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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

25 Thoughts About Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard

I'm not even going to bother rating this. It's a bad, dumb movie. But I expected it to be bad and dumb so I was able to have fun with it while I watching it, thus I have no regrets and was mostly entertained (though some scenes so completely beggar suspension of disbelief that it took me out of the movie entirely). I wouldn't "recommend" it, per se, because it's not even remotely well-crafted on narrative and character levels, being full of plot holes, characters acting stupid solely to advance the plot, and things that just plain make no sense; but if all you want to see is dinosaurs wrecking havoc, then you might be satisfied by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom because there's lots of that in here. My thoughts on the latest in the Jurassic series (be warned: lots of spoilers):

01. The film opens with two guys in an underwater pod trying to retrieve a bone fragment from the late Indominus Rex, last seen being eaten by the Mosasaurus at the end of the last film. One of the guys is nervous and the other tries to reassure him that anything that was in the water is dead by now. Maybe this is something worth checking, perhaps by dropping a drone into the water, before putting yourself in harms way. But, hey, I'm sure you guys know what you're do... oh, never mind.

02. There's a large wall around the island to keep the aquatic creatures in. The wall needs to be opened for the pod to get in, which is accomplished by a crew that's on the land inside the park. So, if it's possible to get into the park, why does the pod need to come in through the wall? Why not lower the pod into the park, then get into the water from inside the wall? Oh, right. Because if you did that, then the wall wouldn't remain open and the Mosasaurus wouldn't get out.

03. While the crew on the land is working on getting the wall open, there's a rustling in the bushes and one asks, "What's that?" Sir, where are you right now? You are on an island populated by dinosaurs. It is almost certainly a dinosaur. If it was anything else, that would be quite the surprise indeed, though the fact that it turns out to be the T-Rex and that it basically managed to sneak up on you is pretty surprising.

04. This retrieval mission takes place during the middle of the night. Why? Your immediate thought would be that it's a covert operation that needs to be performed under the cover of darkness, but that reasonable suggestion will be junked a few scenes later when a bunch of mercenaries are on the island capturing dinosaurs in broad daylight. You would think, given the sensitive nature of its inhabitants, that governments the world over would have this place under strict surveillance, but apparently everyone is content to just assume that the threat of being eaten by a dinosaur is enough to keep people away from the island.

05. Anyway, here's the basic premise of the movie: the island that was home to Jurassic World has an active volcano that's about to blow. There's some debate over whether or not the dinosaurs should be rescued or allowed to die on the island. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), despite repeatedly coming close to being killed by dinosaurs in the last movie, is now a dinosaur rights activist. She's approached by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who works for Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of the late John Hammond, who reveals a plan to move the dinosaurs to a new island which will function as a sanctuary. I'm not clear on whether Isla Sorna exists in the Jurassic World reality, but assuming it does, this means that the series' universe now has three dinosaur islands. How many is too many before we cut our losses and decide that this idea isn't going to work?

06. The reason that Mills needs Claire's help is because the security system on Jurassic World uses palm print analysis, so they need her to unlock the system. They also need her to help them get Owen (Chris Pratt) on board because while they want to save as many species as they can, they very specifically want to capture Blue, the last remaining Raptor. Mills is very clearly a bad guy and his interest in Blue is very clearly linked to the suggestion from the first film that the Raptors could be weaponized for combat purposes, but Claire can be forgiven for not knowing this because, presumably, she is not aware that she's a character in a movie.

07. Claire finds Owen and, despite almost being killed by dinosaurs in the last movie, he agrees to go back to dinosaur island to help find Blue.

08. Claire and Owen continue to be a terrible couple built out of regressive patriarchal stereotypes about men and women, but it's somewhat less pronounced in this film than it was in the last. The outdated ideas about women are toned down significantly here, though the filmmakers are apparently at a loss for how to characterize Owen other than by making it clear that he's a MAN, all capitals. A manly man of manliness reitroduced building his own cabin next to a lake of solitude. He doesn't need to have a personality. He's just MAN.

09. Because everyone made such a big deal about Claire's footwear in the last film, this one makes a point (again and again) of demonstrating that she's wearing better shoes this time. The first time it pans to focus on her feet, it's mildly funny, but it's not the kind of joke that gets any funnier with repetition.

10. When they get to the island they find a veritable army of mercenaries there, which should be a clear sign that they've been lied to about the purpose of the evacuation, but by that point it's too late. The real purpose of the mission is to collect dinosaurs so that Mills can sell them on the black market and use the money to fund further dinosaur/cloning research. I presume that the plan for an island sanctuary is also true, both because the company will need a location to keep raising dinosaurs and because the way Mills talks about his plans makes it sound like selling some dinosaurs now is a necessary evil to fund the sanctuary that Lockwood wants to create, but I'm actually not sure.

11. When Mills talks about selling the dinosaurs, he specifically lists hunting for sport, warfare, and farming as the possible uses buyers might have for a dinosaur. The first two uses I can understand, though I think weaponizing a dinosaur for war would only be useful if you could be certain that it could be controlled and if it could withstand being hit by, say, a rocket, but I'm not sure there's a lot of profit to be had in using dinosaurs for farming. Once you factored in how much it would cost to feed and house that dinosaur, the profit margin for farming would be non-existent.

12. Mills' plan is to bring the captured dinosaurs back to the US, where they will be stored in the sub basement of the Lockwood mansion. You would think that it would be damn near impossible to transport a bunch of dinosaurs into the United States, but nope! They got through customs just fine. I'm not even sure why they're bringing the dinosaurs back to the US at all rather than transporting them to Isla Sorna or to this island that's meant to become a sanctuary, both of which are presumably closer and neither of which are populated by humans.

13. By the way, the basement where the dinosaurs are being held can be reached by an elevator activated by a code so simple and obvious that a small child can figure it out. It can also be reached via dumbwaiter, basically rendering the area completely unsecured for all intents and purposes.

14. Owen and Claire and Franklin (Justice Smith), the computer tech/dinosaur rights activist who works with Claire and has come to help get Jurassic World's computer system up and running again, are left to die on Isla Nublar as the volcano erupts. Owen somehow manages not to have his face melted off despite his proximity in one scene to lava. All three manage a last second escape onto the last boat to leave the island. Franklin has lost his glasses in the midst of the escape but can apparently see just fine without them because he never mentions them. Franklin also ends up separated from Owen and Claire after being mistaken for a member of the ship's crew but later pops up at the Lockwood mansion, now passing for one of the lab techs who works in the sub basement, without any explanation whatsoever regarding this turn of events.

15. Owen and Claire are caught as they try to sneak into the Lockwood mansion and are locked up in the sub basement, where Mills stops the head of his mercenary team from shooting them. He tacitly acknowledges that they're going to be killed by pointing out that as far as anyone knows, they died on Isla Nublar, but he decides that it can wait until later because he's not good at being a villain.

16. Other signs that he's not good at this include the fact that he's holding the dinosaur auction in the Lockwood mansion, which means having a bunch of dinosaurs delivered and a bunch of potential buyers show up in the middle of the night, and hoping that Lockwood doesn't realize what's going on; and the fact that he dismisses the nanny of Lockwood's granddaughter, who knows the secret of the little girl's existence and in all likelihood knows about the dinosaur auction because this is not happening in a very covert way. It would be in his best interest to keep this woman close and keep her in his employ, but instead he just lets her... wander off. Presumably she gets eaten or trampled by a dinosaur later, effectively resolving that loose end, but that can't have been part of Mills' plan.

17. Before the dinosaurs arrive, and when it looks like things will be delayed, the guy (Toby Jones) who has coordinated and will run the auction threatens to call everything off because he doesn't want to be made to wait. This is hilarious. It's not like his clients are going to get dinosaurs anywhere else. Mills is the only dinosaur game in town, my friend. Your choices are be patient or get nothing.

18. Then again, this guy clearly has no idea what he's doing seeing as the auction gets under way and he starts the bidding at... $4 million. $4 million? That's all? For a living dinosaur? Dinosaur fossils have been sold at auction for $2 million. For the record, here's a brief list of things you can't get for just $4 million:
* a thoroughbred race horse (the most expensive one to date sold in 1985 for a price that be equivalent to $29.8 million now)
* any of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction, the "cheapest" of which (Georgia O'Keefe's "Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1) went for $44.4 million, the most expensive of which (Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi") went for $450.3 million
* a tank (average cost: $8.58 million)
* Daniel Craig to make another James Bond movie (he'll be paid $25 million for the next one)
* the Juliet Rose (cost: £10 million, or $17.5 million in US dollars)
* Marilyn Monroe's dress from The Seven Year Itch (sold at auction for $5.52 million)
* the Playboy Mansion (valued at $100 million)
My point is, you are selling waaaaaaaay too short.

19. A bunch of dinosaurs get loose. One gets loose because Franklin and Zia (Daniella Pineda), a paleoveterinarian kidnapped by the mercenaries in order to keep Blue alive, when confronted by a man threatening them with a taser, open the raptor cage to unleash Blue on the guy, which seems like a short term plan, at best. The immediate benefit of the plan is that it stops the guy with the taser. The long-term disadvantage is that now a raptor is loose.

20. One of the dinosaurs that gets loose is the Indoraptor, a genetically engineered dinosaur designed to kill. Pardon me, designed to kill while guided by a laser. Yes, that's right, these people basically made a dinosaur with frickin' laser beams attached to its head like a bunch of Dr. Evils.

21. The presence of the Indoraptor turns the film distinctly towards horror as it becomes the boogeyman who plagues Lockwood's granddaughter, however, it's not scary so much as it is hilarious to watch this dinosaur work so hard to kill this one little girl specifically. Like, it is obsessed with getting this kid as opposed to literally anyone else that comes into its path.

22. The movie is all over the place in terms of its point of view. We are clearly supposed to want the Indoraptor to be killed and we are clearly meant to be happy with how it happens, but we are also supposed to not want the dinosaurs to die (including the carnivores) and hope for their release when the opportunity comes, even though that means dinosaurs being loose in the world and a lot of other creatures either becoming food or being trampled under foot (the film ends with the T-Rex getting into a zoo - a veritable feast for her, I'm sure).

23. I am firmly in the camp that believes we've got to just let the dinosaurs go (and the planet course correct with the volcano) because the existence of dinosaurs on the planet means that there is no way that they don't end up somehow wiping out everything else, either because they've been weaponized and unleashed by people who think they can control them, or because they just get loose and start doing dinosaur things. That said, and despite how ridiculous this movie is generally, I was still deeply affected by the scenes on Isla Nublar where a bunch of dinosaurs trying to escape the volcano jump off a cliff and then end up drowning, and by the scene where the humans watch from the ship as that one brachiosaurus stands on the very edge of the island crying as it is engulfed in ash and lava. I think this is because I'm not a sociopath so seeing creatures die in terror and desperation will naturally stir something in me emotionally, but I'm willing to give the filmmakers credit for crafting an emotional response.

24. I was really hoping that there was more to that shot of the Mosasaurus emerging from the cresting wave than what made it into the trailers, but the shot from the trailers is literally all there is to it. I had to wait the entire movie to get to that shot and that was it? C'mon.

25. They should just go ahead and make the T-Rex the star of the next movie. Per usual, Rexy comes out of nowhere to save the humans by attacking another dinosaur. It actually happens twice in this movie. She's basically a T-800, a creature who first appears as a villain and then becomes one of the franchise's essential heroes. Maybe the next movie can take place post-dinosaur apocalypse where humans have been wiped out and its nothing but dinosaurs left. Sure, there are only about a dozen that escape from the Lockwood mansion but, as we all know, life finds a way.


thevoid99 said...

Wow.... this must've been bad. I don't blame you for ranting.

Norma Desmond said...

It's just so, so dumb.