I saw two movies and I noticed a common element to both of them: They both were only okay films, but they definitely served as evidence that a better film of that type could be made.
13 years ago, Elizabeth Banks found a spaceship containing a small Pikachu named Ryan Reynolds. Finding that the Pikachu has amnesia, she and her husband who didn’t end up marrying Pam on The Office try to raise him and find his partner. The Pikachu grows up to become a sociopathic detective, but not the Beledirt Dumbershoot kind. He proceeds to solve crimes and kill people brutally until something something magic of friendship and genocide. Also, the kid from Jurassic World 2: Let’s F*ck this Franchise is in it.
OKAY, REAL SUMMARIES
POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an insurance agent in the Pokémon Universe. He finds out that his estranged detective father has recently been killed and comes to Ryme City to collect his stuff. Ryme City is a unique place in the Pokémon world, as Pokémon battles are illegal there and Pokémon live as equals. At his father’s apartment, Tim finds a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) wearing a deerstalker (the Sherlock Holmes hat) who can talk, but only to Tim. He reveals that he has lost his memory but knows that Tim’s father isn’t dead, so the pair set out to unravel the mystery of what happened to him. Also, Mewtwo (Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) is in the movie and is basically a demi-god.
In 2006, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) see a spaceship fall from the sky containing a baby boy. They adopt him and name him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). When the boy starts to hit puberty, he discovers that he has more than just new hair growing somewhere, he has superpowers. However, he also has some serious mental issues which quickly drive him to do bad things using his abilities… bad things like murder because he’s freaking Superman, so you’re not gonna stop him. Tori tries to find the good in him and convince him to change before he ends up destroying the world.
On the surface, both of these films would seem to have nothing in common. However, both of them represent an important part of any industry: A proof of concept. Both of them are attempts to demonstrate the viability of a type of film, which is to say, a dark take on a typically lighthearted story. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, aside from having more teenage and adult humor coming from Ryan Reynolds’s Pikachu, also features a more realistic take on a world built around unbelievably powerful monsters that are constantly being imprisoned and pitted against one another. Brightburn, while it failed on some levels, showed us the idea of doing a horror film where the monster is just a perversion of a beloved figure (and if anyone says “isn’t that just an evil clown movie,” no, clowns are always evil).
Now, both of these films actually suffered from the same major flaw: They didn’t go far enough. I give credit that they did start to show us a Pokémon movie dealing with the actual ramifications of having unbelievably powerful creatures that we use for common purposes (Machamp can push a mountain and is seen directing traffic. Vanillish can reduce temperatures to near absolute zero and is working as an air conditioner. Squirtles are seen breathing water as firefighters. Hypersonic bird pokemon deliver mail), but they went out of their way to avoid most of the dangerous parts of that symbiosis (like when you tread on a Growlithe’s paw and it melts your face). The film has to obey the kid-friendly rules of “Pokémon are always kind and loving,” unless the plot demands otherwise, like Mewtwo. Hell, Mewtwo points out that humans routinely abuse, battle, and experiment on Pokémon, but at the end changes his mind because plot. If you’re going to dangle those threads, you’ve got to follow up on them! Give us the darkness and then give us the hopeful ending despite it! Go big or go home! Still, this film did at least give us a taste of that and it gives me hope that someone may take it further in the future.
Brightburn actually makes a slightly different error, but still part of the same flaw. In the film, Brandon Breyer is not evil because power corrupts and he’s f*cking Superman, but instead because nonspecific alien voices tell him to be evil. Sadly, that kind of removes some of the fun from the concept for me. Superman has always had a lot of great horror potential because basically none of us would be able to resist the temptation he faces every day. He has the ability to destroy almost anything if he really went all out, but he always puts himself at risk in order to minimize the damage to his opponents. Hell, in the animated Justice League, he gives a very angry speech to Darkseid explaining that he lives in a “world of cardboard.” When you can benchpress a star and melt someone’s head by looking at it too hard, you probably start questioning why you’re putting up with that asshole ranting on the radio, let alone why you’re intentionally avoiding killing the supervillain that’s attacking you. So, it’s really pretty easy to consider why Superman would become evil just from asking the question “why the hell not?” Instead, Brightburn just says “oh, alien possession monster stuff grrr.” It removes the actual depth of analyzing how easy it is to be evil when you have immunity from everything. But still, despite that, it manages to actually drive home some of what would be truly horrifying about an evil Superman: He’s always just toying with you. At any point, if he wanted you to be, you’d be dead before you could do anything about it. You’re not an ant to him, because an ant could bite. You’re a slug and he’s holding all the salt in the world. It’s not quite cosmic horror, because he still at least acknowledges you before killing you, but it’s damned close to the realization that all of human endeavor means nothing in the face of a being who can destroy the world with one hand.
Both of these films got a lot of stuff right, but also failed because they didn’t quite push the envelope enough. Still, they’re both fun and they both establish that there is a much better version of them waiting out there to be shot.
I really wanted to review this film. I did. I was so excited to see a new Jurassic Park film that I was positive I would enjoy it, regardless of other critical opinions.
For the most part, I try to be as positive as possible when reviewing films. I think that pretty much all movies have something redeeming within them, even terrible ones. However, I have decided to give this movie to my partner for this review, because I think it would be difficult for me to be as positive as I would normally want to be in this particular case.
Thus, take it away Grouch.
I say this with all sincerity:
F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. I’m so pissed off that you’re making me censor my f*cks right now, because I really want to say f*ck this movie.
In my head, I hear this being chanted to the “Hallelujah Chorus” as a choir of angels massage every second of this film out of my head.
Little bit of background:
I love Jurassic Park. I had the toys, I played the video games, I read the book, I watched the movie in theaters, on VHS, on DVD, on Blu-Ray, even in 3-D. I consider the moment when the T-Rex first steps out to be the moment when I first believed films could be f*cking magical. It’s a movie about people experiencing something awe-inspiring and terror-inducing at the same time. The T-Rex and raptors are amazing to see both for the people in the film and for the audience, while being terrifying at the same time when you’re reminded of just what they are. It’s a monster movie, just about majestic monsters.
When The Lost World came out, I actually kind of liked it. Was it Jurassic Park? No. But it had several scenes in it that I liked and it definitely tried to continue the first movie’s theme of how simultaneously beautiful and dangerous nature can be. It had some scenes that were stomach-turning (like gymnastics vs. a raptor), but it also had the raptors picking people off in the tall-grass, which I thought was genuinely horrifying.
In Jurassic Park III, much of the film is terrible, but it A) is short, B) is full of dinosaurs, and C) has Sam Neil, Tea Leoni, and William H. Macy in it. It’s not a good film, but it seemed to at least try to deliver what a sequel-decline of Jurassic Park would merit. I’m still mixed on the Spinosaurus taking out the T-Rex, but at least they were trying new things, even if most of them didn’t work.
Jurassic World was a movie that is a rarity for me. I didn’t like most of it. The characters were bland and there were, somehow, almost too many plotlines running for a Jurassic Park film, with several of them seeming pointless, especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s wasted talent. However, no matter what I felt at certain points during the movie, I never felt cheated by the film, because the Raptor-Rex-Rex fight gave me all the cinematic joy I felt the ticket price merited. If you had just told me that was the movie, that 10-12 minutes, and asked me to give you $20 bucks for it, I’d have handed it over so fast it would have caught fire. Any franchise that can produce something as awesome as a raptor running up a T-Rex’s back to attack another dinosaur deserves all of my money. In a franchise that thrives on instilling a feeling of awe in the viewer, that scene made me a kid again.
Then, there’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It makes me feel like a kid who thought the stranger would have the best candy.
The movie starts a few months after the last one with some guys collecting a bone from the Indominus Rex. Almost all of them get eaten by the mosasaurus which, despite the fact that it’s in a tank which has a clear sea-wall, is still alive somehow, but a few escape with the bone. A blue whale has to eat over 3 tons in a day, but, sure, the mosasaurus has been surviving on stuff near the tank, I guess. And apparently it’s undetectable, despite the fact that the mosasaurus, like most if not all aquatic reptiles, still had to surface to breathe. Also, its gate gets stuck half-open, so it escapes into the ocean. This will be the start of things that piss me off.
Three years later, Isla Nublar, the island which had the original park and Jurassic World, is going to be destroyed by the volcano on the island that apparently everyone had ignored until now. Spared no expense? How about putting it on an island that doesn’t have a volcano on it?
The US Government asks Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to testify about whether or not the dinosaurs should be saved. To tell you how enthused Goldblum was by this performance, he doesn’t play Ian Malcolm. Jeff Goldblum, who has played Ian Malcolm in a half-dozen non-Ian-Malcolm roles since Jurassic Park, doesn’t bother to put enough effort into his 4 minutes on-screen to seem like he’s even the same iconic character. It hurt me physically. Also, Malcolm says “let them die.” The government agrees.
Meanwhile, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), has a group of conservationists who are trying to save the animals. Yes, they’re trying to save genetically engineered dinosaurs and are seriously upset that the dinosaurs are going to be “extinct again.” Site B apparently was destroyed several years ago to replace dinosaurs at Jurassic World. The movie itself will point out the obvious stupidity of this several times when it reminds us that these dinosaurs are genetically engineered and lab-grown and thus easily replaceable. They can clone animals perfectly from dead cells, meaning NOTHING can actually go extinct in this world. I appreciate when a movie quickly renders the plot pointless, saves me the trouble of caring.
Claire meets with a rich guy who worked with John Hammond named Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is stated to have created the cloning process with John, but never been mentioned before now. He and his aide, Eli (Rafe Spall), say that they want Claire to get a bunch of dinosaurs to move to an island sanctuary, but they can’t get the velociraptor Blue, because she’s too smart. They need Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Blue’s trainer, to help. They then spend 15 minutes on pretending he’s not going to go, because this movie was written by chimps who were fed copies of Save the Cat!, the guide to predictable screenwriting.
Claire takes Grady, IT guy and comic-relief coward Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), and paleoveterinarian and tough-girl stereotype Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Rodriguez was originally supposed to be revealed to be a lesbian ex-marine, but that was cut due to the movie being produced by a 1950s housewife who thought she just needed “the right man.” They meet up with a bunch of mercenaries (oh, that’s always a good sign), led by Ken Wheatley (Ted “I’m Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, so there’s no way I’ll be a bad guy” Levine). They manage to find Blue before Wheatley shoots Grady with a tranquilizer and reveals that he’s just taking these dinosaurs to be sold by Eli. Wheatley takes Zia to look after Blue’s injuries and locks Claire and Franklin in a bunker that has an allosaurus. Also, the volcano conveniently starts erupting.
Owen wakes up to find himself about 3 feet from lava, which he starts to slowly crawl away from and somehow doesn’t die. He meets up with Claire and Franklin who managed to avoid the killer dino and the lava (which, apparently, doesn’t burn very much if it’s not plot-relevant), then get attacked by a Carnotaurus, which is attacked by the T-Rex, which is truly a heroine, as all the dinosaurs start to flee the island. The humans manage to get onto a boat departing the island, while the mercenaries somehow capture several of the animals we just saw running away from f*cking lava. In a scene designed to be a cheap emotional grab, we watch a brachiosaurus die from the volcano as it cries out in pain and fear. It’s still a pretty good scene, but it really is just a “okay, we need you guys to feel now” shot that the movie didn’t earn yet.
Onboard the ship, they hijack some T-Rex blood to transfuse into Blue, which somehow works. Back at Lockwood’s Estate, Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) finds out that Eli and a black-market auctioneer named Gunnar (Toby Jones) are going to sell off the dinosaurs to finance the Indoraptor, a hybrid of the Indominus Rex and a velociraptor which was designed by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) to be a weapon. They need Blue to be the mother to the next generation of them so they’ll obey humans, which the initial Indoraptor doesn’t really. Maisie tells Lockwood, but Eli kills him and somehow shatters his mosquito-filled amber cane. It’s also revealed that Maisie was a clone of Lockwood’s daughter and apparently that was why Hammond kicked him out of InGen. This is supposed to make sense, despite Maisie clearly being so young that Hammond was dead before she would have been born and that her mother’s death, the impetus for her cloning, would also have been after Hammond was dying in The Lost World.
The dinosaurs, as well as Owen and Claire, are caged at Lockwood’s house, which conveniently has brontosaurus-sized indoor cages. Eli and Gunnar auction off the dinos to all manner of bad guys before demonstrating the Indoraptor. Owen tricks a stygimoloch (which is a species that even the movie’s paleontology expert pointed out probably doesn’t exist, but that actually doesn’t bug me much since it’s genetically engineered) into ramming through walls and letting them out, before having it wreck the auction. Wheatley gets tricked by the Indoraptor into letting it out before it goes on to kill multiple people including Gunnar. It then stalks Owen, Claire, and Maisie through the house in the most ridiculous sequence in the film.
The Indoraptor seems to be more interesting in theatricality than actual effectiveness, something that’s particularly interesting not just because it’s an animal, but an animal that was created specifically to be a weapon. At least the Indominus Rex was just supposed to be a sideshow attraction, and this thing is supposed to be the SMARTER version. Instead, it gets tricked by Owen turning the lights out, even though it’s mentioned to be able to smell targets a mile away.
Eventually, Zia releases Blue, who goes to defend Owen and kills the Indoraptor by dropping it through a glass ceiling onto a triceratops skull in an act that definitely isn’t completely bullshit. Meanwhile, all the dinosaurs are being killed by poison gas, allowing Owen and Claire to, again, choose whether or not to let them die. They choose to let them die, but Maisie releases them because she’s also a clone and therefore thinks they’re the same as her. In return, the T-Rex kills Eli and destroys the Indominus Rex bone, allowing it to be the hero again. The film ends with the dinosaurs starting to interact with civilization as Jeff Goldblum narrates that humans and dinosaurs may now need to learn to co-exist.
So, you know the Joker’s thing about “a movie can ask you to suspend any disbelief, it just has to be consistent in it?” Yeah, this movie shoved that up its craphole about thirty seconds in when the mosasaurus eats a submarine unnoticed and apparently that’s just fine.
The biggest problem in the movie is that everyone’s motivations are stupid. Not just stupid, but really stupid. Claire, Franklin, and Zia are all about conservation, which would be fine if these weren’t animals that can be easily re-grown. Hell, in Jurassic World, they WERE all grown. Conservation is supposed to be about eliminating mankind’s intervention, but the dinosaurs ARE the intervention. And at the end of the movie, there’s only one survivor of many of the species, meaning they’re doomed anyway unless… wait for it… we just grow more of them. It’s hard to feel like their cause is urgent when it was rendered pointless 4 movies ago. It’s made even more hollow when, later in the film, they all decide to just let the dinosaurs die.
Eli’s motive is to make money to finance the Indoraptor by selling the dinosaurs on the black market, which seems dumb, considering he’s in charge of a multi-billion dollar fortune that he could easily use to just clone more dinosaurs to sell. Hell, they make the Indoraptor there and no one noticed until after it was fully grown. Why not add a couple of T-Rexes and someone will buy the juveniles for millions?
Wu’s motive is his love of mad science, but he’s barely in the film and even he thinks what Eli’s doing is stupid.
Owen’s motivation actually kind of makes sense, since he has a bond with Blue, but that means the most logical motivation in the movie is a guy wanting to save his pet. This is fine if the rest of the movie were John Wick, but, alas, it’s not.
The Indoraptor is stupid on so many levels. It is trained to attack a target that’s identified with a laser after hearing a sound cue. In other words, it can only attack targets that someone can point a laser at. Do you know what you can do if you point a laser at a target? You can shoot it in the head. We laser-guide missiles, but that’s because they’re taking out a huge area. The Indoraptor is only useful in attacking targets that don’t lock doors.
The volcano set-up not only is cliché and stupid, it gives way to lava physics and, even for Hollywood, the lava physics in this movie are terrible. Not only can people be inches away from it with no ill effects but at one point, Chris Pratt is hit by lava and is apparently fine later. A dinosaur is doused in it and barely tries to avoid it. I suspect that this movie was created by someone who was writing Jurassic Park/Volcano erotica but couldn’t get Tommy Lee Jones into the movie.
There are also weird references to Donald Trump in the movie, including Gunnar’s wig, a line about the President not believing that there ever were dinosaurs, some lines about political megalomania, and Ted Levine saying Pineda was “such a nasty woman.” Guys, if you want to make political satire, either make it good or put it in a movie where it fits better.
But I could have overlooked all of these things, all of them, if this movie didn’t fundamentally miss what Jurassic Park and, to a lesser extent, its sequels were all about: Spectacle.
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean cheap spectacle, I mean that Jurassic Park showed us something so new and so big that we couldn’t really get our minds around it and it did that by showing us characters that were experiencing the same sights with us. Even if you re-watch it, it holds up because it presents it through the characters, making us feel it. John Williams’s epic score manages to kick that feeling up to 11. Then, in the second and third act, where it’s more directly a monster movie, it still has surprises because we’re being reminded that all these amazing creatures are also horrifyingly dangerous. You can call it an analogue for the atomic bomb or some other destructive scientific advancement, but it could just as easily be for the iceberg that destroyed the Titanic or the stars themselves: Beautiful, amazing, mind-blowing stuff is also usually perilous.
This movie didn’t really show any of the beauty, partially because it almost never had the dinosaurs being dinosaurs (preferring to put them in cages or running from danger), partially because the people in the movie don’t seem particularly awed by the animals, and partially because THERE AREN’T THAT MANY DINOSAUR SCENES. Look, I’m sure someone is going to point out something like “There were technically more dinosaurs in this movie than any other” or some other fact like that to counter it, but it doesn’t matter whether or not there were a ton of dinosaurs in the background, the point is that most of the dinosaur scenes aren’t focused on the creatures themselves. They’re used as props, both literally and figuratively. There are a lot of great monster movies where the monster isn’t the focus, but the characters in this film really aren’t interesting enough to get by without the dinosaurs. Then, in the third act, the Indoraptor is just… f*cking awful. It’s so over-the-top corny, it even seems to have a Muttley-esque smirk when it’s tricking Wheatley.
It’s true that every time you show the audience something onscreen, the spectacle is lessened but, when you have the characters barely impressed that they’re interacting with dinosaurs, it’s even harder for us to be dazzled by it. I get that these people have spent time around dinosaurs but, seriously, half the time they treat them the way normal people treat dogs, which makes us more aware of how inane their decisions are. I mean, in the first movie, the T-Rex paddock turns into a cliff magically and NO ONE cared, because it was such an amazing scene that we were feeling it rather than thinking about it. Instead, this movie just made me think about how absolutely stupid much of it was, which is not what I want in a Jurassic Park sequel.
F*ck. This. Movie.
So, this movie is about 50/50 split. Unlike Last Jedi or other “controversial” splits, the split’s true for both reviewers and audiences. Some people liked it, some hated it. Even the positive reviews do seem to say it was “not great,” though. If you wanted to see some dinosaurs or are a fan of more traditional monster movies, this worked. If you really wanted to see Chris Pratt building a cabin, this was the movie for you. If you desired to see Claire and Owen suddenly get back together after basically no changes to their character since their breakup, then you needed this film. If you’re willing to just completely suspend disbelief, regardless of what the film is actually giving you to reward that suspension, then you had a good time.
Overall, if you liked it, I’m not gonna condemn you. If you didn’t, I’m not gonna blame you. I do like the set-up at the end, because there are a lot of great ways to take the next film.