Welcome back to another edition of the YOMYOMF Blockbuster Showdown, where a group of Offenders watch this season’s biggest Hollywood releases and see how they hold up. Here, we express our VERY SPOILERY OPINIONS on all the big Hollywood tentpoles. For this edition, we review JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the follow-up to one of the biggest box-office hits of all time, JURASSIC WORLD. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for another dino tour of duty. What did we think? Read below!
1. Alrighty, another visit to Isla Nublar. How is FALLEN KINGDOM? Are we still dazzled by dinosaurs like how Alan Grant was when he was feeling the deep breaths of a Triceratops?
BRIAN: Full disclosure: I liked the first JURASSIC PARK but didn’t LOVE it, unlike many of my Millennial friends who consider it a seminal, childhood blockbuster. I always thought the Alan Grant character (Sam Neill) was miscast. Did you know Harrison Ford passed on the role? How much better would JURASSIC PARK have been if Ford was in it?
LIZ: *GASP* How dare you say that Sam Neill was miscast! The OG JURASSIC PARK would have been so different in Ford had been in it. Now that I’m really thinking about it, a Ford JURASSIC PARK would have been amazing but I love what Sam Neill did in the role.
ANDERSON: Yeah, I totally agree with Liz. I take umbrage with your statement, Brian! Sam Neill was perfectly cast as Alan Grant. He was the perfect blend of rugged and total bookworm. He was cool in his uncoolness. Coupled with the natural beauty of Laura Dern and the eccentricities of Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, they were perfectly cast as academics! And if anything great that came out of JURASSIC PARK (and there are many), it is Malcolm’s laugh during his intro scene. Classic and meme-worthy.
BRIAN: That said, the first time I saw the dinosaurs in the OG JP I was certainly dazzled. But the FIFTH time… well, today I feel like these films are more amusement park rides than movies. With that in mind — and with TRANSFORMERS-like low expectations — to my surprise, I actually had some summer fun watching this preposterous popcorn film. Certainly more fun than I did with OCEAN’S 8.
LIZ: I was indifferent to FALLEN KINGDOM. I think the movie peaked a little too early. The most exciting scene was on Isla Nublar watching the volcano erupt and all of the dinos run with Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, and Justice Smith. I was genuinely dazzled by all the CGI dinos and lava during that sequence. Sadly, that amazing scene happened about midway through the movie. The rest of the film was a snooze fest. Why did we leave Isla Nublar? A huge chase scene in a big house? Let’s add a kid? Really? That was your big show stopping ending? No. I can see the pitch in the room, “where haven’t we seen dinos yet? IN AN HUGE FUCKING ESTATE IN NORCAL!” And then studios fanning the producers with money shot out of those money guns you see in rap videos. Bad idea boys and girls. Money guns: always a good idea.
ANDERSON: I hated this film. It was actually worse than JURASSIC WORLD. Tonally, it was all over the place and it all felt so generic with no iota of authentic emotion or gravitas. The humans were all cartoon characters, the movie is essentially three movies — a natural disaster movie, an animal rights movie, and a monster under your bed movie. It also rehashed so many plot points from previous JURASSIC films, especially the animal rights activist and dinosaurs on the mainland plot threads from THE LOST WORLD or going on a rescue mission under false pretenses like in JURASSIC PARK III, in particular. It was just going back to the well, and like that Mr DNA cartoon from the first JP, the filmmakers are using the same DNA and taking out some parts here and there to rehash something “same same, but different.”
2. What worked or didn’t work?
1) Lots of dino-on-dino fight porn, if you’re into that.
2) Chris Pratt makes the thinnest of characters likeable… again.
3) Jeff Goldblum.
1) Rescuing dinosaurs from an island that’s about to blow up from a volcano is only slightly more plausible than mind-controlling raptors for the military.
2) Chris Pratt makes the thinnest of characters likeable… again.
3) Needed more Jeff Goldblum.
LIZ: Everything on the island worked. I loved the opening sequence. Classic JURASSIC PARK scare times. The ticking clock of the volcano? GENIUS. I’m here for pretending that logs can protect Chris Pratt from lava. Dinos running for their lives? Here for it. I’m even here for the sad brontosaurus having a Noah’s ark moment. Also, let’s give it up to BDH and the costume department giving a big middle finger to everyone about her heels in the previous movie and putting her in boots. Congrats! You learned!
Things that didn’t really work: Making the majority dinos not scary. I know we all love Blue, but y’all, she needs to go cray and just eat Pratt. Just do it. DINOS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS. They are the main villains of this whole franchise. They are why we come back over and over again. These dumb side plots of humans trying to use dinos for money, save them because of animal rights, etc. NO. I am here for a suspenseful romp where we put fleshy humans in a jungle and make them run from giant carnivorous creatures from centuries past. Let us all remember the kitchen scene with the raptors in the first JURASSIC PARK. More of that please.
ANDERSON: Not much worked, but if I had to choose, then all the stuff on island. It was decent, but again, there were too many call backs to previous films that just didn’t have that spectacle anymore. For example, when Zia (Daniella Pineda) first sees a brontosaurus, it’s an homage to the first JURASSIC PARK when Alan and Ellie first see their brontosaurus up close. It’s just not the same. This franchise is five movies deep already and why do tired callbacks? What is this, THE FORCE AWAKENS? I kid, I kid, because I do like TFA.
I do applaud J.A. Bayona’s direction though. He did a good job and I do think the mansion scenes were in his wheeljouse, because some shots were set up similar to his fantastic gothic horror film THE ORPHANAGE. But, good direction can only go so far with a whack script.
3. Does Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire character trek through rugged jungle terrain in high heels again? How were the human characters this time?
BRIAN: The human characters were delicious this time (ba-dum-dum). I think this was Bryce Dallas Howard’s best performance since ZERO DARK THIRTY (wait, is that right?). Bonus that the baddie was the “Puts the Lotion in the Basket,” guy from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. And speaking of Harrison Ford, Chris Pratt was doing his very best Indiana Jones.
LIZ: HAHA. Costumes was like “we are not getting shit for this shoe choice again. We are def putting BDH in boots ASAP.” They even had a special insert of her getting off the plane on Isla Nublar focused specifically on her footwear. Lol.
I thought Pratt was charming as per usual and Bryce Dallas Howard annoyed me way less than she did in the JURASSIC WORLD. Sidebar: how disturbing was it when Pratt and BDH tried to befriend Maisey in the holding area/lab??? STRANGER DANGER. My favorite line of the whole movie was when both Pratt and BDH predator-style told Maisey that “everybody needs a friend.” In my head I was like, “Nope. Maisey, you’re better off being friends with the Indo Raptor. These two adults are creepy AF.”
The other humans were stock stereotypes. We had two ethnic sidekicks who provided science and funny moments. Did they get to explore their roles as full humans? Nope. Isabella sermon was your stock kid in a JURASSIC PARK franchise movie but TWIST! SHE’S A CLONE. Guess what? No one cares.
ANDERSON: Weakest. Twist. Ever. First off, James Cromwell plays another rich, white old man billionaire named Benjamin Lockwood, who apparently was a partner with John Hammond and had just as much skin in the game with creating dinosaurs and cloning, but yet, his character was never mentioned in previous movies. In other words, he’s just playing Hammond again.
So, they build this revisionist backstory and the fact that he cloned his daughter, who he’s raised as his granddaughter… I mean, who the fuck cares? It’s not like the daughter was a character in previous JP movies, right? Or am I wrong? Either way, it’s obscure, comes out of nowhere, and I am apathetic to it because I had no investment in this character.
4. The JURASSIC movies explore themes of humans playing God and getting kicked in the teeth by, well, raging, gigantic dinosaurs. Does FALLEN KINGDOM bring anything new to the franchise?
BRIAN: Between JURASSIC WORLD, PLANET OF THE APES and WESTWORLD, it appears “humans-playing-god-and-creating-monsters-that-lead-to-the-extermination-of-man” is the new “zombie.” On the positive side, I am kind of excited about taking the dinosaurs off the island. Hell-oooo Vegas (did you see the end credits scene?). On the negative side, that’s the end of Jurassic-sized productions in Hawaii. And all those lava bombs and over-the-top, CGI lava explosions felt realer than ever after the daily, tragic, eruption footage from the Big Island, which literally looks like it’s out of a movie:
LIZ: No. Not really. I mean, the twist is now we know they can and have cloned humans. But let’s be real y’all: we are here for dinos terrifying humans. Bigger themes? Not so much.
ANDERSON: The franchise needs to go batshit crazy and take some story risks. A JURASSIC PARK IV script was worked on after III and was in development hell for years. It passed through many hands including William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) and apparently American indie film icon John Sayles was the last one to touch it.
To put it mildly, the script is nuts. It features soldiers of fortune, drug dealers, Swiss super-villains in addition to all the typical dinosaur action. But what took the cake in this script is that the Eurotrash villains genetically breaded human and dinosaur DNA to create raptor-men, who were their henchmen and attack squad. Yep, you read that right. Batshit crazy! Now, I would see that film!
Sure, many of the ideas from this script transitioned to JURASSIC WORLD, but c’mon, it was all done in a very safe, boring way. The IV script is floating online and can be downloaded here.
5. Is it all Colin Trevorrow’s fault? He seems to be the latest whipping boy for fanboys (he is coming back to direct the next film).
BRIAN: I’m sure Trevorrow is really broken up about those fanboys’ feelings as he counts his money while eating bald eagle sandwiches on his gilded yacht off the coast of his own private island.
LIZ: Oh man. I have a hard time putting the sole blame on Trevorrow. There are so many other gatekeepers higher up the chain-of-command who signed off on a shitty script and poor story ideas. I had high hopes for J.A. Bayona since he directed horror films. I was ready for fun jump moments and scary scenes. We didn’t get any of those really. Whomp whomp.
ANDERSON: Yes, yes, he is a very rich man. But, I do blame him and his writing partner Derek Connolly. They kind of ruined the franchise. Oh, and he also directed THE BOOK OF HENRY. Nuff said.
6. Any Asians in the film?
BRIAN: Somebody needs to give B.D. Wong an honorary M.D. for all the doctors he’s played. I also actually thought (having no idea who she was) Daniella Pineda (Zia) was hapa, but it turns out she’s Mexican-American. She looks Asian, right?
Pineda herself (who is also a writer and comedian) made a YouTube video about the subject back in 2010. Sooo… if you ever run into her, don’t ask her if she’s Asian…
ANDERSON: Yeah, I thought she was Asian too. She’s really cute because she is brainy, snarky, and wears cool Warby Parker glasses. She’s like a more hipster Aubrey Plaza. I wanted more of her snarkiness, as well as Justice Smith. It would’ve been a better film if those two were the leads and it was a total snarkfest.
As for real Asians, there was B.D. Wong again, and I guess he survives to wreak havoc for another day…
LIZ: B.D. Wong playing the maniacal Dr. Wu is always a fun nostalgia nod. But at this point in time do we still need him? No. I vote letting him get eaten by a dino and pitching the idea for new main characters who happen to be Asian in the next installment. There were also a bunch of featured background who were supposed to represent evil companies. Just like all the other featured background players in the auction scene, y’all did good portraying the stereotype you were assigned.
7. What do you think should be explored, plot or thematic wise, in a JURASSIC film or are you satisfied with what is explored already?
BRIAN: The only backdrop left for the JURASSIC WORLD franchise after Vegas is… SPACE. So here’s my pitch: Blue and the dinosaurs wipe out all humans and introduce a 2nd dinosaur age. But another extinction event-sized asteroid is headed towards Earth. It’s up to Blue and a hotshot group of dino-drillers to launch a dino-space shuttle into the stars. Their mission? Land on the asteroid and blow it up, because there’s no way they’re letting a space rock go 2-for-2 on their species again. Coming soon, summer 2020…. ARMAGEDDON 2: JURASSIC BOOGALOO. This time it’s personal.
LIZ: OMG BRIAN!!! I PITCHED JURASSIC SPACE AFTER THE FILM FINISHED TOO!!!! YES. YES. YES. I am 100% here for JURASSIC PARK: SPACE AGE. But honestly, what I want out of any JURASSIC PARK franchise film are people stupidly thinking they can control dinos and then dinos reminding them that they’re gonna eat them. Pretty simple.
ANDERSON: Since there will be a JURASSIC WORLD 3 with Trevorrow back in the director’s chair (ugh), I guess he’s going to go with the whole “dinosaurs have taken over the world” story angle and set us up for disappointment yet again. Yes, I am pessimistic, but c’mon, no raptor-men and Swiss super villains? That would’ve been nuts! Check out these concept designs!
8. Rate it! 1 Banana (worst) 4 Bananas (great)
BRIAN: 2.5 bananas for this Universal theme park ride that finally gets us out of the park and into some new territory.
LIZ: 1.5 Bananas for me. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM had some fun dino moments. Should you see it in the theaters? Only if you really like dinos. If you’re not into dinos, I’d wait to see this stream on HBO or NETFLIX next summer.
ANDERSON: 1 banana. The bar was set pretty low with the first JURASSIC WORLD, but I cannot believe they actually went lower with FALLEN KINGDOM. They should just go batshit with the next one and fully realize my ’80s toy dreams and incorporate Dino-riders like this kick-ass image below.
Back to how bad FALLEN KINGDOM is — I think a lot of my boredom in the film was because I saw the trailers beforehand, and perhaps because Universal had a hard time to market this movie, they produced trailers that pretty showed the entire plot and all the big money shots. Would I have enjoyed it more if I had not seen the trailers? I mean, maybe, but it’s still el terrible.
Brian Watanabe (@BrianWatanabe) is an advertising creative, blogger, screenwriter and Star Wars nerd. His screenplay THE ROGUES GALLERY was turned into the film OPERATION: ENDGAME starring Rob Corddry, Maggie Q, Ellen Barkin and Zach Galifianakis.
Liz Ho (@TheLizHoShow): Is a fortune cookie: a crispy-Asian-American-treat that will give you useless advice & lotto numbers. She loves STAR TREK, al pacasso, STAR WARS (IV-VI), working on her YouTube Channel, reading, and taking daily pictures of my rescued ewok dogs, Cooper and Coco. She is also an actor.