By James Tehrani
By James Tehrani
WE GET IT. IF THE DINOSAURS COULDN’T BREAK FREE, HUNT, STOMP AND RAM INTO THINGS DURING THE “JURASSIC PARK” movies, they’d be about as interesting as zebras getting some Z’s in a zoo, but in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the latest installment in the post-Cretaceous chomp-com series—where the levity is often quite chewy—ineptitude and bad choices prevail.
Unfortunately, following best practices, especially when the Operational Risk is off the charts, doesn’t make for a fun flick, so safety protocols were essentially Tyrannosaurus wrecked. And while the human “monster” has been on display in all the “Jurassic” films to some degree, the baddies are brachiosaurus-sized compared with the ne’er-do-wells in the Steven Spielberg-directed “Jurassic” classic that started it all a quarter of a century ago.
In the latest “Jurassic World,” we have the protagonists and antagonists putting their lives on the line to either ensure the survival of these re-created prehistoric creatures or to cash in on their novelty via a high-stakes auction. Bidders are given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own or control a living dinosaur that doesn’t come with an instruction manual or a permit for that matter.
The movie opens with a group searching by submarine for the bones of the Indomius Rex, the laboratory-created hybrid hunter from the previous film. Of course, when they encounter a T-Rex, they fail to close a gate, which allows a certain massive waterborne dinosaur to swim out to sea, and leads to what should have been an OSHA reportable incident. First mistake.
The movie then jumps to Jeff Goldblum reprising his “Jurassic Park” role of Ian Malcolm and arguing at a congressional hearing why saving the dinosaurs is not a good idea: “We altered the course of natural history. This is the correction,” he says, meaning the future should not embrace the past. Shortly after, we see Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who first appeared in the 2015 movie “Jurassic World,” and her band of dino dilettantes at the Dinosaur Protection Group. Unlike Malcolm, they’re trying desperately to get someone in government to help them save these revived reptilians from a second extinction. Wouldn’t you know it: Isla Nublar, the location of the abandoned Jurassic World theme park, has a dormant volcano that is now ready to blow, so Claire makes it her mission to save them. But how?
She gets an offer from Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to go to the island on a mission to rescue Blue, the clever and well-trained velociraptor, as well as other dinosaurs and bring them to a sanctuary to live out their days in peace, which is actually marketing speak for a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest free-for-all. Of course, Claire won’t be able to capture Blue by herself, so she pays a visit to her beau from the previous film, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). They then proceed to argue about who broke up with whom, which really serves little purpose in the film—but neither do the cages and cells holding the dinosaurs that are pretty easy to open and even break out of and into—before she asks him to join her.
Owen, as we all know is the chivalrous velociraptor-whisperer, so there’s really no tension over whether he will join the expedition even though he doesn’t agree right away. He tells her: “I know why we’re here. A rescue op to save the dinosaurs on an island that’s about to explode. What could go wrong?”
Um, just about everything, and don’t snark so close to me, please! And did anyone consider sending some drones in to check out that volcano before putting people in harm’s way?
“Fallen Kingdom” is by far the darkest film in the series, but the one thing that this installment does more successfully than perhaps any in the franchise is make viewers care more about the dinosaurs than the humans who surround them; the most ferocious dinosaurs don’t seem so bad compared with the horrid humans in the movie. Even the humans who we are supposed to cheer for aren’t as lovable as the slew of ’saurs. For instance, watching dinosaurs jumping into the ocean to try to avoid the flames and, we assume, drown a violent death pulls at the old heartstrings more so than watching humans do the same. We know the people are going to survive. And watching a Brachiosaur seem to beg for a ship to return to pick it up as the dinosaur becomes engulfed in flames and lava behind a cloudy smokescreen only humanizes the creatures.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
As for old Blue, I don’t think this is much of a spoiler but Owen is able to track down the pack-hunting animal only to be double-crossed by the people who are supposed to help him catch her. Of course, one of Blue’s overzealous capturers injures her. Later, reason and logic are thrown out with the bathwater as two of the characters take a dangerous risk to enter a dino cage in search of blood for a transfusion for Blue. Another prominent character in the film decides it’s a wise idea to collect dinosaur teeth as souvenirs—from live dinosaurs no less. It does fit in nicely with the “What could go wrong?” storyline though.
The dinosaurs that are captured (exploited?) are brought back Noah’s Ark-style on a large vessel, albeit one by one instead of two by two, to Lockwood’s creepy old mansion for safekeeping. Of course, he, too, is double-crossed by his aide who secretly hires a nasty auctioneer to sell the dinosaurs with seemingly no consideration of how the buyers are going to clear customs.
The biggest risk, of course, is the creation of a second hybrid dino that’s even scarier than the Indominus Rex from “Jurassic World”; this one is a trained predator. B.D. Wong returns as the dino-engineering scientist Dr. Henry Wu, and he still seems hellbent on creating the most unpredictable and dangerous dinosaur possible with no regard for human safety or following a Safety Data Sheet. Come to think of it, we don’t recall seeing a single safety sign on the premises or a hard hat for that matter.
As you might expect, the dinosaurs don’t stay caged for long in this house of horrors. It’s actually pretty easy to open these cages even though they house 10-ton predators. Also, walls aren’t as reinforced as they should be, and when an elevator doesn’t close properly, it proves disastrous. My guess is there was never a Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) or Layers of Protection Analysis (LOPA) study conducted to help ensure the safety of the workers and people who live in the house, including Lockwood’s “granddaughter” Maisie. Sorry, subtle spoiler there.
This is where the movie jumps the megalodon in my opinion and becomes more of a psycho thriller in a “hunted” house. At that point, it’s hard to tell if the dinosaurs are still just predators or if they’re just much larger Jason Voorheeses who kill presumably for sport.
Either way, it’s clear the folks who were running the show never took safety in consideration before inviting these dinos into their world.
One other thing I’m pretty sure they never seemed to consider: Eventually these animals are going to get thirsty aren’t they? There wasn’t a water bowl to be found in that house. A thirsty carnivore is a safety hazard personified, or in this case dino-fied.
And what happens when they need to go to the bathroom? Who’s going to clean up that mess? It’s a biohazard of gigantean proportions.