Directed by JA Bayona (2018)
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Toby Jones
Running time 2 hours 8 minutes (!!!)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
by Francis Friel, The Projectionist
The biggest difference between the Jurassic Park / World sequels and the 1993 original is stated right up front here. We open on Isla Nublar, with a team of vaguely sinister scientists looking for… something, and worrying about running into some big nasty dino-threats. One assures the other, “Don’t worry. They’re long dead by now.” To which, obviously, we get an almost immediate refutation, as the gang is stalked and hunted and picked off by a very angry (and probably very hungry) T Rex. The scene plays out like a mishmash of other sequences from previous films, but mostly it sticks to recreating the opening and first T Rex scene from Jurassic Park. Where the Spool’s first (and still best) film in the series showed a very definite hint of danger, exposing only snorts and a quick shot of a talon amidst all the mayhem of that famous prologue, Bayona just throws a big-ass T Rex at the audience with no build-up or even reason to be afraid of it in the first place. It’s not a terrible scene but it illustrates just how much an eye for detail and a sense of space and timing can help elevate even the most dire summer blockbusters, and how that is not the case with this one.
So here goes. I’m going to run down a few big points here and spread out from there, because honestly I’m still left trying to puzzle out just exactly what happened.
Ian Malcolm Back On His Bullshit - Obviously it’s always nice to see Goldblum doing, really, anything in any movie. But the short amount of screen time he gets here is fucking criminal. He’s essentially a Jeff Goldblum From Jurassic Park quote machine, sitting in on a hearing and arguing his case that the dinosaurs left on the island should be allowed to die in a volcano eruption that’s about to wipe them all out anyway. He can do this type of thing in his sleep and, while he’s certainly not quite doing that here, it just seems like he’s maybe got better things to do with his time? He’s in one scene, sits out the majority of the film, then pops back up to give some final thoughts on what we all learned from this debacle.
Animal Rights - But there are other people who think the dinosaurs should be allowed to roam free and live their natural lives (which confused me only because this is essentially the same thing Malcolm is fighting for, only his version ends with them all going extinct again). Military organizations are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on these goddammers just to weaponize them, which also kind of makes sense from a real-world perspective. That’s absolutely what would happen! So it makes sense, all the animal rights activist stuff. I just wish they’d done more with it.
Chris Pratt Has One Mode And Plays It To The Hilt - Chris Pratt does exactly one thing. He’s Star Lord, he’s Human from Jurassic World, and he’s Dopey from Parks and Rec. I enjoy the one thing he does, for the most part, so this isn’t really the biggest issue for me, but jeeeeez it is noticeable once you’re the star of several huge blockbuster franchises. Maybe get this guy to play something outside his very narrow comfort range? I’m gonna cast him as Beef in my Phantom of the Paradise remake, so that should get that particular ball rolling.
Speaking Of Balls - Remember those giant space ball things the annoying kids with no names rode around in last time? They’re back! And this time they’re rolling STRAIGHT OFF A CLIFF AND INTO THE WATER. This is where you lose me. This is some shit that I can’t deal with. I sat through Hereditary and loved it but I was never like Ohhhhh SHIT THIS COULD HAPPEN TO ME! No. But drowning? Yes. A very real fear. I would not survive this situation. I would not have the goddam gumption to hold my breath, keep a second person who is having a panic attack calm so they don’t suck up all the oxygen, then swim my ass AND his ass back up to the surface which looks like it was about 20 feet above their heads. Nope. I’m dead long before that. I gave up. I held my breath for as long as I could, panicked, probably gasped for air because that’s what you do when you’re an animal that’s used to living on land despite knowing in your head that gasping while underwater will only quicken the short seconds you have left on Earth…fuck. No. I’m freaking out and having racing thoughts and trying to hold onto something real in my heart while my brain slowly (quickly? How does drowning work?) just bursts and dies and kills me, my lungs growing heavier by the second, me not understanding, dying. Yeah. I didn’t like that scene!
There Was A Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Restaurant At Jurassic World Apparently - I have never been to one of these, are they cool?
Here’s Something Weird - I kept thinking how cool it would be for these filmmakers to introduce some sort of Tree of Life sequences into this series. Show what the dinosaurs’ day to day is like. See them living. What was going on with that Tyrannosaur before the goons showed up in that opening sequence? Or do a kind of horror movie scene where the dinosaurs are being stalked by humans and they can’t possibly understand (fully) what the hell is going on. Show me that stuff, movie! Make the dinosaurs actual characters. That’s what we’re all showing up for, right?
Toby Jones Wears Fake Teeth In This Movie - Further tying this whole endeavor to my upcoming remake of Phantom of the Paradise, sure as shit Toby Jones shows up and has gigantic chompers that give him that weird mumble-mouth denture-speak thing, which is actually pretty funny. I love him! He’ll play Swan in my version. “Your dinosaurs! Your dinosaurs! You promised me your DINOSAURS!!”
They Wanna Build A Terminator Raptor - Okay, so, I have to admit the actual plot of this movie is a little confusing to me. Rich assholes want to buy up all the dinosaurs. Sure, fine. But they’ve also secretly been working on this MONSTER RAPTOR (I forget what they call it). They introduce this up front, but as things progressively get zanier they sort of forget about that whole thing until it’s time to bring it back up again and I just can’t help but wonder if this wouldn’t have worked differently with a Frankenstein story grafted onto it. Let that fucker loose right away! Make Malcolm’s arguments mean something!
Triceratops Puppies - They show one. It’s really cute.
A Question For Steven Spoolborg - What is it about these films that is such a huge turn-off to Spool? He came back for Indy 4 and is threatening Indy 5. Why not just toss him in the director’s chair for these things, too? I mean, I get it. He’s busy making two films a year and is (not really, right?) also about to direct some superhero bullshit. But I guess he had to level up to producer once Kennedy went to the head of the class. But still, why has he turned his back on this poor franchise? And don’t get me wrong - I don’t want him back. We don’t really need these movies at all, really. But I do wonder what’s stopping him from just doing these himself.
Jurassic World: Fun For Politics - It’s funny how they have these scientists who are only invested in the health and well-being of these creatures…until they start attacking. Then they all suddenly have guns and NEED TO KILL THAT THING! STOP IT, IT’S GETTING AWAY! I won’t bother you with my amazing take on what this is all supposed to mean other than to say that it’s hilarious to me that, on top of everything else this movie is doing, it sort of halfway maybe wants to be political. But just throwing some news footage of protests and senate hearings up on the screen doesn’t really amount to much. Show me why this is all going on. And, again, it’s a Jurassic World movie. I’m not demanding anything more than some cool dino-effects. Honestly. But if you’re gonna put that stuff in your movie, at least follow through with it, even in baby steps.
Speaking Of That News Footage - The political angle actually has the best throw-away gag of the movie, as a scrolling bar at the bottom of the screen during a government official’s speech reads “President of the United States questions existence of dinosaurs in the first place.” You got me, movie. That’s a pretty good one.
And Finally - This movie made me want to watch Logan again. Can’t we just re-release Logan and Fury Road and let me go watch those in the theater every summer?