Why returning to the island has never been a worse idea...
In the summer of 2015, the immense success of Jurassic World seemingly shocked everyone. The reboot-quel took audiences on a nostalgia-driven joyride and that formula reaped the benefits.
At the time of its opening, it was the biggest opening weekend in film history, both domestically and internationally. And while the film certainly has its detractors, it was overall welcomed as an improvement over the previous entry in the series and a welcome return-to-form for the franchise as a whole.
So why is the buzz surrounding the upcoming follow-up so overwhelmingly negative?
With each passing reveal about the film, the entire affair grows more worrisome. From lackluster marketing and advertising to plots that feel like copy-and-paste retreads, Fallen Kingdom has given long-time fans of the series plenty to fret about.
Off the back of the successful recontextualizing of the franchise pulled off in Jurassic World, it looks as though Fallen Kingdom may send the franchise right back down to the depths of mediocrity.
8. There's Minimal Goldblum
A big selling point of this film before even any of the marketing was released was the reveal that Mr. Jeff Goldblum would be returning to the series.
This seemed like a natural progression for the franchise, as if they were taking a note from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which showed just how much audiences love seeing their old favorite return alongside the new cast. Goldblum was a scene-stealer in the first film, who was promoted to primary protagonist for the sequel. He (wisely) sat the third film out and made a cameo in appearance only (on the back of a book) in the first Jurassic World.
So viewers were understandably excited about seeing Goldblum return to the fray. But as more and more advertising has been revealed, it has become increasingly clear that Goldblum's role will be minuscule at best. Out of all three trailers, he has only appeared in the courthouse scene and is nowhere to be found in any of the action sequences.
Director J.A. Bayona has even revealed this to be true, saying;
"He's more like a cameo, he doesn't have a major role in the action ..."
7. It's A Disaster Movie?
When speaking with EW recently, writer/producer Colin Trevorrow revealed that the upcoming sequel will be half disaster movie and half horror film, saying;
"You have this extinction-level event on that island, and the world is looking at these creatures that we created and asking, ‘Well, what is our right? Do we let them die because we created them and they shouldn’t be here in the first place, or do we have a responsibility to save them?"
The extinction-level event Trevorrow is referencing here is clearly the erupting volcano which has been such a point of emphasis in the marketing. But a Jurassic-themed disaster film isn't why people come to these films and it isn't a particularly new or fresh idea, either. Recent blockbuster failures such as Unviersal's The Mummy or Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse spoke about similar intentions, wishing to channel the disaster epics of old.
But in both cases, the disaster-influences essentially amounted to lots of disaster porn and Fallen Kingdom looks to be guilty of the same sin. The trailers spotlight lots of desaturated, grey destruction without much motivation behind it. It's the exact kind of CGI-excess the original Jurassic Park steered away from for the sake of suspense and believability. Fallen Kingdom seems to be steering right into it.
6. The Indoraptors
The two most recent trailers for the film have been less focused on the whole 'exploding volcano' storyline since it wasn't well-received in the first trailer and have instead been focusing on the 'half horror'-section of the film.
The primary cause of this horror aspect looks to be creatures that have long been rumored for the production, the Indoraptors. They are engineered, smaller versions of the Indominus Rex from the previous film and look to be the primary dino antagonists of this film.
While it is nice to see something about the film not simply go with the 'bigger. more teeth' mantra, recycling the same villain from the previous film (only smaller) is a strange creative decision. The Indominus was an interesting antagonist because it was as violent and unstoppable as a T. rex but as smart as a Raptor, which was something audiences had never seen before. But these Indoraptors are as small as a raptor and... as smart as a raptor?
If anything, this just feels like a desperate attempt to provide payoff to D'onofrio's line from Jurassic World, where he mentions the possibility of an Indominus the size of a T. rex in strategic warfare.
5. The Director Trevorrow
Colin Trevorrow seems like a nice-enough guy and he did a solid-enough job directing the first Jurassic World. Having said that, Trevorrow has remained incredibly involved in the production of this second film and that's not exactly a good thing.
When it was announced that J.A. Bayona was coming onboard to direct Fallen Kingdom, there was reason to be excited. Bayona is a visionary horror director with several great films under his belt, including The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. But it's getting a bit hard to tell who is really the driving creative force behind Fallen Kingdom.
Trevorrow is who is giving the vast majority of interviews and is also the one who has already been announced as the director of the next sequel. Trevorrow has spoken at length about how he loved being an on-set writer for the film, actively rewriting his script based on the needs of the day.
And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, the timetable of it all is cause for concern. Trevorrow gushed all over how great his little indie film, Book of Henry, was, only for pretty much everyone else to absolutely hate it. Henry didn't hit theaters until last summer, so most of Trevorrow's writing for Fallen Kingdom would have taken place before he knew just how bad Book of Henry was.
Which is to say, Trevorrow was not in the most sound of mindsets at this time and who knows what he put into this thing, thinking it was equally great.
4. The Desperate Marketing
The marketing thus far has been lackluster, to say the least.
The first trailer was boring and completely uninteresting but it at least seemed confident in itself. It focused on the volcano aspect and as Trevorrow later pointed out on Twitter;
"Everything in the trailer is from the first 57 minutes."
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But following the negative reaction to the trailer, which prompted Trevorrow to say this in the first place, the marketing has done a complete turn-around.
The latest trailer essentially runs through the core plot elements of the entire film, telling us whose bad, whose good, and exactly what's going to happen. It summarizes the entire film into a two-and-a-half-minute video, all in one last attempt to build positive buzz around the film.
The result is a confusing marketing plan that feels completely at odds with itself, starting off as guarded, secretive, and confident in the final product and ending up willing to reveal everything about the film just to get butts in the seats.
3. There's Some Heavy Lost World Inspiration
As mentioned, the first Jurassic World film benefitted heavily from entrenching itself in nostalgia for Spielberg's original Jurassic Park. The plot frequently followed it's narrative beat-for-beat and paid service to it at every possible juncture, going so far as to having an entire meta subplot about modern kids rediscovering the original Park.
Maybe due to the success of this approach the first time around, or maybe just out of blind faith, Bayona and Trevorrow look to be heavily basing Fallen Kingdom in nostalgia for the second Jurassic Park film, The Lost World.
Plot-wise, Fallen Kingdom features a rescue mission to save the dinosaurs, which is being nefariously funded by an evil businessman who is instead looking to bring the dinos back to the mainland to profit off of them. Our heroes are fooled, attempting to do the right thing, but ultimately playing directly into the hands of said nefarious businessman. If that all sounds familiar, it is because that is also the synopsis of The Lost World's plot.
But here's the thing: The Lost World is not a film that incites nostalgia.
The Lost World was successful upon release, but completely off-the-back of the first film's successes. It certainly has its fans but is overall viewed as a vastly disappointing sequel that doesn't hold a candle to that first film. The film looks to be attempting to mine the same nostalgia goldmine they did previously but there is no nostalgia to capitalize on.
2. There's Just No Stakes
The only reason the original Jurassic Park film mattered at all was because audiences cared about the characters. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Ian Malcolm, these are characters that live on in pop culture to this day. All because Spielberg took the time to let audiences fall in love with them and then put them in highly dangerous, but believable, situations from which they had to escape.
This resulted in the stakes being consistently high throughout the film, it felt as if anyone could die or be horribly injured at any moment. It gave the effects weight and the whole film an emotional pathos to ground itself in.
This film looks to have thrown the baby out with the bath water. In the trailers alone, our protagonists survive being on an exploding island, several dinosaur attacks, a fall off of a cliffside, and Chris Pratt literally jumps through the jaws of a T. rex. And yet they remain unscathed and alive.
Suspension of disbelief can only be pushed so far until it breaks and the audience is left with characters they know are only alive because the script says so.
1. Doubling Down
The worst thing about Fallen Kingdom thus far it that it is doubling down on what was by far the stupidest part of Jurassic World.
Vincent D'onofrio's entire character in Jurassic World was unbearably stupid. He droned on for the entire film about weaponizing the dinosaurs and how much money there was to make from it. Of all the things that generated backlash in Jurassic World (the heels, the raptor-bros, etc.), D'onofrio's character was by far the most egregious.
And yet, Fallen Kingdom builds upon this plot thread and makes it the crux of its second half. After the island explodes, the plot moves to a mansion where representatives from governments around the world bid on dinosaurs like a black market.
Where the film should have moved away from this trainwreck of an idea, Trevorrow has instead opted to commit even more hardily to the concept, as if to prove it wasn't a stupid idea, to begin with. Which is a strategy of screenwriting that almost never ends well.