Finally watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
On the one hand, it’s a terrible movie by almost all standards - even stuff like sound design and editing (there’s a triple-replay of guy dodging a dinosaur for god’s sake, and it’s not even cool in a retro way), and it profoundly doesn’t get why people like the Jurassic Park movies, instead just pushing the franchise as a sort of Transformers-esque nostalgia/event movie deal.
On the other hand, it’s not all that AND wildly misogynist, so it’s clearly quite a lot better than Jurassic World on that point alone.
But it’s bad man, it’s worse than people told me. Let’s go through different aspects of a movie (in a random order):
- Plot and pacing - The plot is motheaten nonsense that makes zero sense. This is a major problem, because the plot features quite prominently. It just never adds up, it feels like they basically had three or more different ideas for what the movie would be about, plot-wise, and tried to jam them together, and it really didn’t work. Major plot points are often completely insane - like, why do the soldiers randomly backstab Chris Pratt’s character? It gains them nothing and makes no sense in context. If they’d been time-pressured by the volcano, it would make sense - but at that point, they thought they had time - and the movie goes out of it’s way to show this!
I could go on and on about this, and it’s a huge problem, with the both the greater plot, and the individual things that happen in scenes. This is right from the start too. I won’t bore us with examples (unless people have seen the movie and are interested), but it happens over and over that things occur in an order than makes no sense.
The biggest issue is that nothing is earned, nothing is foreshadowed, nothing makes sense outside the context of particularly dumb movie genre conventions. That’s what it comes down to - this is a movie built out of genre conventions. The only movies I’ve seen like this before are the previous Jurassic World (even that was way less bad for this) and the Transformers movies. It’s a movie that expects you to expect things because it’s a movie, that expects you think it’s cool because it’s doing “movie stuff”. It’s strangely naive, in a way, like a script a 12-year-old might write to try and impress people with how much he knows about movies (but where he’s only seen totally mainstream and basic stuff).
The pacing is a function of the plot and it’s terrible, speeding up and slowing down all the time for no apparent reason, indulging itself with pointless scenes one minute, and zipping through more important ones.
But can I come back to how little is earned - in a normal movie, there’s an effort to make things make sense, and to foreshadow stuff - like, at one point late in the movie, the little girl jumps out a window and shimmies along a very narrow ledge and says she knows a way - but like, this is totally out of nowhere. We’ve had no evidence that she’s a daredevil, let alone the kind of lunatic who would shimmy along a tiny ledge just to get around the building, nor that she would know about this.
The dialogue - It is leaden. I dunno if there are any good lines in the entire movie. I think there might be one. And this combines really poorly with the terrible plot, as you can probably imagine. There’s a lot of the kind of incredibly clumsy and lazy stuff like “I guess you’re the great white hunter…” “I guess I am” kind, which is like, FUCK OFF, that should be a script direction, something the audience understands, not something the characters literally say out loud.
The aesthetics/style. It’s a fucking mess. I don’t know what else to say. There’s an unpleasant filter on a lot of the movie, and it goes from just aping the Jurassic World style, to like, mashing up that, ineptly, with a kind of gothic horror. That can be done - terrible low-budget b-movies from the '90s managed it (The Relic, for example). But this guy can’t manage it, so it just looks ridiculous.
The little girl’s bedroom looks like something from the 1940s, for god’s sake.
- The performances. All the serious actors/villains chew every available bit of scenery - Cromwell, Spall, Jones, Wong, but it’s like ice-skating without skates with such terrible lines and such bizarre plotting. The “good guys” except for Chris Pratt are pretty bad. Pratt is surprisingly better than in the previous movie. Everyone else is dreadful. The female lead has one scene where she does a quite convincing crack-up, and then she gives up on acting for the entire rest of the movie. The secondary good guys - the zoologist and nerd basically act like they’re in different movies - she like she’s in one of the original Jurassic Park movies, and he like he’s in some trashy horror movie (which he kind of is, admittedly). The little girl has the remarkable distinction of being easily the worst child actor in any Jurassic World or Jurassic Park movie and seems to have been chosen solely because she has a particularly shrill, unpleasant, and piercing scream. She’s bad, even by child actor standards, and given the movie tries to use her as its conscience and emotional heart, that’s awful.
This ends up with a particularly awful scene. The female lead, who cared about dinosaurs so much that she risked her life and those of others, and invested her entire life on saving them, is letting the dinosaurs out of their cages so they can escape poison gas, and is about to press the final button to let them out. And then for no reason at all, she doesn’t. It’s like, what? It doesn’t make any sense. It goes against everything we know in her character, and is an obvious contrivance. Then the dreadful little girl lets them out, and we’re clearly supposed to go “Ah yeah she’s got morals!”, but in fact we just go “Wow that scene was awful…”.
- The directing/cinematography. At one point Wong and Spall basically have to do an most of a scene with their backs to the camera and from 30 feet away. It’s like what the fuck? WHY? This is representative of the directing in JWFK. “What the fuck? Why?”. There’ll be a scene that makes sense, or kind visually okay, and then just terrible, like home video/drama school directing. How is this idiot directing major Hollywood movies? It’s astonishing, and really does feel like they just let a random idiot who has seen a lot of movies direct a movie, rather than like a director, with an actual vision (even Trevorrow seemed to have more of an actual vision). There’s so much of “a moron’s idea of what good directing looks like”.
And there are these just random fucking camera angles - like, some of them are showy enough, but a lot of them are just fucking dumb, like repeated use of close-ups which prevent the motion and space of a scene from being conveyed properly - close-ups where there’s no need for or benefit from a close-up, and those are often from lazy angles (like where if you moved them a bit, you could have your close-up and get a better shot).
- The editing - There’s a triple-replay of a dude dodging a dinosaur. I mean for fuck’s sake. A triple-replay. What is this, a bad 1990s action movie? And it’s not even cool, it’s not even funny or witty, it’s clearly meant to be taken seriously, and just dumb. Why not just do a star-wipe if you’re going for dreadful stuff like this? At least that would be funny.
The editing in general is pretty messy, with a lot of places where it feels like “SCENE DELETED” happened, which is like one of the basic things editing should be preventing. It feels like this is a cut-down version of a (possibly even worse) 4-hour movie. It feels slapdash, a lot of the time.
The visual FX. They’re surprisingly mediocre. I mean they don’t fuck up basic stuff, unlike every other aspect of the movie, so there’s that. But they don’t convey the beauty or majesty of the dinosaurs, who somehow look worse in this than they did in earlier JP movies (not if you go side-by-side, but by the standards of the time), and there seems to have been some sort of bizarre decision that all dinosaurs should be a sort of dark green/military drab colour. A lot of other ones, like lava, seem computer-game-y, in a bad way, like they were done by someone who has never actually seen lava, but like had it described to them.
The dinosaurs. As mentioned, they’re drab colours, but they have some emotionality to them at least. There’s one moving death scene (a brachiosaur), the raptor seems intelligent, the T-Rex is T-Rex-y (in a very JP/JW way), and so on. But a lot of what happens with them is kind of half-arsed. The animators clearly love dinosaurs, but I’m really unconvinced the director does. The new magic dinosaur is almost as bad as the previous one. But at least it can’t FUCKING TALK TO OTHER DINOSAURS unlike in the previous movie (??? still mad), so I guess whilst it’s dumb-looking and those teeth would be godawful for killing things (they’re teeth for hooking fish, not killing things…), it’s not as grade-A stupid.
However, the previous JP movies made a decent effort to stick within the bounds of reality or something close to it. Sure, they call stuff velociraptors, when they’re clearly some other kind of Dromaeosaurid (exactly which one is disputed, but there are at least two plausible, real candidates). Some of the dinos are a little large or whatever too. But basically they’re making an effort. Most of the time JWFK does too - except with the mosasaur. Now, in the previous movie, the mosasaur was already, arguably, too big. Mosasaurs were big mean crocodile-with-flippers-looking things. They got to about 18m long (we have quite a lot of fossils of them). That’s huge - 60ft! And the one in JW might only have been that big, but it looks more like it was about 80ft. In this movie, that wasn’t big enough - now it’s suddenly bigger than a blue whale - maybe 120ft or larger, certainly over twice the size they ever reached. Why? Because, according to an interview with the director or FX guy (I forget which), it “didn’t look big enough” when they had it jump out of the water. So they took it up from “dinosaur” size or “huge animal size” to basically “kaiju” size. Ugh. I’m sure one could come up with a convoluted explanation involving frog DNA or whatever, but they admitted why they did it, and it’s like, why not just do re-do the scene so the helicopter is lower? But no. Instead they just doubled the size of the damn thing.
The is one thing the director is actually pretty good at - dinosaurs murdering people. When the dinosaurs actually catch and murder people, or when they’re about to, the director suddenly gets better at it. Maybe this is his horror background or whatever, but those scenes are as good as any other “dino-murder” scenes in the JP/JW movies. Badguys getting their comeuppance, he’s fine at. But there’s only so much of that in the movie - less than you’d expect.
Overall, it’s even worse-directed and more of a mess, from a consistency (of anything) standpoint than Jurassic World, but without the raging misogyny (there’s I think one misogynistic line in this movie, and no scenes - indeed they specifically show the female lead wearing sensible-ish boots), and without the midichlorians x10-level stupidity of the dinosaur which can talk to and explain complex plans to other dinosaurs (GRRRRRR), it doesn’t make you want to throw something at the screen like JW did. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed, I guess.
Oh there is one other kinda-fun thing, which is that they seem to be leaning in to the whole Jurassic World thing and going, like “dinopunk”, to judge from the stuff Ian Malcolm (for it is he!) says at the start and end of the movie. That could potentially work and if they go hard on that it could be a lot more interesting that these two movies, which were basically just shitty Jurassic Park movies.