Without doubt the defining cinematic moment of my childhood and arguably the 1990s is that scene in Jurassic Park when Dr Grant and Dr Sattler set eyes upon their first real-life dinosaur, the Brachiosaurus. A colossal beast yet graceful and gentle. For me it is one of the most beautiful and moving scenes of all time and sparked a life-long fascination with dinosaurs.
For movie-goers, this iconic scene cast these ‘terrible lizards’ in a new light. No longer were they the plodding giant monsters from the distant past, but they were living, breathing animals, and ones as familiar to the public as the creatures that actually exist alongside us today like elephants and tigers.
What I experienced when I saw my first Brachiosaurus striding between the trees and rearing up to feed on the highest branches, letting out a whale-like song as it did (complete with John Williams’ moving score), was what the Romantic poets would have called ‘sublime’. I was, just like Alan Grant, in total awe of the majesty and grandeur of this magical creature.
In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the same scene is mirrored when the paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez sees her first dinosaur. She arrives on the island with the rest of the team tasked with rescuing the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption. They are back at the now derelict visitors centre when the majestic Brachiosaurus, likely the last one on the island and – it is hinted – the very same dinosaur from the first film, reveals itself. Again, we are reminded of the true beauty of Jurassic Park/World and the magic of dinosaurs brought back from extinction.
It is this feeling, this ‘miracle’ as James Cromwell’s (Babe, American Horror Story) character Sir Benjamin Lockwood so wonderfully puts it, that was the real vision behind Jurassic Park and the reason they have decided to rescue these doomed animals from a second extinction.
But of course, this majesty and beauty is all leading to the ultimate destruction of the island, the original Jurassic Park, its vision, and, sadly, most of the dinosaurs. Including, in probably the most heart-breaking scene of the entire series, my beloved Brachiosaurus. (I’m not crying, you’re crying).
These ‘monsters’ so to speak are now very much established characters in the series and ones we’ve been allowed to build connections with; the reboot plays on that so well. Who’d have thought back in 1993 that we’d actually be rooting for the raptors or be happy to see the inexplicably loveable T. rex? (Which in one scene could almost be mistaken for a giant reptilian dog having a nap). The real villains are the humans, whose cruelty and violence far outweighs that of the dinosaurs. But poetic justice is served, and it is wonderful to behold.
What the death of the Brachiosaurus and the destruction of the island represents in this film is its drastic departure from the original franchise, no doubt setting up for a show-stopping final third instalment. No longer are the dinosaurs – and at that the writers – restricted by the island. It’s a clever story-telling device.
“Ooh, ah,” that’s how it always starts. But then later there’s running and screaming. – Ian Malcolm in Lost World: Jurassic Park
On that note, if you haven’t seen it yet (oops spoilers), be sure to stick around for the post-credit sequence which features a flock of Pterosaurs encircling a replica Eiffel Tower on the Las Vegas Strip showing just how far they have strayed and alluding to the troubled coexistence of humans and dinosaurs to be explored by the third instalment.
Nonetheless, Fallen Kingdom remains true to both the original franchise and Crichton’s novels including the much-anticipated cameo of Jeff Goldblum reprising his role of chaotician (and ironic commentator) Ian Malcolm. Not to mention shots clearly harking back to the original put in there for the die-hard fans, such as the raptor kitchen scene and the jeep-in-the-tree scene.
Much like the Disney Star Wars reboot, Jurassic World has once again taken the basic premise and imagery of the original film and ramped it up to the extreme. Take Ted Levine’s (The Alienist, Silence of the Lambs, Monk) character, the ruthless mercenary Ken Wheatley who is basically just a re-hashed, less likeable Roland Tembo, while Rafe Spall (Anonymous, Prometheus, The Big Short) as the slimy evil c*nt Eli Mills even starts to resemble Peter Ludlow by the second act and fulfils a similar role.
For more on this topic, I would recommend visiting the channel of prolific JP franchise YouTuber Klayton Fioriti, who produces some thought-provoking and well-researched videos covering the movies, novels and surrounding media.
My favourite part of the entire film has to be the opening sequence. It is, in my opinion, the best in the series. It is dark and suspenseful, just like the first film, and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie featuring not one, but two of the franchise’s most iconic monsters.
There are so many classic horror and distinctly gothic moments (think Dracula, Frankenstein, etc) cleverly woven into this very modern thriller, which is no surprise considering it was directed by JA Bayona, the man behind The Orphanage and Penny Dreadful. As such, there are a lot more ‘scares’ in this film than Jurassic World or any of the other movies. It is also incredibly fast-paced and consistently so from start to finish, but remains witty and allows for a few humorous moments of relief (particularly between Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard). Some commentators have even noted an Indiana Jones vibe, pointing to Pratt’s action hero moves and the distinctly Spielberg camera angles (think low-angle dolly zooms).
I thoroughly recommend Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. As a lifelong fan of the series, I was certainly not disappointed. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. The film cuts to the chase, literally, and dinosaurs are back centre stage where they belong. It’s a gripping, white-knuckle stampede of a movie as the Mesozoic comes crashing through the modern day.
There’s so much more to be written about this film and the themes it explores. I haven’t even started on the representations (and exploitation) of women/the female form and what it has inherited in that respect from the original. Not to mention an analysis of Malcolm’s monologue on the existence of the island, the allegory of dinosaurs on the mainland, and the science of Henry Wu. But stay tuned…
- Some of the old favourites are back, including the Compies, which I hope see more action in the third instalment
- New dinosaurs too, such as the Baryonyx, and the Carnotaurus finally gets some screen time
- A stellar cast of character actors including big screen legends like Toby Jones, Cromwell and Levine
- Every villain (except Wu, but he is needed for number three) is satisfyingly and brutally killed. Mills’ death is particularly pleasing
- There was room on that boat for her. #RIP Brachiosaurus
- The Dilophosaurus was nowhere to be seen (at least not a ‘real’ one)
- The destruction of the island
- What’s happened to Site B?