J. A. Bayona’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is perhaps the closest the blockbuster franchise about genetically modified dinosaurs roaming the modern world will get to overtly expounding on the themes it shares with its spiritual predecessor, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.
Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World (2015) laid down the foundations of depicting the dinosaurs, which were shown in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and its two sequels as instinctive predators, capable of some thought and communication through interactions between Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and his beloved velociraptors. However, there is nothing in the Jurassic films that will rival the glaring tragedy that James Whale so evocatively designed in his 1931 adaptation of Shelley’s work, where a scene shows the man-made monstrosity first playing with a little girl before innocently drowning her.
Nevertheless, Fallen Kingdom presents the same ethical and moral quandaries that humanity needs to confront in its endeavor to play god.
Indictment of greed and commercialism
The Jurassic films, based on Michael Crichton’s novels, have always grounded their spectacle-driven fun and horrors on the drastic consequences of man’s irresponsible bending of nature’s laws to suit his own curiosities, with the added indictment of man’s greed and commercialism.
However, it is only Bayona’s film that squarely and unsubtly puts emphasis on having humanity decide the fate of the animals. Nature decided dinosaurs should be extinct but scientists decided they should be resurrected for whatever logic, through the impassioned declarations of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who has always represented the voice of reason in many of the franchise’s past installments. After the events of the last Jurassic World movie, the dinosaurs have been left to fend for themselves in the island of Nublar until a volcano is about to erupt and cause the dinosaurs’ re-extinction. This prompts Malcolm to air his thoughts on why nature should be allowed to take its course, correct the mistakes of humanity, let the dinosaurs perish in the island.
This is where Owen and ex-girlfriend Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) come in.
Now that the mob, I mean the democratic institutions of the United States, has decided to let the beasts die, billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) recruits the once-dating duo to return to Nublar to rescue Blue, the friendly velociraptor, and relocate him to another island where dinosaurs can roam free, away from tourists and other types of human intervention. Of course, humans cannot be counted on to be noble. It turns out that Lockwood’s trusted assistant (Rafe Spall) has other more devious and lucrative things in mind for the dinosaurs.
Overplayed rollercoaster ride
Fallen Kingdom is constantly kept afloat by that uncomfortable feeling of ethical uncertainty in its protagonists’ well-meaning campaign to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
The Jurassic francise has certainly outgrown relying on the sense of wonder and discovery that fueled its initial outings. The franchise needed to keep up with the times, to acknowledge that what used to be science fiction has gone very close to reality, and that things are no longer as black and white as the good of humanity against the threats of vicious dinosaurs. Bayona’s film – even with its stubborn clutch on providing fun but trite but effective thrills in keeping true with its intent as a commercial film – bears a heft that makes it a product of this era of moral uncertainties.
The attempt to add weight to the otherwise overplayed rollercoaster ride makes Fallen Kingdom a bit of an inelegant adventure.
The film has numerous cleverly assembled action and horror sequences, but there is always a nagging feeling that Fallen Kingdom is too much of a mishmash of so many things that it is unable to sustain consistent excitement throughout its needlessly extended duration. The film is most gripping when Bayona deftly contains the dinosaur infestation within the confines of an ornate mansion complete with guarded basements, suspicious dumbwaiters, and a mysterious little girl (Isabella Sermon) with a secret past. Sadly, the film is just too busy with other things to sustain whatever ingenuity it proposes.
Man versus dinosaur
Fallen World is clearly a bid for the franchise to evolve past the man versus dinosaur storyline.
There is an evident transition towards a bleaker and hopefully more nuanced and perceptive future. Since there is no stopping profitable sequels, the only hope here is that future blockbusters turn out to be more than escapist fodder. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.