Reclaiming a FALLEN KINGDOM
On June 22nd, 2017, I posted the above Facebook status. The short and skinny of my proclamation was that the Jurassic franchise needed to opt out of continued rehashes of the original film—an issue that reached critical mass with 2015’s JURASSIC WORLD. In the same way that both Cloverfield sequels were vastly different from the original installment—to varying degrees of success—the Jurassic films desperately needed to get weird. Six months after I posted that status, Universal released the trailer to JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, a film that didn’t seem poised to deliver on any of my hopes and dreams. But hey, I gave it a shot and went to see it anyway! So here we are, one year after I posted that status, and Chris Pratt and company have somehow managed to defy more logic than any Jurassic film to date. FALLEN KINGDOM isn’t silly, it’s uncompromisingly preposterous!
But here’s the catch: This might be a good thing! For the first time since . . . well . . . ever, I actually believe that continuing this series might actually prove fruitful! Sure, FALLEN KINGDOM is relentlessly dumb, but its newfound camp is refreshing. Director J.A. Bayonna delivers a huge formal upgrade from Trevorrow’s dire JURASSIC WORLD, and since we’ve now got an absurd haunted dino-house film as canon, Universal has opened the floodgates to do something weird with the franchise. So . . . All aboard!?
Between SOLO and FALLEN KINGDOM, the Summer of 2018 has shaped up to be a season of films that would’ve made better video games
What I’m trying to say is this: FALLEN KINGDOM has the narrative maturity of a PlayStation 2 Capcom game: evil mercs, conspiratorial entrepreneurs, dinosaur boss battles. It’s literally a TUROK title away from being an actual TUROK game! But putting the Swiss cheese of plot holes and logical contrivances aside, I can comfortably say that this film (for all of its cinematic inadequacies) has actually brought us one step closer to fulfilling that Facebook status from a year ago: a totally different recipe using the same base ingredients!
For the first time since the Mesozoic era, I can actually imagine seeing a Jurassic entry that doesn’t bend over backwards to send a crowd of naive men, women, and children to certain death. Patrick (H) Willems made a clear point of this crisis in his video on the JURASSIC PARK sequels. What he doesn’t point out is where this franchise ought to move going forwards.
The exciting thing is that Trevorrow (also writer for FALLEN KINGDOM), seems to be on the same wavelength as Willems. Though it took the man two movies to get there, he finally wrote the series off the island, scaling down the franchise tremendously. What starts as a volcanic epic quickly secedes to a contained—albeit excessive—haunted house film. If any of it is good really depends on the mileage that your suspension of disbelief grants you, but if Jeff Goldblum’s closing monologue is anything to go by, Trevorrow has ushered in a new Jurassic era, one where genre pictures and off-kilter entries are just a shot away.
Someone call Jason Statham!
Though I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claims that FALLEN KINGDOM is not good, its contribution to the series is a net-positive. It, by all accounts, shares one half of the bland, grandiose thrillfest of its predecessors, and another half of a smaller, weirder, and—let’s face it—funner spin on the franchise. Unlike its predecessors, FALLEN KINGDOM isn’t beholden to Spielberg’s aesthetics (though the nods are in place). Bayona is less concerned with one-upping blockbuster’s greatest living craftsman, and more interested in doing something wacky with dinosaurs. One could argue that we should just let the franchise die, but seeing as this really isn’t much of an option anymore, I’d rather see it give me something fresh—in short, this is really just another case of “please not another Death Star movie.”
So fingers crossed we start using the dinosaurs as a sandbox for a loose anthology of dinosaur-related adventures, jumping genres and characters with every release. If there ever was a franchise that didn’t demand tonal continuity, it’s Jurassic World. With Trevorrow slated to direct the next entry, it’s up to him to give us something totally different. Give me the Jurassic film in which a small batch of Arkansas farmhands team up to take down one (and I mean just one) velociraptor. Show me what happens when a group of boy scouts have to scrounge their remaining supplies to fend off a Dilophosaurus. I’d even ask for a one-off epic in which we hunt down a Mosasaurus, but I think THE MEG has claimed that seat. Just whatever you do, Colin, don’t fuck this up!