Just yesterday, in the men’s room, this 6-year-old Chinese boy, washing his hands, suggested to me (apropos of nothing): “Triceratops!” I quickly countered with “T. rex!” He said, “Stegosaurus!” I said, “Carnotaurus!”
He said, “I don’t know Carnotaurus.” I said, “Aha! Oh, he’s a good one. Big, mean—real scary.” He said, “Huh!” This is the language of men. Here’s a Carnotaurus right here:
So, with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” we’re on to the fifth installment of the dino franchise, and this one’s a summer blockbuster alright—the seventh highest grossing 2018 summer film, as of this writing. It’s getting mixed reviews, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.
Remember Isla Nublar?
Isla Nublar is the island where the “Jurassic World” dino park got shut down on account of dino mayhem. Producer Steven Spielberg seems to have had a little precognitive insight, because in the current film, Isla Nublar is experiencing devastating volcanic activity that looks exactly like the volcanic activity going on in Hawaii right now. Hot lava would appear to be a good (final) solution to the human problem of having played God and gene-tampered with Jurassic-era creatures.
For those living on Mars for the last 20 years, what happened was that we human idiots resurrected and reinstalled dinos, forgetting that 1) what can go wrong definitely will, 2) that man is not really the apex predator around here, by a long shot, and 3) ancient food chains have a way of re-establishing themselves with alacrity.
Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm gives a fine speech to Congress about why we should let nature take its course and let the animals go re-extinct via hot lava. But don-cha know, somebody, somewhere, wants to further the dino-sploitation, on account of making dino dollars.
And so former zealous park boss Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who OK’d the original plans to start Frankensteining dinos, is called in. Because she knows the lay of the land. Only problem is that she’s now become a zealous dino-activist.
So a rescue op is set in motion; they need to get as many dinos off the island as possible, sort of like dino Noahs. Claire’s ex, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), is also recruited, for purposes of romantic tension and ex-lover bickering.
The only problem with this is that Pratt—one of our finer funnymen—is given so few funny lines. You wonder what Spielberg was thinking. It’s like having The Rock go back to World Wrestling Entertainment and being told: “You can’t say ‘Jabroni.'” “You can’t say ‘Fixin’ yourself a nice tall glass of shut-up juice.'” “You can’t say ‘Candy-‘ … .” You get the picture.
The Bad Guys
Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) is a smarmy little man who care-takes the feeble Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is the founder of the dino resurrection, and Lockwood’s mansion. Mills seems so sincere! He appears to be rescuing the dinos from the smoldering island with his paramilitary henchman Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) in charge. Meanwhile, down in the subterranean labs below the mansion, all kinds of devious, dino updates are underway.
The dastardly military-grade dino weaponization had already begun in the last movie, but here it goes a considerable notch higher. The creature that outstrips the very horrible Indominus rex of the last movie is the even more horrible Indoraptor. It’s described by Wheatley as a hot rod, and indeed it is. It’s like if you hybridized the Predator and the Alien and the T. rex and put them in a Velociraptor body, all black and glittery-eyed and evil-toothed.
A very fun, potent concoction. Leave it to master cinematic people-pleaser Spielberg to come up with this thing. Awesome.
Of course, the fun thing about the dino movies is the swift dino-chomping karmic retribution of bad people, for torturing, cooping up, and gene-tinkering the giant reptilian beasts.
Is It As Good As the First One?
Of course not. That first one was all Spielberg. It had the novel concept, the element of surprise, CGI so good it still makes most current CGI look bad, and quite a lot of Jeff Goldblum’s brilliant, loony delivery.
In spite of the fact that we all know at some point that T. rex is going to hit an iconic tableaux shot and roar the (what sounds to me like) an elephant-mixed-with-a-trombone-mixed-with-a-human-scream roar,
and that the Velociraptor is going to run around swiftly and chomp somebody who really deserves it, this one will nevertheless have you on the edge of your seat.
It also contains the seeds of a brand new, major upgrade and story line for the next movie, such that any hint at it would be a big fat spoiler. But it’s the logical outcome of these dino shenanigans. If you think really hard about it right now, you’ll figure it out. But don’t go there.
You know, when I was a kid, the paleontologists had dinosaurs standing upright, with their tails dragging on the ground. Round about the 1980s, they figured out that dinos were significantly bird-like, and tipped their torsos forward, using the now-elevated tail as a stabilizer. I’m looking forward to when the “Jurassic” series finally gets caught up with current thinking: They were mostly all giant birds. With feathers. Yup, that’s right, brilliantly colored plumage—gigundous jungle parakeets. They also didn’t roar. They may have twittered. Or went, “Buk-buk-buk… buh-kaaaaaaaw!!”
We don’t like that concept right now; it’s not monster-like enough, maybe, to sell blockbuster tickets. But at some point, Spielberg is going to have to face the fact that dinos were sort of exotic mega-chickens. Hey, for all we know (what with all these new paleontology revelations coming to light), there might have been mega-humanoids around too, who felt that a T. rex egg omelet was a substantial breakfast. I wonder which dino was the original provider of bacon? Just sayin’.
‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’
Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum, Isabella Sermon
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Release Date: June 22
Rated 4 stars out of 5