By: Kevin Jordan
How to train your dinosaur (or, A steaming pile).
“I am never mad at the end of movies. All I wanted from this movie was to be entertained and it could not even do that. And, I liked A Wrinkle in Time. Well, at least until I started thinking about it.” – My friend, after the conclusion of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Expectation are a fickle thing. Even when you think you have them properly adjusted for a particular movie, that movie can take those expectations and feed them into a wood chipper. Even movie reviews can do the same thing since you were probably expecting that last sentence to end with a dinosaur play on words and got a Fargo reference instead. There is a reason why my year-end review has two categories specifically dealing with shattered expectations (both good and bad). Even after more than ten years and hundreds of movies, my expectations are often proven wrong. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom just was not one of those times.
I am in the minority of critics who thought the first Jurassic World was a giant, redundant waste of time (71% of 314 critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it the ol’ thumbs up). I realize that I gave Star Wars: The Force Awakens a giant pass on being basically a remake of A New Hope, but I maintain that The Force Awakens was at least a wildly entertaining movie in a franchise that jumped off a cliff fifteen years earlier, and also a franchise that everyone was clamoring for more of. Conversely, there was nobody out there screeching for a return to Dinosaur fun-land, especially after watching the two Jurassic Park sequels, and Jurassic World was only the tiniest bit entertaining. Of course, the billon-dollar box office take of Jurassic World indicates that people just did not know they wanted more bad Jurassic Park sequels, so what do I know?
(Side note: My son watched Jurassic Park for the first time and loved it. While hi-def TVs make it harder to ignore the green-screen technology of 1993, the film holds up amazingly well twenty-five years later and watching it again was a reminder of how bad all three sequels were. Also SPOILER ALERT.)
My two biggest problems with Fallen Kingdom’s predecessor were the invention of a cross-species dinosaur (the Indominous Rex) and reducing raptors down to trained attack dogs for soldiering purposes. Rather than learning from these two mind-numbingly dumb plot devices, Fallen Kingdom doubles down on them.
This time, the bullshit dinosaur is the Indoraptor – a cross between Indominous Rex, a raptor, Krampus, and the Predator’s dreadlocks. Indoraptor has been genetically engineered for military purposes, specifically that when a laser sight is focused on an object and an acoustic frequency is triggered, Indoraptor will attack it. Congratulations, you are now slightly stupider after reading that last sentence (and watching this film). I am no weapons expert, but if you have a laser sight – which is almost certainly attached to a gun, as it is in this film – would not a cheaper, less dangerous, and more efficient method of killing an enemy be to fire that gun? Ha-ha – of course not.
As for the raptor pooch – named Blue and returning from the last film – we are now told that this former killing machine feels empathy for humans and shown Blue as a baby cuddling with Owen (Chris Pratt) in old videos. Awwwww. I guess that makes two bullshit dinosaurs. Incidentally, Blue is the most sympathetic character in the film and Michael Crichton’s remains just burst into flames.
One last thing about dinosaurs before we get to the, erm, plot – has anyone else noticed that the T-Rex is little more than a deus ex machina, or Deus Rex, if you will (and I will!)? Just when a protagonist is about to become chow for a dinosaur, Deus Rex (I told you I would) comes out of nowhere (somehow sneaking up on everyone like a ninja) and chomping down on the threat while ignoring the tasty humans. It was cool the first time in Jurassic Park when Deus Rex (you cannot stop me!!) saves Alan and friends from the raptors because it was unexpected. Now, it is just annoying and tired.
All of this bullshit fits nicely into the larger pile of bullshit masquerading as plot. Or in the case of this film – plots. Plot number one – rescue the dinosaurs from an erupting volcano on the island where the theme park was destroyed. This entire plot plays out within the first forty-five minutes of the film when it should have been the entirety of the film.
(Side note: Please, do not think about the fact that multiple organizations capable of cloning dinosaurs did not notice they built their theme park next to an active and dangerous volcano.)
Plot number two – the rescue mission is actually a cover for a mysterious organization led by the most obvious of bad guys to collect the dinosaurs in order to auction them off to weapons dealers, big game hunters, military generals, and other equally detestable people.
Plot number three – predictably, the indoraptor escapes his cage in the mansion where the auction was taking place (along with where all of the dinosaurs were being stored; please do not ask) and we are back to the plot of all five of these films – do not get eaten.
Plot number four – save the little girl of the man (Benjamin Lockwood) funding the original rescue operation. What would a Jurassic Park/World movie be if children were not in danger? The little girl in question is Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Or is she? I will not spoil her reveal for you, but I promise you it came straight from the M. Night Shyamalan book of bad and pointless plot twists.
Unlike my friend, there were a handful of moments during the film when I was entertained, though mostly for sarcastic reasons. The first involved Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Pratt) trying to draw blood from a T-Rex in order to give Blue a blood transfusion. No, seriously – I am not making that up. It sounds really dumb on paper, but the actors and director (J.A. Bayona) pull it off. Or my brain quit for a minute. At any rate, the second and third were lines of dialogue that made me laugh out loud at their absurdity.
Line one – When questioning if the batteries in the trackers implanted in the dinosaurs would be dead or not, the response given was “the batteries are powered by body heat and movement, so the batteries never die.” Um, no. That is not how batteries work, even in a world where new dinosaurs can be invented and brought to life.
Line two – when trying to figure out where to get blood for Blue, the paleobiologist (Daniella Pineda) says “any dinosaur with the same number of fingers will be compatible.” Smell that?
I was also entertained by Chris Pratt delivering all of his lines as if they are gallows humor; like a guy who drew the short straw to feed the cobra. He is joking about everything because he knows he is about to die. True, he was only dying on the inside, but it hurts just as much.
Finally, Jeff Goldblum making a depressing cameo (returning as Dr. Malcolm) tickled me. He is arguing to Congress (really, do not ask) that the dinosaurs should be left to die and delivers a line of dialogue that is accidentally meta. “How many times do we have to learn this lesson?” There is no way the writers are that self-aware, so the only explanation for that line is that they are taunting the audience for watching terrible sequel after terrible sequel. I do not believe audiences will heed the taunt, but I am hoping my expectations are proven wrong this time.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back, but only if you asked for all of your money back for the last Jurassic World. The rest of you are seemingly cool with paying for bullshit.