was, and auctioned off to a room full of despots and bad guys. During a fight scene, poisonous gas was filling up the stables where the dinos were being kept. Claire, who has been living as an activist for dinosaurs since the end of the first movie, is presented with the choice of letting the last of the dinosaurs die or intervene and let them out of the stables. She initially chooses to let them die.  Which, when you think about the difference between letting things that should not be part of our present day ecosystem perish as nature intended millions of years ago or letting them out and wreaking havoc on the world, this is the actual appropriate solution.

Until Maisie opens the stables and lets them all out into the wilderness of North America.

Throughout the movie, the debate between whether or not we, as humans, should intervene and save these dinosaurs from the island that was blowing up due to volcanic activity, or should we let them die. Jeff Goldblum, who everyone was very excited to see having returned to the franchise, but only appears for two scenes, lobbies for them to die – much to the dismay of several people picketing Capitol Hill with signs like “They were here first!” and “Dinos have rights too!”

Maisie’s excuse for letting them out is that they live, and if she is allowed to live, they should too. That’s endearing and, from a certain point of view, is a logical argument. If a cloned human can be made something that can receive rights, maybe these animals we created should be protected too.

We are manipulated for 2+ hours to fight for the side that these dinosaurs should live. We have to see dinos hurt and killed (even killing themselves while running away from the volcano) to further the idea of we should allow them to live because they are thinking and feeling animals too.

That is right up until you see the final shot of the movie – Blue the raptor, which is a genetically designed animal that is a killing machine, on a cliff overlooking a suburban neighborhood.

Let’s consider this for a second. I feel like some will overlook that for the sake of their own self-righteous belief that these animals need to be protected by humans and we should be the keepers of their health and happiness. But the implications should be clear. Blue is only controlled around Owen. She does not attack him specifically. Everything else, she mauls and kills without regret. With that considered, what do you think will happen to the children, family pets, unsuspecting adults, and the elderly when Blue starts cruising through that town?

That’s the biggest problem with this movie. It’s not the flimsy characters, the overused plot, the constant reliance on previous films in the series, the lack of T-Rex action, or the fact that the movie feels cheap when it sequesters itself to a mansion for the entire second half of the movie. It’s the confusing and toxic morality of the movie. It’s the hubris that WE are the self-righteous keepers of all life on this planet – even the deadly stuff that we, ourselves, recreate for the sake of making money at a theme park.

For 2 hours we are told to feel a particular way. We are to pick a side – and preferably we should be picking the side that doesn’t allow for dinosaurs to die heartlessly. We aren’t supposed to be on the side of natural order of things. At least not when we have so many scientific marvels and capabilities at our fingertips. Yet, I feel like people will not understand the implications of a little girl’s unwillingness to let something die as nature intended.

Look, I get it, dinosaurs are freakin’ awesome. I love dinosaurs so goddamn much. And as a pet owner and general lover of animals, I hate to see an animal suffer or die, but we are not the keepers at the gate of natural order. If something has lived its life, we have to let it go. My cats will die someday. Your dog will pass away. Most of the time, these things will happen when we don’t want them to happen, or will come after a period of immense pain for the animal we love. But we can’t impede on the natural way of things.

I suspect there will people who applaud Maisie’s decision because those dinosaurs are living things and we should not be the ones who kill them because the casual viewer won’t think beyond the glory of seeing dinosaurs living side by side with us, but when you think about the bigger picture and the actual implications of the very end of the movie and the havoc coming for people, technically, Maisie committed mass murder.

I can’t give this movie a favorable rating. In fact, I’m not even going to grade it. The problem with this movie, as with almost all Jurassic Park sequels, is that it is not without its dinosaur thrills, but beyond the story of the original Jurassic Park, each and every movie’s plot is growing more contrived, thinner, and sillier. People just want to keep making these dinosaurs but can’t seem to understand that they are not friendly things. Like us, they were the top of their ecosystem’s food chain.  Like us, they aren’t going to want to share that status either.

This movie has already made a buttload of money, so this review will not stop anyone from seeing the movie – nor should it. Just be suspicious of the movie’s motivations and don’t let your common sense be swayed by friendly looking/acting animals that are on the verge of extinction.

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