Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Old Plot and New Twists

The producers of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom really hope that it will be the summer hit. The ads have been very cute with short flicks of Chris Pratt trying to get a velociraptor through airport security and other save-the-dinosaur scenarios. Other trailers featured the usual awesome dino pictures, including the Masosaurus (the one in the dolphin-like enclosure in Jurassic World) in a giant wave about to eat a surfer. That image alone made me want to see it along with a curiosity of where the story line is going. After all, I’m a huge fan of monster movies, including Godzilla and Cloverfield. After seeing the movie however, I don’t think this will be a classic summer blockbuster.

Fallen Kingdom

The movie had an okay plot although it lacked the freshness of the first Jurassic World. The gist of the plot is that the island’s volcano is about to explode. Some in America think that this is God’s will to re-extinct the dinosaur, while others, including Claire Dearing, want the government to intervene and rescue the dinosaurs as an endangered species. Towards that end, she recruits three others, including Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and heads to the island.

The idea that Clair, (Bryce Dallas Howard), wants to save the dinosaurs struck me as very inconsistent. In Jurassic World she never showed any real interest in the creatures when she ran the park. It was a job, an overwhelming part of her life, but only a job and she strove to be the best at it. It was easy to picture Claire never once stepping out into the park and touching a dinosaur. That excitement was reserved more for the CEO Masrani, who died a fiery death in the first Jurassic World movie.

On the opposite end, Owen Grady was the soul of the place in his role of animal behavior expert. In the first movie, he proved (in theory) that the animals could be trained and directed. Fallen Kingdom added footage about the raptors training to prove this to us. He should have been the one working to save them from a fiery death.

Later, evil rich guy Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) ultimately blames Grady and Dearing for his attempts at breeding, training, and then wholesaling the dinos to the highest billionaire or government bidder. His idea was to use them in the military, rich playthings, or even further genetic development into bigger and badder critters. The fact that Grady and Dearing bought that weak excuse and accepted the blame for his terrible actions was one of the low points of the film.

Lessons learned from the Jurassic Movies

However, after watching five of these films, some overall truths come out.

  1. Never trust rich old guys that own islands. They are either kind and delusional or related somehow to rich, evil, young guys.
  2. Rich old guys live in huge castle-like homes that, like the Bat cave, contain huge rooms below for experimentation (including Batman and Ironman on this one).
  3. Don’t trust guys in corporate suits or who dress like mercs.
  4. Mosquitos must have sucked on everyone in the dino epochs, including gator-like fish, which is highly unlikely since it is aquatic and mosquitos aren’t.
  5. T-Rex rocks. Always has and always will have the money-shot moment.
  6. Mercs are always kind of stupid, except for old leader mercs.
  7. The “indestructible” hamster balls for humans aren’t. They actually destroy quite easily by crushing teeth, severe dino kicking and now lava fireballs.
  8. Humans are stupid enough to think that big, bad and multi-toothed monsters are not bad enough. We have to keep inventing something bigger and with more teeth.
  9. Humans, particularly rich ones, think dinos don’t have brains enough to think for themselves.
  10. Genetic scientists don’t care what they combine with what as long as the result is a really cool, big monster. It is like making Play-Doh animals but with really expensive equipment. You never know what you are going to get until the end.
  11. Genetic scientists always have a back door to sneak out of and a helicopter waiting only for them.

The hidden message

Many of the scenes seemed like retreads of the 1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore set out to thwart a bunch of mercenaries from collecting animals to take them off the island and then she works to get the T-Rex out of San Diego. The latter half of that movie was one of the silliest parts of the dinosaur flicks and reduxing them did not help this movie.

In addition to the repeated ideas, this film also had bad plot flaws. First of all, how do humans escape a sinking human-hamster ball into lava laced water and swim to a different part of the island without being burned by flying hot debris? How do dinos breathe in hydrogen cyanide for several minutes without dying but still have the energy enough to bolt out the garage doors the moment they are opened. This was a critical part of the ending. Even released, the animals would have terribly scarred lungs, AND the main characters just set free a cloud of deadly gas. Luckily it dissipates pretty quickly in the open air. What happens to the released dinosaurs? Do we let them go or hunt them down to kill them?

Finally, the film glossed over one very important fact that Lockwood dabbled in human cloning. Rumor has it that this movie really is the precursor to Jurassic World 3 and this one factor about genetics should be a strong part of that story line. After all, Henry Wu loved making massive monsters. Would he be happy cutting and combining human genomes for supermen? Wu’s character has always implied that he had no moral limits. If JW 3 doesn’t play upon this small but very significant factor, the quiet reveal in JW 2 is then a complete waste of time.

Recommendations?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the film. It kept the tension up as the characters went from the island to the rich guy’s underground lair. Some of the visual impacts, particularly of the volcano killing off the dinosaurs, were quite powerful. I’ll own it when it comes, out but so far it is my least favorite of the Jurassic movies. It also lacks the true pizzazz and for a summer blockbuster.

If you love monster movies too, then by all means go see this flick. You’ll love the scenes with the gentle Aposaurus and the new dinosaurs presented, including a Carnotaurus which looks like a T-Rex with horns and amazingly small arms. It seems like this film had more variety of predators, both real dino and Wu-constructs. The Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies have always made them the start of the show because they are so amazing. Therefore, consider catching this move in a theater for that reason alone. The big gals are well worth the large screen presentation.

 

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story, Good but Too Much Glitz

(Spoiler Alert!)

I’ve stated before that I’m not a big Star Wars fan, at least not with regards to the newer movies. However, I checked out Solo: A Star Wars Story this weekend and was pleasantly surprised. The movie focuses on loss of innocence and young love before the rebellion begins. Teenage Han, an orphaned Artful Dodger type character, escapes from a slavery existence on his home planet by joining the imperial “air force” to become a pilot. Given that he has trouble with orders, he soon flunks out and deserts, landing in the company of a gang of smugglers. The group, led by Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson) is in debt to an even bigger Mafia-type since the galaxy at that time is carved up into territories. No wonder it was so easy for the Emperor to rise up and take over!

The new band of thieves embarks on an attempt to steal valuable spaceship fuel from a moving train only to get attacked by a second criminal group during the heist. During that time, Beckett loses most of his old partners and lands in deep trouble with his nefarious boss. Han, in an attempt to avoid being killed, offers to get them to steal the raw, and highly unstable, fuel from the mining source, then quickly fly it over to an illegal refinery. The fuel would be worth enough to get Beckett and Han out of trouble. Yet they need a ship provided by Lando Calrissian. The rest of the movie involves their trying to pull off this plan, juggling unexpected twists and double-crossing crime lords.

Positive Notes

Alden Ehrenreich does a great job as young Han, displaying an unbreakable sense of enthusiasm and optimism even when in the presence of dangerous crime lords. He has only a distant familiarity to the gruff, disillusioned older Solo, but then time and experience with felonious Mafia types will kill most people’s zest for living.

On one hand, the audience gets a view of Solo’s entire life, now pretty much from kid to death if you’ve followed all the movies. In this film, we learn how he met Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, and what the importance of the Kessel Run was. All in all, it was a fun romp that could have been any loveable huckster’s story. This one just happened to have a lot of aliens and space ships in it.

In relation to that, the action kept up a strong pace as the plot switched from planet to planet and crisis to crisis. The movie did a good job balancing the tender moments between Solo and his love interest with lots of bravado, ship fights, and dangling from steel cables. However, I didn’t feel that deeply involved with the characters. The story was too crowded with action scenes to allow for it.

My favorite character in the movie was actually a new robot who dies near the end. L3-37, a sassy female voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is out to free enslaved droids and does so with spectacular panache. It is one of the only robots in this universe that we see thinking for themselves rather than blithely marching or flying into trouble to save the humans.

Bad Points

On the other hand, the movie had some flaws as well. Lando Calrissian was so oily and egotistical that he was nauseating. This was not Donald Glover’s fault but more due to bad writing. The Calrissian played by Billy Dee Williams was also slick and cool but not so overdone. Williams’ Lando had an air of talent both as a mature administrator and strong pilot  possibly because he knew what he could accomplish. Glover’s rendition showed the character as all vanity and little substance.

The movie was also simply overdone. Wikipedia lists it as one of the most expensive movies ever made at ninth place (along with six others), which is kind of my point. We saw more aliens, robots, CGI effects than were really needed to get the story across. These features added to the sense of otherworldliness but also sometimes got in the way. For instance, Han’s first crime boss on Correllia was Lady Proxima, voiced by Linda Hunt. First of all, I have trouble believing that a photophobic giant centipede, who is locked in her own puddle of water, can be the crime boss of anything. She can’t leave the building. Therefore, it would be too easy to destroy her. Beyond that, the cost of creating this giant bejeweled centipede probably wasn’t worth the very short screen time she had.

Other aliens were like that too. We got small rare glimpses of other species here and there in bars and parties but is it really worth the extravagant price tag of $250 million dollars? I ask this because expensive movies lead to high priced movie tickets. Good movies don’t have to be expensive. They simply need one difficult thing: a great story that is well rendered. The flashy ships, creepy aliens, and talking robots are only window dressing that can get in the way.

Worth the Price?

So would I recommend Solo: A Star Wars Story? For the younger Star Wars fans, I would say yes. It adds nice background and content to the overall universe. However, I believe the moneymaking ability of this franchise is beginning to fall. Fans aren’t packing into the theaters as eagerly and the stories have pretty much run their course. Maybe it’s time for the Star Wars worlds to find a collective peace, with or without Jedis, and simply fly off into the double suns of Tatooine for their happy ever after.