fallen kingdom review

The Park Is Gone

The second half of Fallen Kingdom morphs into something completely different. It’s sort of interesting, and it owes a great deal to John Sayles’ absolutely insane (and unused) Jurassic Park IV script. Rather than having the rest of the film set on an island, we’re transported into the labyrinthine Lockwood mansion.

There, Eli Mills has assembled a gaggle of the world’s richest, most evil people. There’s going to be a big dinosaur auction, with the thunder lizards sold off to the highest bidder. To sweeten the deal, the sort-of-evil Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) has created a brand-new scary dinosaur hybrid: the Indoraptor. It’s a terrifying creature with laser vision and a nasty attitude. Needless to say, if the Indorraptor turned into the Outdooraptor, we’d all be in a lot of trouble.

As I watched these moments unfold, I felt curiously disconnected. I wanted to like this stuff, and Bayona’s direction in his later half of the film is truly stellar. The auction scene is staged to perfection, with the dinosaurs rolled out in backlit cages, their shadows cutting across the wall. But it’s hard to reconcile all of this. Because we know where it’s going. We know it’s only a matter of time before the dinosaurs get out of those cages and start chowing down on these evil businessmen. And we know it’s inevitable that the Indoraptor will get free as well, and Owen will have to fight it.

And that’s what happens. Owen and Claire show up at the mansion, get captured, escape, and soon the dinosaurs are running free. Somewhere in the midst of all this, Lockwood – who is completely oblivious to all the evil stuff going on in his own house – is smothered to death by Mills. Maisie finds out about this, and tries to flee, at which point she runs right into Owen and Claire.

This sets the stage for the film’s big twist: when Eli catches up with Claire, Owen and Maisie, he blurts out that Maisie isn’t Lockwood’s granddaughter. She is, in fact, a clone of Lockwood’s dead daughter. Lockwood used the Jurassic cloning technique to bring his dead daughter back to life – an action that infuriated John Hammond. Hammond was fine with cloning giant killer monsters, but cloning humans is where he drew the line.

This twist should be shocking. But it just sort of lays there, limp. It doesn’t help that the twist comes out of left-field, and that we don’t really care that much about Maisie. It’s not as if she’s some beloved character who has been well-established. Had Maisie been a character from the previous film, and we just learned now that she was a clone the entire time, that might be interesting and shocking. Instead, she’s revealed to be a clone practically as soon as we meet her. It lacks the punch Trevorrow and Connolly were clearly hoping for.

Owen soon does battle with the Indoraptor, and the Indoraptor is quickly dispatched. R.I.P., Indoraptor. We hardly knew ye. Trevorrow has gone on record saying that the Indoraptor is the last “hybrid” dinosaur for the franchise, and thank heavens for that. I know I keep bringing up Jurassic Park in reference to this film, but that’s only fair since this is a direct continuation of that movie. Think back to how Jurassic Park didn’t need to invent a whole new hybrid species of dinosaur to be effective. We didn’t need a super-soldier dinosaur. We just need a T-Rex, or a raptor, or a triceratops. Throwing these super-dinosaurs at us is lame, and the Indoraptor is particularly ineffective. At least the Indominus rex in Jurassic World had a whole movie to shine. The Indoraptor is only featured for about twenty minutes before it’s quickly killed. Who cares?

And what of the other dinosaurs? Why, they’re trapped in one room, and about to be gassed to death. Because of course they are! Once again, we’re treated to the sight of dinosaurs in terror as a room in Lockwood’s mansion fills with gas. Claire considered letting them go. “I can’t let them die,” she weeps. Owen cautions her against this. “We’re not on an island anymore,” he says. If she lets the dinosaurs go, they’re going to run out into cities and neighborhoods. Claire decides to let the dinosaurs die, and there was a moment when I thought the script from super-sadist Colin Trevorrow was going to let these animals die. But here is where Fallen Kingdom finally does something interesting, with only mere minutes left in the film: Maisie, feeling a kinship with these cloned creatures, lets the dinosaurs go free. Which gives the T-Rex a chance to kill Eli Mills. It also gives us a montage of dinosaurs inheriting the earth.

You know that amazing shot of the Mosasaurus about to eat up some surfers that was featured in all the Fallen Kingdom trailers? That’s part of this ending montage. Ditto the moment where the T-Rex roars at a lion in a zoo, and the lion roars back. We return again to Dr. Malcolm, who now says that humans need to learn to live with these free roaming dinosaurs. “These creatures were here before us,” he says, “and if we’re not careful, they’ll be here after us.”

If this is setting-up a third film in which dinosaurs have taken over the world and human beings are at the bottom of the food chain, I’ll confess I’m intrigued. A post-apocalyptic film with dinosaurs has a ton of potential. But it also doesn’t feel like Jurassic Park. It’s so far-removed from what made the first Jurassic so special that I wonder what the point even is anymore.

“How many times must the point be made?” Malcolm asks, and I echo that sentiment. Fallen Kingdom takes a few risks, features some stylish visuals from director Bayona, and hands the world over to the dinosaurs. And yet, when all is said and done, I keep coming back to yet another Dr. Ian Malcolm quote. One uttered many years ago: “That is one big pile of shit.”

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net