Written by Madison Drew Daniels and Tristan Olav Torgersen Fallen Kingdom
Images courtesy of IMDB.com and Movie Insider
We know, we know. You’ve begun hearing about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and you don’t know what to believe. Madison and Tristan sat down to give you an honest and fun accounting of the movie just days after its release.
Read on and enjoy!
Madison: Going into Fallen Kingdom, I was prepared to be massively disappointed. I avoided reading any reviews before I see any movie. But it’s hard to avoid headlines. I saw the Verge calling it a “stunning disappointment” and Ars Technica declaring Fallen Kingdom had gone “full Sharknado.” So I was prepping to write an article about how Disney seems to be the only studio who can make a billion dollar movie that is also genuinely good. However, Fallen Kingdom subverted all my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tristan: I enjoyed it, but probably a little bit less so. It had fun elements, good jumps and suspenseful moments, and some good twists to it, but I was a little underwhelmed. I think that since I love the original trilogy though, I really expect some new concepts and new ground to cover. While the movie was fun, I got the feeling that borrowing The Lost World‘s concept of of taking dinos off the island was alright, but that with so many stories possible, why go with this one?
Madison: Yeah, it is very much in the vein of The Lost World. Almost makes me want to go back and watch it again, but I shouldn’t tarnish my childhood love. However, to the point of introducing concepts, I think you’re right. Fallen Kingdom didn’t iterate much on the man vs chaotic wild idea. And the first Jurassic World already introduced the idea of weaponized dinos. I will say that I think with Fallen Kingdom , the lid is finally all the way off of Pandora’s box and it can’t be shut anymore. Previous Jurassic‘s flirted with taking the lid off all the way, but always ended with the box closing. Even from the trailers, it is evident that dinosaurs are now fully present in our world and there’s no going back. So I feel like Universal finally said, “okay, this time we’re serious” and they threw Pandora’s Lid across the room. Which I think is a good, albeit, late move.
Something I also really like about Fallen Kingdom was that I feel like Universal took a page out of Marvel’s playbook. They made a suspense thriller set in a mansion using Jurassic Park pieces. Marvel makes genre films using superhero pieces and it works. So I am pleased to see it work here.
Tristan: I was pleasantly surprised about that too. It is a fresh idea that rather than massive parks or worldscapes, this one was isolated to a mansion for the last two acts. Without spoiling anything, I still don’t love the story of the mansion owner and who he is, but it is a necessary plot device I suppose. Other things I like about this one is they let Chris Pratt really be Chris Pratt which added good humor throughout. Good job Universal. The dinosaurs also looked better due to the use of more animatronic puppets in Fallen Kingdom, compared to Jurassic World.
Madison: Yeah I feel like they could have done the same mansion story better if the old dude behind it all wasn’t a plot convenient invention. But Universal played to their strengths with all the bits. Like you mention, the use of puppets far exceeds the quality of relying purely on CGI. And Pratt did feel less stiff. Some parts I really enjoyed were the subtle homages to the original Jurassic Park. Lots of similar scenes paying respect to their predecessor while still maintaining their own originality. There’s one with an elevator dolly and the little girl that I thought was really well done. Something I wasn’t quite sure about though was “what is this movie trying to say?” The lid to Pandora’s Box has come off because of the hubris of mankind, but how do we deal with that? I’m not sure the movie settled on an answer.
Tristan: AGREED. I feel like at the end of the movie I left with more questions than answers. There are some odd plot twists that felt unnecessary, and especially the final scenes left me confused. Do humans always choose to destroy ourselves? Is our good nature our destruction? “Life finds a way” to end itself? I won’t spoil the movie, but needless to say I felt the tone and questions from the start of the movie were not satisfied in the end.
Madison: I’m never sad when the middle movie of a trilogy leaves me with more questions than answers. That it left off without wrapping everything up I think was a nice touch. But I ponder big questions like the ones asked in the Jurassic movies on the daily–is mankind going to destroy itself? Will Nature always put us on our ass?, etc–if this were happening real world, I’m not sure where I would fall personally. And I wish they would have dwelt longer with the idea of monetary exploitation of wild things. Only once do they imply that exploiting dinosaurs for war or for a theme park is the same. Is it really? Are they different flavors of the same exploitative attitude of mankind in general? Is there a moral difference in exploitation for war or for entertainment if the same end goal is monetary gain? Fallen Kingdom doesn’t really wrestle with these ideas. They’re big questions and, though I’m not sure Fallen Kingdom spends enough time with its own moral ambiguity, I’m glad to see a movie bringing up and mildly wrestling with big scaly issues.
Tristan: I can get that, and nice dino reference with the ‘big scaly issues’ haha. Now…some of the things I didn’t like about it. Really odd side characters ran rampant like the gallimimus in Jurassic Park. I mean, I’m all for a diverse group of characters that play a role in the story progress, but seriously, what happened?
Justice Smith whose computer wizardry aids in jumpstarting a power grid that’s been off for three years and then being conveniently absent in the second act of the movie to everyone’s benefit. Add to that an underused and underdeveloped baddie in B.D. Wond reprising Dr. Wu, and I felt the story was lacking in the supporting cast department. And let’s not EVEN talk about Jeff Goldblum being a bit of a trailer snatcher and not much else.
Madison: I couldn’t agree more about BD Wong. I friggin love him in Mr. Robot and Fallen Kingdom completely underutilized him. It certainly was a colorful cast. They probably could’ve combined some of them and told a more streamlined story without some unnecessary parts. And I did think there were a few clunky lines in the beginning. Though, not sure if that is a problem with writing or with delivery? But they didn’t distract too much.
Tristan: Yeah, the writing was a bit clunky at times. I feel like from the start, I was thrust into a world and story that had taken a smoke break, but hadn’t stopped. I liked and disliked that. One of the reasons I really like Lost World is that it develops and breathes life into Ian Malcolm from the character we saw in Jurassic Park. With Fallen Kingdom, I don’t see that being the case. We enter in media res with some randos on Isla Nublar’s menu, then our girl Bryce Dallas-Howard as Claire as she ropes Chris Pratt as Owen back into the story. Little is done to refresh the characters other than some witty banter about dating and who leaves who, and then the story moves on.
Now, I don’t think we always have to retrace our steps, but a little more story there makes the characters more near and dear to the audience. I want to mention the reality that audiences form an emotional bond with characters on a psychological level, so there should be a real impetus to bring our emotions back to that character and strengthen that bond.
Madison: Yeah, it isn’t enough to just have them on screen like an easter egg. I knew Goldblum wasn’t going to be in anything besides the courtroom scene. That is something, with hindsight, I am now feeling about the Jurassic World movies– I don’t really have a connection to the characters like I did for the Park movies. I love Chris Pratt so I like his character, Owen Mcgrady(or something). But I’ll be damned if I could remember that character’s name without having to check Google first. How, though, could I forget Dr. Grant? Or Ian Malcolm? Iconic characters with heart.
Tristan: You said it. Owen Grady (I had to look it up) is no Dr. Alan Grant and Claire is neither Ian nor Ellie. I cared enough because they’re our main characters…but past that, I was disconnected. Spielberg had us hooked in Jurassic Park and the suspense was so real I still get tense when rewatching it. I have rewatched Jurassic World and enjoy it enough but don’t feel the same suspense or connection. Fallen Kingdom was even less so. What do I want the final act to be? I want to be connected and invested. I want to care about the characters and really hope they make it out alive with their resolve intact.
Madison: Something I liked about J.A. Bayona‘s directing style, though, was how he winked at the fans a few times. There were so many complaints about Howard and her heels running through the jungle in Jurassic World. So I love that Bayona’s first shot of Claire, in Fallen Kingdom, is of her sky high pumps. He repeats this shot later on as soon as they get to Isla Nublar, but this time, she is wearing combat boots. Much better for running from bloodthirsty dinosaurs. A nice wink to anyone paying attention. And did you notice how many single take shots there were? Any director who cares enough to plan, stage, and choreograph a prolonged single take is good in my book.
Tristan: I feel it was really well done and J.A. Bayona delivered a great looking movie in Fallen Kingdom. The single shot scenes were fantastic, as were the tones and colors of the movie. I like the dark theme and most of the film occurring at night time as it plays into the scary theme. The scene on the island where the volcano erupts was actually better than I had anticipated from the trailer, albeit it required a hefty amount of suspension of disbelief. And the mansion itself was a great backdrop for a Jurassic Nightmare in the third act. The dinos were colorful, the Indoraptor was horrifying, and I enjoyed the cinematography as a whole.
Madison: I get giggly at pretty cinematography and the shot of the Indoraptor on a mansion roof in the rain backlit by the moon was absurd but so unexpectedly good. I was reminded of old school horror flicks like Wolfman or Dracula. And Bayona does an excellent job of setting up promises and paying them off. There are a lot of little bits of the set that seem innocuous at first but play a function later on. This shows Bayona pays attention and cares about the details of his craft. It’s almost Spielberg-ian in its spirit. On the whole, I enjoyed Fallen Kingdom waaaaaay more than I thought I was going to. It was a good movie that subverted my expectations and subverted the traditional Jurassic narrative of being chased around an island for a few days. I’m not sure why it’s being hated on so hard by critics.
In fact, It’s a hell of a lot better than Justice League.