RECAP: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018): J. A. Bayona
The massive, unforeseen world-beating Jurassic World success story begged a sequel. The sequel was coming no matter what, really, because CGI dinosaurs are great global business, whether at the movies or in the movies, but fourth all-time worldwide (when released)? Who saw that coming?
Numbers aside, I didn’t like Jurassic World, and I wasn’t excited for a sequel. How did it hold up?
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: With the dinosaur survivors of the Jurassic World disaster at death’s door thanks to the rumbling volcano comprising much of Isla Nublar, several human forces converge to save the dinosaurs, but for different reasons.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) returns to the franchise in a very different role. With Jurassic World, her former employer, in ruins, she heads a group of animal rights activists pressuring Congress to save the dinosaurs in danger of volcanic destruction.
After meeting with a rich backer who loves cloning dinosaurs but is not the guy from the original Jurassic Park, Claire agrees to return to Isla Nublar with a promise that she will help track and rescue the dinosaurs. As a former Jurassic World executive, her hand print can access the trackers installed in every dinosaur.
Claire convinces ex-boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join her, and they return to the island, where they soon learn that the “rescue” team is another cash grab front, and that the island is going to explode any second now.
Many dinosaurs survive the island’s explosion thanks to Claire’s efforts, but most of those are slated to die at the hands of chief villain and mastermind of the dinosaur extraction, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall).
Claire gives her all, and it’s her story, but she fades behind the efforts of a dinosaur and a child. That’s a good thing, because Claire is childish. Sorry, I mean Bryce Dallas Howard is childish. I don’t know whether to blame the actor or the director for this, but every event in the movie evokes wonder, fear, or joy in Claire as it would a nine-year-old girl. It’s as if the only acting tool in her toolbox are “Open eye wide at event.”
It’s part of the reason I find zero chance she would date Chris Pratt’s character, and can barely believe she formerly ran the world’s most famous theme park.
Despite all this, Claire makes an interesting choice in the end that doesn’t save the movie, but makes it less bad.
Eli Mills is the longtime estate manager for Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), estranged partner of John Hammond. Years ago Lockwood gave Mills carte blanche to spend his money in a manner that would benefit dinosaurs.
Mills chose instead to hire mercenaries to capture the dinosaurs remaining on Isla Nublar facing down volcanic destruction. With these dinosaurs he planned to restart genetic development of military-grade animals and sell them to the highest bidder.
Mills uses several proxies to enact his plan, and it’s unbelievable how he planned to achieve his goals. Beneath the Lockwood mansion is the original gene-splicing lab where Lockwood and Hammond first sequenced a dinosaur genome.
That lab still exists, and it’s still being run by Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong), and he’s still trying to make dangerous dinosaurs.
This time, Wu, Mills, and company have created an Indoraptor, a raptor that’s smarter and deadlier and more obedient than any dinosaur yet created. The Indo obeys commands, something no dinosaur has ever done, and is larger, snarlier, and more mischievous than Blue or any lesser raptor.
Indoraptor lives in the bowels of the mansion until Mills kicks off an auction to purchase all the animals. The idiot tough guy Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) stumbles upon and, not knowing what it is, darts it twice and tries to steal a trophy, its tooth.
Wheatley enters the Indoraptor’s cage. The animal shows the audience that it is smart enough to play dead, to lie in wait until its prey is nearly upon it. Indoraptor bites Wheatley’s arm off and then eats the rest of him.
The movie treats its terrible lizard as a horror character, shooting it in blackness and flashing lights. That’s a new element from the series. The raptors of old were scary animals, but not Jason-like marauders.
It’s difficult to swallow Mills thinking his actions could escape Lockwood’s notice inside his own house, but they did. Lockwood only learns of his protege’s actions on the night of the auction, and stupidly confronts him about it alone, bedridden, and on oxygen. That Mills kills him makes sense.
An early sequence shows what happens when a volcanic island explodes from sudden volcanic activity.
Shortly after Blue is captured by Wheatley, the Isla Nublar decides to give up the ghost. Mountains are bursting and forest is burning from molten hot magma-turned-lava. One near victim is Owen, who is recovering from being shot in chest with a nerve toxin and being licked by a triceratops-like dinosaur. Don’t know which one’s worse.
Owen, who can barely control his body, turns his head to find lava slowly flowing toward him. The heat wakes him up, and he does a solid turn of physical comedy to roll his rigid body away from the lava and over a log until he can stand.
Meanwhile, at the control building, it’s cracking from the volcano. Massive metal doors are shutting, locking systems analyst Franklin (Justice Smith) and Claire inside. They also note a dinosaur trapped in a tunnel leading to their room. Franklin freaks out that it’s a T. rex. Turns out it’s not, it’s only a different carnivore.
Soon there’s lava falling like rain into the room. Claire spots a ladder and Franklin struggles to climb it, the dinosaur nipping at them the whole way. A grown man can barely climb a ladder. Eh, well. They climb out of the building to find its roof covered with lava.
Suddenly Owen comes sprinting out the jungle shouting “RUN!” to all parties. Behind him is a black ash cloud and hundreds of sprinting dinosaurs. My questions here are, did Owen yell “RUN!” the entire time he was running, or did he start only when he spotted the control building? Did he see the humans and yell at them? Which thing did he think they needed to run from and weren’t running from: the lava, the ash, or the dinosaurs?
The trio run downhill like the rest of motile life on the island. They stop at one of the tourist glass orbs from the previous movie. Franklin and Claire get inside, but there’s not room for Owen. An angry dinosaur pauses from sprinting for its life to menace the humans and then fight a second, triceratops-like creature. Then, a T. rex comes in to kill the smaller dinosaur and scream as the volcano explodes behind them.
It’s supposed to be an awesome scene. It’s not. The problem is the characters. I don’t care about any of them. If they were eaten, burned, drowned, choked with ash, shot with bullets; I wouldn’t care to see them go.
Zia: A self-proclaimed paleoveterinarian, Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) is as unbelievable as nerds come. Zia starts her role telling off someone on the phone who questions her credentials, asking if she’s ever seen a dinosaur. The answer is “No,” but so what? Apparently anyone can call themselves a paleoveterinarian if they want.
Zia does know some stuff. She joins the mission in case any animals need her aid. They do. Blue, one of the most valuable animals on Earth, is shot by the careless, moronic expedition leader Wheatley. Bleeding nearly to death, Blue can only survive from blood transfused from another raptor. Barring that, any three-toed carnivore should do.
Now, I’m no scientist, but putting another species’s blood into any creature would surely not work. Many types of human blood will hasten the death of a human. So when Zia saves Blue’s life with the blood of T. rex, that was as big a head slap as I’ve ever delivered.
Zia might be the best scientist on the island; she’s certainly the fiercest. When dozens of armed mercenaries surround her, she stands her ground and points a gun right back at Wheatley. She knows that her training is the only thing between Blue’s life and death, and she falls on that.
I hate to talk about a woman’s outfit, but Zia’s aesthetic rubbed me the wrong way, too. She’s too young to be a doctor or nurse or whatever she is (she can’t be old enough to be leader in her field), she’s too tough, cowed neither by gun-wielding maniacs nor an exploding volcano, and she’s too cool to have spent half her life studying dinosaurs though never seeing one.
Franklin: The systems analyst is skilled in booting up Jurassic World’s dormant technology systems. He’s also an excellent screamer, evidenced in every other scene. That he’s on the mission at all is a testament to his courage, I guess? Eh, who gives a shit about this guy.
Owen: Chris Pratt’s Serious Face makes me laugh every time. Owen returns to lead the dinosaur search party to Blue, the blue-striped raptor we met in the previous movie. Owen is as self-assured and outdoorsy as ever, and it’s a drag of an act.
Owen is, thankfully, sidelined more than the first movie. He didn’t raise the Indoraptor, so he has no connection to it. He spends much of his time telling people when they should or should not run from ash clouds and marauding dinosaurs fleeing said ash cloud. That’s a good use of one’s skill set.
Blue: once again, the real hero is Blue, but in our anthrocentric world we won’t recognize an animal as the hero if there are humans to swipe the title. Blue is shot and nearly bleeds to death, only to escape capture and save Owen’s life for the second straight movie by attacking the more powerful, weaponized dinosaur.
Wheatley: This guy sucked. I didn’t like him from the start, nor could I understand his speech. His words were as garbled as his intestines were after the Indoraptor gutted him.
Brought to Isla Nublar to capture all the dinosaurs, his actions kill one of his men and nearly kill Blue, the mission’s primary object. What a fool this guy was.
Fallen Kingdom‘s strongest asset might be its stunts. Two sequences point out the skill of the second unit action team.
As Isla Nublar explodes, the dinosaurs plunge into the water. Also Claire and Franklin in the glass orb. The camera is inside the orb as it falls, and it looks like the humans are in free fall. When it hits the water, the pressure starts crashing the glass, but not enough to let them kick free.
The air inside slows the orb’s descent and helps Claire and Franklin breathe, but how will they escape? Suddenly Owen arrives. He shoots the glass, and two small holes appear in the side. Owen then takes a hit from a flying lava rock. The camera is all around the orb now, as water is flooding the orb from below and hot rocks are pelting the orb from above.
Owen surfaces to breathe and swims back, this time prying open the orb door with a knife. It works and the humans escape.
To shoot this sequence, the stunt team built a roller coaster track and one of the orbs to roll down it. When the actor look like there’s air rushing in their face, it really is. Although, the glass orb was closed to the rushing air, so how did it get on the actors’ faces? Still, it was a cool sequence.
The auction: Owen wants to disrupt the villainous auction taking place, and he has just the dinosaur, a skull-capped buddy that will charge through brick walls to antagonize humans. Owen tricks this guy into boarding an elevator and wreaking havoc at the auction.
A great shot shows the dino head butting a guard about 30 feet. Owen follows quickly and stops a guard from shooting it. He then trades blows with a guard carrying an electric shocker pole and several face tattoos. What’s scarier, a electric shocker pole or several face tattoos?
People dressed in formal wear are flying left and right thanks to the little dino. Owen has eyes for the Indoraptor. A great tracking shot follows Owen as he bashes his way through guards alongside the Indoraptor cage to beat up the guard operating the cage and stop it moving. Owen has sworn to not let it leave the building. Owen clears the room and disappears.
Wheatley sees all the people fleeing and wades into the maelstrom. He finds himself alone with the Indoraptor, a dinosaur he doesn’t know because it wasn’t on Isla Nublar. Wheatley puts two darts into the Indoraptor and wisely, so wisely, enters the cage.
Wheatley, we know, enjoys snagging teeth as hunting trophies. He draws his tooth-plucking pliers and bends down beside the unconscious Indoraptor. Indoraptor’s not unconscious, though. The tail swings behind it. We see an eye flick open and a hint of a dinosaur smile. The thing’s playing dead. Suddenly it erupts and chomps off Wheatley’s arm, yells at him, and tears the rest of his body apart.
Fallen Kingdom has many horror elements, and the ending leans into them. It gets going when Owen cuts off the lights in the library/dinosaur mausoleum. Why do this? Do humans have better vision than Indoraptor’s in the dark? Is he panicking?
No, he’s creating a frightening environment for the viewer. The three humans–Owen, Claire, and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon)–slink around the hardwood floors as the Indoraptor runs around the room, doing God knows what and appearing in glass lining the corridor.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Franklin and Zia have discovered leaking hydrogen cyanide gas about to kill Earth’s last living dinosaurs. Franklin needs to reboot the system (good thing he’s a systems analyst) to get the venting system working again.
That reboot gets the lights back on in the library, and wouldn’t you know it, the Indoraptor’s face is juxtaposed onto Maisie’s with a glass barrier between them. Horror movie element. The Indoraptor shatters the glass and menaces the humans. Maisie escapes but Claire gets clawed in the leg. I love how the Indoraptor destroys most of the house chasing Maisie, but a wooden door stops it cold.
Owen chases Maisie and the Indoraptor after he gets the targeting gun that supposedly controls the animal. Remember, it’s a prototype dinosaur with many kinks to be smoothed. Currently the Indoraptor is climbing atop the mansion for some reason. It screams a lot, following Maisie’s scent from her earlier jaunt about the roof, I guess, and going right to her bedroom.
Maisie sees the creature’s silhouette on her wall as it opens her balcony door. Another horror element. I did like the tapping of its claw here. As the Indoraptor creepily slides its razor claws along the sheets like Freddy Kruger, Owen kicks in the door and puts three shots into the dinosaur. Then he lowers the gun because he is dumb.
The Indoraptor stands to full height and Owen, for the first time in his adult life, shows fear, dropping the gun and backing into the wall.
Not so fast, Indoraptor. It’s Blue’s time to shine. Blue attacks the Indoraptor. They fight real hard. Owen sits beside Maisie and watches the fight. Here’s where they lost me. Owen has two exits. One of them is the door leading into the hall and the rest of the house, the other is the door leading to the balcony that’s 40 feet above the ground and wet with rain. Each exit is equally viable at the moment. He chooses the balcony.
Blue crashes into the bed and continues fighting the Indoraptor. Owen and Maisie fall to a lower roof level (gotta love Victorian mansions and their angular roof systems) only to find themselves cornered by the Indoraptor again, this time atop the glass canopy above the skeleton chamber they were slinking around earlier.
Just when Owen and Maisie are about to fall to their deaths, Claire shows up with the targeting rifle Owen dropped earlier to get the Indoraptor’s attention. She targets Owen and sends the Indoraptor on an attack vector to kill him. Owen gets the plan. He slides beneath the beast and the glass breaks under the Indoraptor.
Now the Indoraptor shows its true calling: powerlifting. You think it will fall onto the fossilized dinosaur horn perched below it. Nope. The creature uses its upper body strength to lift up onto the glass roof again. Impressive. The iron railing holds it, but it breaks when Blue returns and reengages the attack. Slow motion descent ensues, and the Indoraptor is impaled on triceratops horns. Blue runs away.
Down in the lab, the brainiacs have failed to stop the hydrogen cyanide. Now is Claire’s moment. She watches the dinosaurs suffer as the gas seeps into their cages. Her only choices are do nothing and let them die or release them into the wild.
When confronted with a giant red button, one should always push that button. Well, Claire doesn’t push it. Earlier, while chasing the Indoraptor, she promised to end the dinosaur experiment once and for all, and she can do it now.
The dinosaurs choke to death.
Or, to near death. Suddenly the doors open. The adults look at the control panel and find that Maisie has pushed the red button. “They’re alive,” she says, “like me.” The dinosaurs run into forest, killing Eli in the process. They will cover the Earth. Welcome to Jurassic World.
Not even Parks & Recreation veteran Chris Pratt is funny, save his little reawakening scene with the lava.
The Lockwood estate in northern California plays a prominent role. Lockwood’s Gothic mansion houses all things dinosaur. The entry lobby is packed with dinosaur skeletons and enclosures that appear lifted from a Victorian natural history museum.
The Indoraptor spends much of the third act destroying these skeletons and enclosures in a bit of messaging that’s too on the nose and was done better by the T. rex in Jurassic Park crashing through a skeleton of its kind.
Maisie explores as much of the outside of the mansion as its inside. Based on a real mansion in Northumberland, England, the roof is as important a setting as the inside.
The basement/lab/animal containment facility is made of brick, which is as stupid an area to contain dinosaurs as you can imagine.
Jeff Goldblum, briefly reprising Dr. Malcolm for the first time this century, raises the ethical question at the heart of the movie, and the series as a whole. Should humans do anything to save the dinosaurs from re-extinction?
Endangered Species Act aside, the governments are not responsible for saving these creatures. First of all, they are not wild animals, even if they have returned to the wild. Second, they are not endangered by human activity. Sure, humans remade these creatures and in doing so in such small numbers made them endangered by definition, but their current perilous situation derives from a volcanic eruption.
Malcolm advises letting the animals go extinct, and I agree. They are terrific creatures, but they amount to alien species. Societies have enough trouble with invasive species that haven’t been extinct for tens of millions of years. Adding gigantic, apex predators will create tremendous strain on the fauna and human food chains that can’t be foreseen.
The animals escape into the forest in the end, with some flying to Las Vegas. Malcolm believes we are living in a Jurassic world now, and we better find a way to manage that.
I don’t follow. The animals that survived the Isla Nublar disaster aren’t breeding populations. They will die soon, and only human effort will bring them back.
The other, buried idea in the movie is Maisie’s existence as a clone of Lockwood’s daughter. This idea begged exploration, but isn’t mentioned until late.
We’re hunky dory here.
- Who drinks Beck’s at a Budweiser bar?
- The raptors are now the second-most intelligent species on Earth. They keep getting smarter.
Summary (23/68): 34%
Fallen Kingdom tabbed about $200 million less than its predecessor. Is that a bad sign? It’s a lesser movie, and the entire series seems to have a younger target audience with each installment. We’ll see what 2021 brings us with the final chapter in the Jurassic World franchise.