Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Darker and more disturbing than any Jurassic Park film before, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an epic, popcorn movie that channels our pessimistic current zeitgeist, leaving me to leave the cinema with a feeling of unease. I watched this film and thought of the way the real world is going, with a feeling of dread. I wonder if it's just my projection, or me noticing how artists are noticing these things too. Heroes can no longer stop bad things from happening; villains inflict irreparable damage upon the world through their greed, leaving us with images of final scenes for us to shake our heads to, open-mouthed, and there's nothing we can do.
This film and its uneasy message starts with the little girl. Where Spielberg includes children to ground his movies with warmth, love and realism – as is the case in the previous four Jurassic Park movies – the character of pre-teen granddaughter Maisie (played by Isabella Sermon) is altogether more complex, her opening moments suggesting there's something of the dinosaur-in-the-shadows about her. A big reveal towards the end reveals how far the twisted DNA rabbit hole goes.
Elsewhere, this is a film where brutality and avarice are overbearing, irresistible. The military 'big game hunter' played by Ted Levine, is increasingly revealed as a sadist; so different to Peter Postlethwaite's more ambiguous, likeable version in Jurassic Park II: Lost World (1997). Then there are the money men, Rafe Spall's Eli and Toby Jones's Gunnar, who encompass the kind of inhuman, short-term lust for profits at any cost we've not seen to this degree in the Jurassic Park franchise before, but are altogether too familiar when we think of modern politics, with climate-change deniers, and the deregulating super-rich.
Of the moments of light, they come mainly from Chris Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard, who resurrect their all-action romance with enduring charm. Ably supporting them are nerdy tech expert Franklin (Justice Smith) and feisty Dr Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), who turn the gender types on their head with Franklin's high-pitched screams and Zia's tough-as-nails physicality. They are the good people trying to hold things together, their affection and respect for the natural world, and their pro-activeness, a thing to cling to.
Jurassic World, Fallen Kingdom has been roundly criticized for being a formulaic franchise movie, but I didn't think this at all. As a fan of the franchise, I think it's lazy journalism to claim what The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw says, of same-old, same-old:
'we do get the dinos in cages, fed with goats, dinos having to be wrangled in the driving rain, great white hunters with guns, yikes-it's-behind-you comeuppances for the corporate bad guys and dusty old electrical circuit boxes that have to be fixed by torchlight.'
Yes, there are recurring motifs, but now, edgily, noticeably different, like entering the uncanny valley and being aware of how it's not quite the same, and therefore disturbingly different. Instead of continuity, I sensed a departure in tone, similar to that of Avengers: Infinity War. You couldn't have referred to Yeats's haunting poem, The Second Coming, to other Jurassic Park movies, but by the end of the movie the words conceived by Yeats begin to feel prescient:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity . . .
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?I really got this film, its message of doom, encompassed in the speech by Jeff Goldblum's Dr Ian Malcolm, who warns that human civilization lacks the sense of responsibility to deal with its increasingly sophisticated technologies. I would watch this film again to see if I'm just imagining the parallels with our current political climate. I would watch it again, in the hope it was momentary paranoia on my part, that I was in a strange mood, and that I'm wrong.