Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We Can't Have Nice Things

Sinoceratops vs. Carnotaurus
Against all better judgement, I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom last night. It was terrible. Until last night, I’d never seen a movie that didn’t have a single original idea—Jurassic World 2 is a mish-mash of previous Jurassic Park/World concepts thrown into a blender and pureed. While there will be massive spoilers in this review, I kind of agree with John Conway that Jurassic World 2 is almost incapable of spoilers because you’ve seen this movie before. In fact, if you’ve seen the trailers, you know everything that happens; there are no surprises.

Hold on to your butts...

The movie opens with a small submersible entering the mosasaur enclosure, years after Jurassic World so predictably went awry, to retrieve a bone sample from the Indominus rex skeleton (see the end of Jurassic World 1). The pilots are nervous, obviously afraid of the whale-sized Mosasaurus that must still be in there, but are comforted in the knowledge it must be dead after so long.
And that’s true. The mosasaur would be dead from starvation and thirst (the enclosure had been gated off from the outside ocean). Of course it’s not, for some reason, and it destroys the sub but not before an Indominus rib sample is buoyed to the surface, where some guys in a helicopter retrieve it after tussling with the resident Tyrannosaurus. Because the gate wasn’t shut properly, the mosasaur escapes.

Seems like there would be easier ways to do this.
Meanwhile, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is trying to drum up political support for a dinosaur rescue operation. Turns out John Hammond built his park on an active volcano, which totally checks out, and it’s set to blow at any second. Jeff Goldblum returns for a two-minute Ian Malcolm cameo in which he argues in front of a congressional subcommittee that, you know, maybe that’s for the best.
Just when all hope seems lost, Claire gets a call from Zefram Cochrane—I mean the pig farmer—I mean Benjamin Lockwood, an old man who was apparently John Hammond’s original business partner. Lockwood also wants to save the dinosaurs, and he’s arranged for them to be shipped to a new island (not just Site B?) that’s not, at this time, geologically active, where they’ll be left alone, free of human intervention. Lockwood then turns Claire over to his obviously-evil assistant Eli Mills, who says they need Claire’s handprint to turn on the island’s tracking system so they can find all those dinosaurs. Mills also presses upon Claire that it’s extremely important that they save Blue, the heroic Deinonychus from the last movie, because she’s apparently the second-most intelligent creature on the planet.

"Would devil horns be too obvious?"
This is the part where I started to wonder why they needed to save any of these dinosaurs, including Blue, because as the last movie made clear, Henry Wu saved all his research and samples and whatever else once things went south and he can just make new dinosaurs, including Blue. But you know what? Fine, whatever.

Claire goes out to try and convince Chris Pratt’s Starlord to help her find and rescue Blue. He’s living in a van on a scenic cliff, building a house because he’s apparently turned into Ron Swanson. He and Claire broke up for reasons that are never entirely clear but sure, he’ll come along. Claire also drags along her “dinosaur veterinarian,” Zia, and her nerdy computer guy, Franklin (I had to look these names up). Within absolutely no time, they’ve touched down on Isla Nublar, which is in the process of violently exploding. Our heroes meet Leland Stottlemeyer, who got into the mercenary gig after retiring from the San Francisco police force. No, wait, it’s just Ted Levine playing resident bad guy Ken Wheatley, and he’s already been rounding up dinosaurs and putting them on a barge by the time Claire & Co. arrive.

Starlord playing with a rubbery baby raptor
About a minute later, Jurassic World 2 drops its first direct homage to Jurassic Park: a lone Brachiosaurus strolling across the ruins of the visitor center, right in front of the humans. It’s the first dinosaur that Zia and Franklin have seen, so the scene is meant to be awe-inspiring, but it’s not, because of course Jurassic World 2 doesn’t have the patience to set up the scene like Spielberg set up his Brachiosaurus reveal in Jurassic Park. Then, happily checking that particular box, Jurassic World 2 moves right along to the next checkpoint.

"Remember me?"
Claire and Franklin activate the park’s tracking system and they zoom in on Blue, who conveniently happens to be right outside. Starlord and Wheatley go off to find her while Claire and Franklin stay behind for…reasons. Starlord immediately finds Blue but as she’s trying to determine whether or not this movie is worth appearing in, Wheatley’s guys shoot her full of tranquilizer (and a bullet after she attacks one guy). Wheatley then shoots Starlord with a dart and leaves him to die, I guess. Meanwhile, Claire and Franklin get trapped in the visitor center as the volcano starts going off and liquid hot magma starts pouring into the room.

"I live in that overturned car."
They are then set upon by a…hold on, I have to look this up…wait, really? Okay, that thing was supposed to be a Baryonyx. Like every other carnivorous dinosaur in these movies, the piscivorous Baryonyx just decided to attack Claire & Franklin, unprovoked, and nothing will stop it including liquid-hot magma and a concrete escape hatch that’s too small for it to get through. Anyway, they of course escape, and meet up with Starlord (who has miraculously recovered) and they all run away from a pyroclastic flow which is also, predictably scaring a bunch of dinosaurs. They get behind a big log and lots of dinosaurs (including Gallimimus) jump over or break through it in another direct homage to Jurassic Park.

Carnotaurus, seconds before being attacked by a more boring theropod.
In the middle of this sequence, a Carnotaurus (my actual favorite dinosaur) decides that eating something is more pressing than outrunning a volcano and attacks a Sinoceratops. Yes, you read that right, Jurassic World 2 features Sinoceratops. This would be more exciting if the character designers hadn’t mistaken the parietal fenestrae as actual holes in the frill of the living animal. Being smarter than its attacker, the Sinoceratops is like “BRUH” and runs off but the Carnotaurus spies Claire & Co. As it’s about to attack, the meat-eating bull is put down at the last second by, yes, the heroic Tyrannosaurus, who roars triumphantly and then just…runs off. Doesn’t take the Carnotaurus with her. Doesn’t eat the protagonists, just saves their lives for no reason.

*heavy, labored sigh*
Then there’s a whole thing with a gyrosphere and they wash up on the beach right next to the barge. Of course our heroes get on the boat just as the island starts spewing lava from every orifice. There’s a somewhat touching scene of a Brachiosaurus—maybe that same one from before—also trying to get on the boat and is all like “don’t forget me, guys” before rearing up in another blatant homage to the first Jurassic Park, and then dying horribly. Claire is sad.

Meanwhile, back at the Lockwood estate, Mills is planning to sell the dinosaurs at auction that night in the basement of Lockwood’s mansion for some reason, with Toby Jones’ Gunner Eversol as auctioneer. Couldn’t wait a day. Toby Jones can do no wrong, and he’s clearly enjoying himself in this role. His wig is also fabulous. We also discover that the mansion contains a full genetic laboratory downstairs. We also learn more about Lockwood’s granddaughter, Maisie.

Here she is...Miss Isla Nublar...
Oh, sorry, I didn’t mention that Lockwood has a granddaughter named Maisie. That will be important—or at least the filmmakers seem to think so—later on.

Claire and Starlord find Zia, who’s been trying to keep Blue alive. I guess she’s losing blood from being shot and Zia doesn’t want to risk pulling the bullet out without a blood transfusion. Sure, okay, I’ll buy that. But hey, there aren’t any other Deinonychus on board, or even on the (now lava-covered) island. But hey that’s okay, because—

Dear readers, hold on to your butts.

It’s okay because as long as they find another tetanuran the blood should be “close enough.”

Yeah.

Trevorrow and Derek Connelly, who share writing credits, clearly learned a new word, “tetanuran,” and proudly wanted Zia to sound like she knew something about dinosaurs despite having never seen or treated one. “They’re theropods that have only two or three fingers.” Technically, that’s true. You get a gold star, Trevorrow. So of course the only other tetanuran theropod they can find is the Tyrannosaurus, who shrank considerably since pinning that Carnotaurus earlier so that she could fit in a shipping container.

"I mean they all have frog DNA anyway, right?"
Just so we’re clear, this would be like a person needing a blood transfusion and the doctor saying “you know, we don’t have any blood of your type, or even from other people, but as long as we use simiiforme blood, that’s close enough.” Monkey blood, basically. They’re giving a Deinonychus the equivalent of monkey blood. And of course it works.

Anyway.

Good lord. Where’s that whiskey?

All of the animals arrive at the mansion just in time for Henry Wu to start lecturing Mills about their new Indoraptor, which is like a fun-size Indominus but with raptor claws and (apparently) mommy issues. It’s kept in seclusion in a dark cage at the end of a hall, which seems fine. At least the Indominus had a whole jungle enclosure. Claire and Starlord are caught and, instead of being shot immediately, are put in an animal cell. The auction begins, with, of course, Russian arms dealers buying up the dinosaurs. One of the dinosaurs goes for $10M, which may seem like a lot until you remember that FMNH PR 2081 (Sue) sold at auction for $8.4M. You’d think living dinosaurs would sell for significantly more.

Cheap!
There’s literally a shot, somewhere during this sequence, where Mills is just watching his laptop screen as a dollar figure trends upward, representing the millions he’s making, in case his motivations prior to this point were unclear. Oh, did I mention he killed Lockwood? He kills Lockwood by suffocating him with a pillow after Lockwood finds out what Mills is doing with his dinosaurs.

Eventually, the Indoraptor is wheeled out. It’s essentially a jet-black, gigantic raptor with a yellow racing stripe down its side. It has the dumb quills, dorsal armor, and misshapen fish teeth that Indominus had, but it also has oversized claws, four fingers, and regularly reverts to quadrupedality. Toby Jones brags that it’s the most dangerous animal in the world. BUT JUST THEN—

Wait, let’s back up a second. Claire and Starlord are having a heart-to-heart in their empty cell about who’s fault this is (look, you’re both idiots) when the latter realizes there’s a Stygimoloch in the next cell. He goads the spunky little bonehead into breaking through the brick wall separating them, and then breaking out of the locked cell door. Starlord then sets the Stygimoloch loose on the auctioneers in what’s honestly the funniest scene in the film. I mean, they already kind of did this in The Lost World but who’s counting?

Stygimoloch is the only one getting anything done around here.
Oh, right, ALSO at the same time, Zia and Franklin free Blue, who has recovered completely from being shot in the leg, being tranquilized, and getting a blood transfusion and she goes hog-wild on some mean-looking mercenaries but also accidentally causes a cyanide gas leak.

Where were we? Oh, right, so the auction has essentially disbanded because of the rogue subadult Pachycephalosaurus and Wheatley—remember him?—wanders in asking where his “bonus” is. There’s nobody around, but the Indoraptor is just sitting there in its cage in the center of the room and Wheatley decides to take one of its teeth as a trophy.

I don’t know why. He did this with a few of the dinosaurs on the island, too.

I’m not going to tell you what happens next because you already know. They didn’t even have to film the scene. They could’ve just cut between Ted Levine looking at the Indoraptor and the Indoraptor, now free, attacking Toby Jones. Our brains would have easily filled in the blank.

Indoraptor stalking the heroes for some reason.
So now the Indoraptor is looking for things to kill. It somehow gets upstairs and starts stalking Claire, Starlord, and Maisie through Lockwood’s mansion. I say “stalking” but what I really mean is “chasing them for no reason whatsoever and not letting anything stop it” because that’s what predatory dinosaurs in these movies do, right? So anyway, after a brief scuffle in which Maisie runs to her bedroom, the Indoraptor somehow gets out of the building and crawls (I’m saying crawls because that’s literally what it’s doing) to the other side, right where Maisie’s room happens to be, and reaches down—it is upside-down at this point—to unlatch her window—again, the animal does this while upside-down—and walks right in. Just as it’s about to attack Maisie—for no reason whatsoever—Starlord pops in, tries to tranquilize it but fails, and is then YES YOU GUESSED IT, IS SAVED BY BLUE, THE HEROIC DEINONYCHUS.

This is every Marvel movie: the hero vs. an evil version of him/herself.
Starlord and Maisie escape to the rooftop in the commotion but Blue is thrown out a window (I think) as the Indoraptor pursues its human prey across a glass rooftop, which is shining down over Lockwood’s dinosaur skeleton room (he has a dinosaur skeleton room).* With some help from Claire, they manage to get the Indoraptor to break through the glass BUT OF COURSE IT HANGS ON AND PULLS ITSELF BACK UP OH NO and then YES, YOU GUESSED IT AGAIN, BLUE MAGICALLY APPEARS AGAIN, JUMPS ON ITS BACK AND THE TWO PLUMMET DOWN INTO THE SKELETON ROOM WHERE THE INDORAPTOR IS SKEWERED ON TWO TRICERATOPS HORNS.

"You're next!"
Meanwhile—yes, there’s more—all of the unsold dinosaurs are succumbing to cyanide poisoning. Claire runs down to the control room, opens the cages, and the dinosaurs all stumble around, bumping into each other, but can’t actually leave because the bay doors are closed.

So they’re still dying. Good job, Claire.

Our plucky heroine then has a sudden and uncharacteristic moment of clarity, thinking that maybe we should let these things die because they really do kill a lot of people. She does not open the bay doors, and she and Starlord watch pensively as the dinosaurs suffocate. The end.

No, of course not. Maisie opens the bay doors because somewhere along the line she realized that she’s a clone of Lockwood’s daughter and dammit, if she’s a clone and…hasn’t been killed (I guess), these cloned dinosaurs should ALSO be able to live.

That narrative thread and all its implications vanishes immediately. There is absolutely no payoff to the fact that Lockwood is cloning people in his basement. It’s a good thing he decided to clone her, because otherwise nobody would have opened those bay doors.

So anyway, Mills has chosen this moment to flee, and while Henry Wu’s people are busy reenacting his escape from the last movie, Mills is put in charge of the Indominus rib fragment, because I guess Wu doesn’t have its DNA blueprints already? But if that’s true, how did he create the Indoraptor? You know what, trying to make sense of this movie is a fool’s errand. Mills hides under his car while all of these freed dinosaurs run into the woods but hey you know who hasn’t done a heroic thing for awhile?

YES, KIDS, THE TYRANNOSAURUS MATERIALIZES AND GOBBLES MILLS DOWN WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY REBUFFING A SECOND CARNOTAURUS. THE TYRANNOSAURUS THEN ADOPTS THE EXACT SAME POSE AS IT DID AT THE END OF JURASSIC PARK AND ROARS VICTORIOUSLY before running off into the woods with its cloned friends. Starlord tells Blue that she did good and he’ll take her somewhere safe but she’s all like NAW DOG I’M OUT and also runs off.

Edit out the flag and this is how Jurassic World 2 ends.
Then there’s a montage of the bought-and-sold dinosaurs being driven to their new homes, oh and also Henry Wu still has a bunch of test tubes filled with neon-colored stuff so, you know, whatever. Ian Malcolm continues talking about how humans have fucked it all up and we’re going to cause our own extinction because two dozen dinosaurs are still out there. The giant Mosasaurus shows up near surfers, eager to appear in the inevitable sequel to The Meg. The Tyrannosaurus breaks into a zoo and roars at a lion in order to signify…something. Blue runs around a rocky outcropping and notices a residential neighborhood nearby. THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

"I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW"
There’s also a post-credits scene that’s 10 seconds long where a few Pteranodon are flying around Las Vegas in case those last three images didn’t get the point across.

This was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. Barring all the ridiculous dinosaur nonsense, no part of the film made any sense from a story perspective. Why would Mills go to any of this trouble when he can just tell Henry Wu to make new dinosaurs? Henry Wu is clearly already making dinosaurs, and it’s not like you can’t sell those dinosaurs to Russian mobsters ahead of time. Lockwood has no actual role. He didn’t need to be in this movie. It could’ve just been Mills from the get-go who gives Claire the assignment. Maisie being a clone literally had no impact on the overall story except for her reasoning behind opening the bay doors and saving the dinosaurs. Claire could’ve done that. Starlord could’ve done that. BLUE could’ve done that.

So now there are dinosaurs out in the wild. So what? Unless they’re all miraculously parthenogenetic, the threat of a dinosaur takeover is less than zero. These animals are going to be shot, hit by trucks, succumb to unfamiliar diseases, or die of old age and then there won’t be any more dinosaurs. The mosasaur is only a problem for as long as people decide not to shoot a torpedo at it. The dinosaurs who were sold to dictators and arms dealers have an even lower life expectancy. And has everybody forgotten about Isla Sorna? You know, Site B from The Lost World and Jurassic Park III? If Mills wanted more dinosaurs, there’s a whole island filled with them that is NOT, at least to my knowledge, exploding.

The dinosaurs themselves exist in a weird uncanny valley. Most of them are shiny—this is especially apparent on the Indoraptor. They look almost moist. Almost every herbivorous dinosaur, no matter how bulky, is shown galloping away from that pyroclastic flow. It looks silly. There are a few new dinosaurs but only three of them (Carnotaurus, Stygimoloch and, if I’m being generous, Allosaurus) looks anything like their IRL counterparts. As I said before, the Sinoceratops has actual holes in its actual frill. I’m not convinced the character designers were looking at the right animal when they were designing Baryonyx. Blue continues to be a cartoonish, rubbery mess of a character who’s just doing way too much all the time in exaggerated ways. Like Indominus before it, the Indoraptor is incredibly dull, as if Trevorrow told the character designers “make a Velociraptor on steroids.” And, in another bit of intellectual bankruptcy, the Indoraptor of course taps its claw impatiently.

I keep calling Chris Pratt’s character “Starlord” instead of “Owen” because there’s virtually no difference between the two characters. The villains, especially Mills, are so stereotypically evil that I’m surprised nobody gave Rafe Spall a Snidely Whiplash mustache with which to twirl. Colin Trevorrow is no Steven Spielberg, although he seems to think (based on interviews I’ve read) that these Jurassic World films really are emulating Jurassic Park. They are not, and it’s clear that, in wedging in so very many direct references to its predecessor, Trevorrow's films don’t understand what made that movie great or memorable. Using the final Tyrannosaurus turn-and-roar is not a touching homage—it’s evidence that (1) you don’t have any original ideas; and (2) you’re acknowledging that Jurassic Park is a better movie.

Dr. Ellie Sattler digs through Jurassic World 2.
So just rewatch that instead of seeing this pile of Triceratops droppings. And if you do see it, be sure to wash your hands before eating anything.

*There’s actually a miniature Concavenator in there, which is kind of cool.

11 comments:

  1. That was a lot of fun to read (perhaps more than it was to write). Cheers, Zach.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha thanks. Writing it was oddly cathartic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the best review of the movie!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dude. Chill. There were lots of dinosaurs, some of it was fun, and kids enjoyed it. Sire the plot was dumb and the acting was bland. But it's not the worse movie every made. With 220 million at the box office and a 6.6 rating on IMDb it's obviously a summer escape movie that some are enjoying.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You actually forgot one of the most hilarious parts:
    To use that Indoraptor as a weapon, you frist point a gun at someone, tag them with a laser point, then trigger the Indoraptor and then the Indoraptor kills the person.
    Makes total sense - it's not as if you could just shoot that person when you can point a gun at them because that would not be cool?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot about that! Makes me wonder how long Will and Mills had the Indoraptor there since it was full-grown and trained.

      Delete
  6. Fun fact (I learned this after the film too, and learning is fun!)

    The blood transfer thing apparently is NOT as silly as you (and I) would think.

    It is called xenotransfusion within Vet circles, and apparently it has a (slightly) higher than 50% of working EXACTLY once. After you do it once the patient's immune system will reject it every time afterwards.

    Here is the article:

    https://slate.com/culture/2018/06/fact-checking-jurassic-world-2-can-you-really-do-a-cross-species-blood-transfusion.html

    I'll grudgingly give them one point for that. The other points I gave them were for the William Buckland portrait beside Hammond's, Blue living in Tim's tree fall car from JP1, and the Stygimoloch being the true hero of the film. (Since my elementary students are now interested in Mosasaurs I give them a half point for a good springboard into my fav palaeo topic)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the great review!

    The only thing I personally liked about the movie is Carnotaurus. It makes too few appearances in the movies and documentaries:(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! We need more abelisaurs out there!

      Delete
  8. Haven't seen Jurassic World yet, but I'm sure this review is much better than the movie.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Here’s why the blood transfusion was really, really dumb: they had Gallimimuses on board. They are tetanurans! They’re closer to dromaeosaurs than tyrannosaurs are.

    ReplyDelete