Jurassic Park – A Fallen Kingdom

12 Oct

There is much good to say about “Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom”. There is also some monstrous mischief one can point at. But I am not here for that. Instead, I want to provide a brief discussion of the plot and the cinematic backdrop of that movie, and their implications for the direction of the franchise. And maybe, if Universal listens, the Jurassic Future may be bearable.

I recently saw a Facebook post in which a fan asked the following question: “The Rock, or maybe Jason Statham? Who do you want to see in Jurassic World 3?” Apart from the general idiocy of selecting actors before you even have a plot and a setting for a movie, this question sums up nicely into what kind of abysmal chaos the Jurassic franchise has been tossed by recent decisions of its prime shareholders. The Jurassic World has been degraded to a string of action movies with dinosaurs, not unlike that dreadfully plot-twisted TV show “Primeval”. What once was the epiphany of novel dinosaur media has become a rather ordinary dinosaur thrill ride, in which it is no longer heresy to ask “What if the govenator had shouted ‘Mr Hammond, get to the choppa’?”

Tyrannosaurus bust from the times of Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is so dead that you can hang it on the wall. Except, I no longer want to.

If you have deep moral concerns when you imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sly Stallone harking through the next Jurassic movie, and tossing about their Action Movie punch lines, you most likely have a deep and comfortable relationship to the original Jurassic series. So do I; having been a grand fan of Jurassic Park since its inception in German cinemas in 1993. To date it remains the only movie that I saw twice in a movie theatre, and I am an incredibly picky consumer when it comes to buying cinema tickets. So, you know this topic is very dear to me.

Jurassic World (JW) was a great movie, and a good addition to the franchise. Even though I hated the trailer, I bought the Collector’s Edition BluRay. Because the movie turned out to be filled with Jurassic Moments, little details and ideas that were plucked directly from the original film, or even from Michael Crichton’s novel. You see those old jeeps in the run-down shed, or the string of boats floating down the jungle river, or the dino heads peaking through tall grass, and as a fan you are immediately pulled into a hodge podge of fond memories. Fallen Kingdom (JW2) serves those fond memories as well, but it is a lot less sneaky and artsy about it. JW provided its own story, and occasionally strew in a few sprinkles of magic Jurassic dust. JW2 looks like the directors added those sprinkles as an afterthought during the editing process, and as a result you spot flaring sparks of reminiscence in every scene. Contrastingly, JW kindled a barely noticeable flame that constantly nourished your inner fan fire.

Jurassic World Evolution

Jurassic World worked so well because it used the given dimensions of the Jurassic Park for its own plot. Fallen Kingdom destroyed everything, and dragged the remainders along.

This is all the more disappointing when you realize how well the movie actually starts. The first two acts are nearly a perfect remake of Jurassic Park 2 (JP2). Ian Malcolm ranting, old billionaire chanting, a Track & Rescue mission for the dinosaurs, a hunter consumed by his pride and his lust for trophies, and even the lost girl found its way into the script (and the writers prepared a slick way of pointing her out to the audience). Everything down to the betrayal in the jungle was a magnificent rehash of JP2. It was beautiful. And it ended so abruptly, so heart-wrenching melancholic, with the destruction of Jurassic Park, both physically and mentally.

The ending of Act 2 (the volcano exploding) would have created the perfect metaphor, because the kingdom has fallen, both that of the Jurassic island, as well as that of its brilliant creator, Steven Spielberg, the man who directed such a startling bright light onto the original trilogy. The path leading up to this point was speckled with coprolites (fossilised poop), but all the previous directors pulled through with their respective agendas, and they created an inclusive universe for every dinosaur fan to enjoy. And then JA Bayona cocked it up, by prolonging our agony.

Act 2 should have marked the imperfect ending to an imperfect era. The mess at the mansion that is to follow the dinosaur theft would set a great premise for a totally new start on the Jurassic franchise. We meet mostly new characters, new buyers for the dinosaurs, new uses for the genetic research, new cinematic environments, new villains … you could not be much more different from Jurassic Park without selling those dinos by the bucket at KFC.

Jurassic Park - A Fallen Kingdom

This is where Jurassic Park should have ended, so as to start the Jurassic World on a fresh set.

“Jurassic Park is dead; long live Jurassic World.” That should have been the cut. I would have agreed with that message. If the directors had just continued on their new path, all the old JP-fans would have seen their dreams die in the wake of a volcano. A sad, yet satisfying end at the hands of a higher power.

Alas, they didn’t. Instead of creating a clean cut between Old and New the directors deemed it appropriate to prolong our misery by dragging our good old Jurassic Park into the sinister new mansion, and beat it around until all the main characters succumbed to the dreadfully dour, marketing-oriented piece of dinosaur merchandise that appears to define all movies and other monster media since the turn of the century.

With the auction and the emergence of arms dealers JW2 had its plot set, and would have gotten away as a cool monster movie. But instead of letting JP-fans weep their bitter-sweet tears of discontinuation, the directors dragged the twitching corps of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece into the studio light, walked it around on puppeteer strings, and applauded its endurance. The second half of JW2 would have worked well without the raptor clicking its claw in close-up, without the raptor chase through the dinosaur diorama, without the jammed door of the food elevator, or any of the other elements that the directors stole right from the bleeding corps that was once the pinnacle of dinosaur entertainment. Some scenes look as if the directors tried to cram in as many ideas from the original film as they possibly could, just to drag along the maximum number of old Jurassic-Park-fans, although the latter were already kicking and screaming when the Big Game Hunter tried to pull dragon teeth on Isla Nublar. JW2 is more of a Jurassic Remake than a solid self-sustained movie. And I effing hate needless remakes of great movies!

Jurassic World - Fallen Kingdom kitchen scene

Seriously? The kitchen scene? Again?! – At certain points it feels as if the producers tried to remake Jurassic Park and Lost World into one movie.

One of the reasons why the old JP trilogy worked so well was the fact that it was a self-contained series of movies. JP2 made a story mistake by moving things out to San Diego, but we forgive them, because the King-Kong-type chapter ends with a happy happy reunion on a beautiful tropic dinosaur island. Apart from that single hick-up all the story of the original films developed on the Jurassic islands. Even Jurassic World stuck to that plan. The old directors knew that once they moved any part of the main story off to the continent, there was no way of keeping it there. I mean: the biggest conceptual cliff hanger in JP was a can of Barbasol that rolled out of the hands of a dying computer technician! Spielberg made it very clear that everything that happened on the island also stayed on the island.

But, no, executive producer Bayona had to set them dinosaurs free in North America, so now those critters are everywhere, can develop any sort of plot, lean into everyone’s life. Until now Jurassic Park had its own little domain – an island off the coast of Costa Rica. But with the resolve of Fallen Kingdom it has infested an entire continent AND the oceans, so very soon we will see a Resident-Evil-type plague of monster lizards, with all of its incongruity and plot insanity. Have we learned nothing from reloading the Matrix?! The bigger any given movie universe gets, the less believable becomes its actual scenario, because the directors start to toy with forces that they do not comprehend, and can never hope to control.

Jurassic World - Fallen Kingdom characters

Fallen Kingdom showed much potential for interesting character development. Unfortunately, most of them just ran about, and died.

The whole string of Jurassic Park movies has always focused on questions of morality. Questions such as: Should we necessarily utilise the genetic powers we are given, and what responsibilities come with such a re-imagined genesis? Even JP3 juggles with philosophical topics: how much harm can a small property transgression do, and how many raptor eggs can one steal before nature bites back? If you look closely, the dinosaurs were always used as vehicles to transport an overarching discussion about the powers of nature and man.

“Fallen Kingdom” tosses most of these greater goals out of the window, and replaces them with a dumb fight of Good Vs. Evil; Team Owen Vs. Arms Dealer. The movie blatantly moves the franchise into the genre of action movies, terminating all of the moral discussions that the dealings around Jurassic Park ever started. As mentioned earlier, I am cool with that termination. The franchise deserves a new start. But you pricks are founding your new movie on the heritage of a film that isn’t even cold yet, and you frequently point at the twitching corps, asking us to love both of you equally. That just doesn’t work, guys!

Jurassic Park Triceratops

Jurassic Park took its time. Neitehr the characters nor the dinosaurs were rushed through the film. This “contained” drama allowed the viewer to appreciate the film.

Jurassic Park could have died with this movie, and the world would have been all the better for it. You would have lost some of the old fans, but most of them would have followed you into the brave new world. However, the executive producers kept resuscitating the original film, no matter how brain-dead it already was, and that was awful to watch. The Fallen Kingdom could have marked the beginning of a new Jurassic era, but instead of allowing the old king of dinosaurs a dignified death the directors rather kept violating its unconscious body.

The next producer will have to make an executive decision on whether to continue this dreadfully puppeteer dance with the dead, and keep alienating the fans, or lay its carcass to rest, and create a new universe. It is too late to take a step back. We can’t just imagine that JW2 does not exist, much like Star-Wars-fans cannot un-see Jarjar Binks. I therefore propose to start anew, and allow the fans to regroup around a fresh franchise. Let Jurassic Park die. And raise a new Jurassic Kingdom in its place.

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