With two out of three films in the bag, the ‘Jurassic World’ trilogy must revel in anything but the science to finish on a high note.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Indulging in it allows me to recall the first time I saw Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park as a five-year-old, and how the film inspired innocence and pureness in me. Insofar as the resurrection of long-extinct creatures for nothing but profit can be considered “innocent” or “pure,” of course; I just felt every single feeling from ecstasy to sheer terror throughout what is invariably a perfect blockbuster.
Jurassic Park‘s darker undertones only became noteworthy as I grew older and kept revisiting the Park due to the endless rewatchability of a Spielberg classic. The true power of that first chapter in the franchise has always lied in its ability to reach the ideal balance between escapist entertainment and some strong underlying messages about capitalism and genetic power.
When Jurassic World was then announced — a whole decade after the disappointing Jurassic Park III hit cinemas — that same thrill of the prospect of returning to a land populated by dinosaurs actually stirred. However, even nostalgia cannot hide the fact that both offerings in the new series thus far, Jurassic World and its successor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, no longer serve a necessarily feel-good purpose. These newer films are determined to tip the balance in a bigger, more unsettling direction.
Of course, both Jurassic World movies still have a sense of wonderment, joy, and disbelief about them. Fallen Kingdom is a grand, gothic-inspired installment that topples expectations of what these films can do. Nevertheless, as the Jurassic World films reach ludicrous narrative heights, their respective filmmakers, Colin Trevorrow and J.A. Bayona, are continually imploring audiences to deliberately stare the dark side in the face.
In a new interview with io9, Trevorrow, who produced and co-wrote the Fallen Kingdom screenplay with Derek Connolly, dishes on the narrative significance of the Jurassic World series in the context of the discoveries made in the earlier films in the franchise. He declares that although three Jurassic World films was never a guarantee, the creative team behind the sequel trilogy had a pretty good idea of where they would have liked the overall narrative to go. Specifically, the terrifying yet potentially awe-inspiring nature of the original films had to be destroyed.
According to Trevorrow:
“We knew we didn’t want to continue to make movies about the dangers of messing with science. We wanted to tell a story about where we are now, which is that we have messed with science. We have fundamentally altered our world. And now we’re dealing with the consequences. We also wanted to make sure that both of our lead characters had a defined role and a set of responsibilities for the situation that had now developed on the planet.”
These plot points are actually noticeable in both Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, albeit they are more implicitly discussed in the former. Where Jurassic World tackles the mere potential of genetically engineered dinos, Fallen Kingdom presents a no-holds-barred approach to what that actually entails.
Jurassic World initially teases out a subplot about militarized dinosaurs, which was notably something embraced by Spielberg himself (“That’s just his jam.”). Protagonist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) faces off with InGen’s head of security Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) as the latter attempts to weaponize Jurassic World’s velociraptors — particularly their leader, Blue. However, this plot point is pretty much left alone once the core creature of the film, the Indominus Rex, begins wreaking havoc on the patrons of the theme park. Hoskins eventually dies towards the end of the film, too, which seemingly put the storyline to bed.
Fallen Kingdom definitely picks it back up with gusto. Weaponized dinosaurs become the main focus of the sequel’s narrative, and Bayona’s film further ups the ante. Firstly, Fallen Kingdom goes fully dystopian with its portrayal of warmongers amongst the world’s elite, presenting a scenario in which patrons bid on dinosaurs at an auction.
Secondly, the film creates yet another genetically enhanced species from the existing Indominus footprint – which was, in itself, never a real dinosaur. While the exploitation and disrespect of nature were always presented as problems in the Jurassic franchise, Fallen Kingdom‘s extreme personification of these issues is particularly morbid.
“As one of the characters in [‘Fallen Kingdom’] explains, animals have always been used in war: rats, elephants, horses. It just takes a certain level of assumption and acceptance that dinosaurs are considered animals, and I don’t think the whole planet in our film has come to that acceptance yet. […] I feel like these villains take them for granted and, to me, when it comes to dinosaurs, anyone who takes them for granted is a villain.”
And apparently, the possibilities of the technology in the Jurassic franchise have gone a step further: in the wake of such vast advancements, Fallen Kingdom also presents the case of the world’s first genetically modified human. More specifically, the film includes a cloned character who basically becomes the face of the future by the end of the film.
This sudden introduction of such a gargantuan leap in the largely unexplained scientific lore of the Jurassic series disrupts its overarching narrative in an unprecedented way. It’s not just about the dinosaurs anymore, which is a jarring enough concept to deal with. However, it is also worrying. With only one film left to wrap up the Jurassic World trilogy, that’s a lot of narrative ground to cover.
At this point, it’s probably silly to put too much confidence in plausibility when it comes to the plots of Jurassic World, because these films really run on adrenaline and, at least after the release of Fallen Kingdom, a lot of heart. The sequel series is a far cry from the Spielberg movie that raised me. That said, Fallen Kingdom reestablishes that its core protagonists can be more likable. Being treated to some very moving human and dino interactions — namely Owen and Blue — is fulfilling too.
Fallen Kingdom simply has much more depth and resonance than its predecessor and those qualities come down to Bayona’s effortlessly emotional directorial sensibilities, more so than Trevorrow and Connolly’s script anyway. Bayona translated a sprawling ambitious narrative into a movie that speaks to audiences at their core. Fallen Kingdom may not be the most intellectually stimulating movie in the world, but it hits the heart hard.
This then makes Jurassic World 3 a concern, given that Bayona won’t be around to concoct a similar experience. His movie is anything but subtle; the Indoraptor standing atop a mansion, roaring in the rain is anything but “subtle.” However, Fallen Kingdom is truly intuitive, which is more than can be said about Trevorrow’s Jurassic World — which needlessly and traumatizingly killed off Claire Dearing’s innocent assistant, Zara.
In tackling Jurassic World 3, Trevorrow should at least keep Fallen Kingdom‘s emotional threads as an anchor. If the characters in the Jurassic series have all but exhausted their attempts to exploit nature, it’s time they really learned to love the creatures they’ve created. We already know that the trilogy’s finale will get even more implausible action-wise after Owen not only attempted to outrun a volcano but succeeded. In spite of this, somewhere in Jurassic World 3 is something redemptive, which could contrast with the harsh coldness that permeates the first Jurassic World film.
In Trevorrow’s own words, and here’s to hoping we can believe them fully:
“My goal with this trilogy is to, when you reach the very end, have the very first line that Claire ever says, ‘No one is impressed by a dinosaur anymore,’ be proven completely false.”
If done right, Jurassic World 3 could be a study in compassion. The time to close the Pandora’s box of dinosaur engineering has clearly long passed. Empathy is the strongest throughline in Fallen Kingdom that makes its protagonists better, its villains uglier, and its animals – those beautiful un-extinct herbivores and carnivores – worth saving. In order to adequately round out a thus far uneven series, Trevorrow must make us feel something genuine as Bayona did.