Jurassic World

⭐⭐ averaged across 1 films.

tl;dr: The sequels that could have radically modernised audience expectations of dinosaurs, with Chris Pratt as a bonus. Unfortunately, we got a lacklustre set of monster movies that have yet to live up to the hype.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I think the simplest summary would be: this is a fun, almost totally pointless film that spends its entire – albeit enjoyable – run-time setting up a single piece of cultural analysis that was already covered by the first Jurassic World. I guess there is an argument that the first film failed almost completely to get that point across, but don't worry, round two is so on-the-nose no one will miss it. Yes, we get it, genetic engineering is a big scary concept that could have unintended consequences and unforeseen ramifications for humanity directly. Cloning, artificial animals, genetic modifications... these could all be grouped under the same "philosophically and scientifically troubling yet scarily plausible" umbrella.

My problem isn't necessarily the message of the film (though let's come back to that), it's the fact it takes over two hours to make that point, whilst showing directly in the film that it could do it in a couple of paragraphs. At the start, we have good ol' Malcolm testifying before... well, I'm not too sure, but possibly some kind of congressional committee? He starts off pointing out that the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar should be allowed to go extinct for a second time, because the technology that created them is too scary and problematic. Then, at the end, we seemingly jump back to his speech to hear him say the same thing but a little more clearly and concisely (with, of course, the title call: "Welcome to Jurassic World!" dun dun dun!). There you go, put that entire speech at the start and the rest of the plot becomes filler; the point is made.

Irritatingly, that could have meant the big moral question at the end of the film, i.e. gas the last dinosaurs or let them live, could have been the whole film, only with the volcano as the gas... except they decided that was just the setup plot? Oh I don't know, have I mentioned that the film doesn't make a huge amount of sense the moment you start breaking it down?

For instance, take our little clone girl. Having children be plot critical is, at this point, just an essential part of the Jurassic Park/World film DNA, so I don't mind that we have a child that embodies the central moral conundrum. However – however! – she was created long before Hammond died; it seems even before the first Park was opened (though that does feel a little unclear based on her age and timelines etc. – actually it's impossible, she'd be over 20, but movie magic maybe?). Either way, that means InGen have had genuine human cloning technology for well over a decade! Even if we assume this is the same tech they were already using (though that opens up a whole can of worms with the differences between mammalian and avian birth strategies), there is no way that hasn't become widely understood knowledge. Hell, even the dinosaurs have been around multiple times – these are all one continuity, which means these creatures... actually, let's come back to that.

The point is that this technology is over 20 years old at this point and widely, publicly known. There is no way that it has taken this long for it to proliferate and begin being abused. You could make an argument that Indominus rex is some kind of proof-of-concept catalyst, except even the original dinosaurs were multi-species spliced chimeras! That's a fairly vital plot point to the whole "Life finds a way" thing!

Let's return to those two points above. First of all, do I have a problem with the message? Bluntly, yes. Genetic engineering is big, and it is scary, but I also believe it's absolutely necessary. Plus, it won't be about bringing dinosaurs to life. Yes, there are clear analogies between "Welcome to Jurassic World" and "human engineered bioplague wipes out 50% of people in under a week" and, yes, again, there's a lot to fear about playing God. But this blanket stigma leads to a world where perfectly safe, climate catastrophe avoiding technologies are being smothered by well-meaning but problematic arguments, and it would be nice for a big budget franchise not to stoke those flames.

And that second point? I'm so confused as to the dinosaurs. The big question here is (if you ignore the whole cloning, animal trafficking, illegal arms trade, genetic engineering, fundamental changes to our biosphere, conservation, and military shortsightedness questions – actually this film has a lot of social commentary when you think about it): should be let these man-made dinosaurs die? Right? But, here's the thing: they already have crossed that line once before. In JP3, we see that Isla Sorna (again... in a minute) has a thriving dinosaur ecosystem, including some species that never made it to the main park, like Pteranodon and Spinosaurus. We even see how some of those species, like the Velociraptors, have begun to display some more "natural" traits, like feathering (we aren't even going near that one). These are animals that have well established populations (after only 10 years... again, we're not going into that one either) and clear ecological feedback mechanisms. Yet by Jurassic World, a park that has been operating to the public for 10 years before the first film, so we can consider had already begun construction during the events of film 3 (okay, yes, the timeline and premise of these films is nuts and I should stop analysing anything more!)... My point is, Blue and the rest of the raptors are clearly a new breed, and the dinos of the first park have been removed. So unless every last one was captured and dumped on the second island, they already wiped out the Jurassic Park dinosaurs in order to make Jurassic World. And that wasn't a natural, geological event, that must have just been humans.

Unless... we really don't know what's going on with Isla Sorna. The focus of JP2 and JP3, the one with the real populations as far as the original trilogy canon is concerned, that island hasn't come up yet. Whichever way you cut it, one volcano does not clean out two islands. Actually, it's highly unlikely one volcano wiped out the entire populations on Nublar either; that's a big island we're talking about, so a volcanic event powerful enough to cause a "total extinction event" across the entire island would be cataclysmic globally. We even see that a good half of the island seems fine as they fly away, so in all likelihood there will still be some dinosaurs on Nublar, a whole thriving ecosystem on Sorna, and now a solitary, hyper intelligent pseudo-raptor (which, let's face it, is going to turn out to be some kind of Indominus rex prototype – that foreshadowing is clear) in... Montana? I think that was meant to be a callback to the classic scene where Dr Grant unearths a Deinonychus claw in the Badlands at the start of JP1. Whatever, there are still plenty of dinosaurs!

But what about the rest of the film? Right, plot aside, I thought the acting was fairly solid throughout. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard work well together and don't have to go too much into the love story again (plus BDH gets some almost-decent shoes, with a subtle nod to that infamous costume choice from the previous film at the start), and the rest of the supporting cast do well enough. Justice Smith stands out, again, much like Detective Pikachu; indeed, he's rapidly becoming my next Taron Egerton or Donald Glover and I really hope we see plenty more of him in the years to come.

Pacing is okay, though I feel they managed to burn quite a lot of the big events in the trailer. I like the evolving relationship and backstory given to Blue. It's generally a lot of fun to watch dinosaurs, even ones that look almost nothing like dinosaurs, and we got a fair few new species that I enjoyed, particularly Pachyrhinosaurus, Allosaurus and (my personal favourite new character), the helpful and feisty Stygimoloch. I want to know how you go about becoming a palaeo-veterinarian, like, is that a degree course now? Also, there is no way that blood from a T-Rex would work in a Velociraptor, even one as engineered as Blue; they're about as distantly related as mustelids to felids (or so the internet says). Surely InGen owns the patent to all of the dinosaurs, so couldn't they have just bred new ones in the lab? These creatures are being fully synthesised at a genetic level, so surely someone backed up the blueprints to the Cloud? Relatedly, that whole start sequence retrieving the Indomitus bones (and releasing the Liopleurodon) wouldn't be necessary, as that animal was completely synthetic. Relatedly, that clearly happened quite a while before the start of the main plot and the volcanic activity, so that Lio has been swimming around for, what, a year? And no one noticed? Relatedly, why haven't pterosaurs left the island? The new films didn't change the location of the islands; they're only 120 miles from Coast Rica, and the rest of the chain are another 90 miles out. Pteranadon has/had a wingspan equivalent to an albatross, they're designed for gliding and oceanic living, so that should be a fairly easy commute (though this has been a problem since JP3). Speaking of the original trilogy, whilst less in-your-face then the last film, my god there were so. many. callbacks. Do you reckon we're going in to ever get that Indominoes rex pizza tie-in we clearly deserve? Why is there even that much toxic gas in the building? Why doesn't the perfectly sound-of-mind, yet terminally ill and frail man have a panic button? Why does no one use a mobile phone ever??? So much of the plot could be avoided if they just, you know, called someone. Our main characters have the phone numbers for senators (shown in the film) or are ex-Navy Seals (would clearly have military contacts) yet no one carries a mobile? Even that child should have an iPhone, or at least a laptop, in her room that she could call for help from. And what do you reckon the permits were like for the porting authority to let that ship dock, unload, and freight that many dinosaurs into mainland USA? I mean, they could hardly have snuck in, they had enough space for several Chinook helicopters and at least one Apatosaurus! Oh, also, yes mainland US now has pterosaurs and a fair few herbivorous dinosaur populations, but the carnivores only had one specimen of each saved, as did most of the big/dangerous dinosaurs. So, "Welcome to Jurassic World! For about 20 years, before they all go extinct again (except for, y'know, on those islands we just keep forgetting about)".

So, basically, it's the worst of the Jurassic franchise, it's a largely pointless film, and it clearly spent most of the time setting up an inevitable sequel... yet I still enjoyed it. I mean, it wasn't as bad as The Hustle 🤷. I guess, then, that all I can say is that I look forward to Jurassic World War 3 because... well, basically, if that isn't what they call the end to this second trilogy, then I'm really not sure why they're even making them. And they better make good on the stupid line about Ankylosaur tanks. I want Anylosaurs with turrets!

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