Zooming In #6: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Rise or Fall of the Series?

Rain is pouring down on Isla Nublar, the location of the events of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, as a mission aims at retrieving bone fragments from the hybrid dinosaur Indominous Rex. The shots alternate between a team on land and one in the lagoon, as the occasional lightning strike offers a sporadic source of light and illuminates the threats looming in the darkness surrounding the unsuspecting soon-to-be-victims who are stalked by a Tyrannosaurus on land and a Mosasaurus underwater. After the inevitable happens, the scene shifts to public outrage about the impending volcano eruption on the only island to inhabit the formerly extinct dinosaurs and reptiles, raising the question as to whether or not extinct animals brought back to life deserve rights, which alongside the use of such animals by humans serves as a guiding theme of this film.

I have a deep love for the Jurassic franchise and the aforementioned opening scene is among my favourites in the series, not only visually but also because of how it introduces the central themes and atmosphere of the motion picture to the audience. Since Fallen Kingdom receives a lot of hate, I am going to explain why I love this movie in today’s post.

Spoiler warning for obvious reasons, but this film is four years old at this point, so what are you doing?

Synopsis

As for the plot: dinosaurs are about to go extinct again due to an impending volcano eruption. Claire and Owen, the heroes of Jurassic World embark on a mission to save the creatures and take them to a sanctuary where they can live freely – at least they hope so.

Take in the Fall of a Kingdom – Cinematography

As stated earlier, the cinematography is imposing and immersive in both the film’s greater and more subtle moments. While it establishes a dark and threatening atmosphere at the beginning and towards the end when Fallen Kingdom delves into Gothic horror, it makes the small moments all the more sombre and thoughtful. When the characters first make it to the island and witness a Brachiosaurus in a scene that is very reminiscent of the first introduction of the creatures in the original Jurassic Park, it hits the same notes as the original film, except now in a sad tone, as we know what is going to happen to the creatures if the rescue mission is not successful. There are several more small moments like this but where the cinematography of Fallen Kingdom really shines is in its climactic scenes.

The first and last dinosaur seen by the characters while they’re on the island is a brachiosaurus. While the giant animal is peacefully wandering around in the first scene, she is about to be killed by the erupting volcano in the later scene. As the volcano erupts, clouds of dust and ash swallow her as she stands up on her hind legs and desperately wails. Alongside the characters leaving the island on a ship you helplessly see her dying from their perspective. Like them, you can’t help her, obviously, and it is as if you were there on a ship departing from the island.

Taken from http://www.jurassicworld.com/ Please, please, please don’t sue me universal, I am commenting on this film, i.e. fair use.

The cinematography carries such scenes and makes them hit all the more harder and especially in such emotional moments, it creates great immersion. Not only does it make the film look pretty, but it also helps to convey its plot and themes to the viewers on a visual level. In this case, it really creates a feeling of witnessing the end of an era, that being the end of free roaming dinosaurs, as only a selected few of them are saved, however not for altruistic reasons.

Living Weapons, Replacements AND Living Beings

Thematically, Fallen Kingdom picks up where Jurassic World left off and develops the nefarious means of usage for the creatures further. In the first film, someone hopes to use a trained pack of raptors in order to combat the hybrid “monster” Indominous Rex and test how well you can apply these creatures in combat situations.

need a sleep paralysis demon? Just an example of Fallen Kingdom going full-on horror. taken from: http://www.jurassicworld.com/

Part two takes this to a new extreme, as it puts this element at its centre. The mission that we witness in the opening scene aims to extract genomes from the dead hybrid’s bones in order to create an even more dangerous creature that can be used as a weapon: the Indoraptor. On an auction in which the remaining dinosaurs which have been saved from Isla Nublar are sold off to the highest bidder, this creature is presented and marketed using the events of the Jurassic World incident as a reference for its destructive capabilities. Not only are living beings sold off to those who are willing to pay most, but they are also marketed as and turned into weapons, especially the hybrid monstrosity who turns into a killing machine once a special signal is triggered.

This plot point has been set up in Jurassic World but it has been present throughout the entirety of the series, as all the dinosaurs are hybrids of sorts that would not be able to exist otherwise, which their creator, Henry Wu points out in Jurassic World, but through the creation of the Indoraptor, all previous confines are breached and a living killing machine with the sole purpose of destruction is made. The film hones in on this breach and makes you understand the severity of the situation: even the creator of the murderous dinosaur utters his concerns about selling the creature, as he implies that those who buy it might recreate it in masses and use it for nefarious means and that despite being an advocate for science without restrictions.

Things escalate even more when it becomes apparent that the technology used to recreate the dinosaurs has been used to clone a human. In both respects Fallen Kingdom makes a point that these things are major transgressions and while I have read several reviews in which the aspect of human cloning was pointed out as unrealistic, I think that it’s really just the logical consequence and next transgressive step to be made in the series. If it is possible to bring back extinct creatures in the world of the Jurassic franchise, it should not be too difficult to apply this technology to humans, especially since it has been established from the beginning of the series that all the dinosaurs are cloned hybrids.

Apart from being used as and reduced to attractions, prey for poachers and living weapons, dinosaurs are also depicted as the living beings that they are. While they have been created artificially, the fact remains that they are living beings and so is the cloned girl. She is a human regardless of the circumstances surrounding her birth and her existence as a human being in itself disproves the notion that artificial life is of “lesser worth”.

Now, here is where things get tricky: animal rights are a major plot point as stated earlier but animal liberation also finds its way into the film in one way or another. However the framing is a little bit iffy and not entirely applicable to the real world. Elements of animal liberation are addressed less explicitly, for instance when the film raises the question as to what right we even have to decide over other living beings.

Throughout the entirety of the story, humans put their particular interest above the well being of the non-human animals also when discussing which rights they should have. On one hand, this reflects how inconvenience and opportunism can interfere with moral behaviour in our world, but on the other hand, it points out the issue that debates about rights for non-human animals are always based on an anthropocentric perspective, since we cannot take the perspective of other animals. Animal rights find themselves in a tension, since they might be profitable to non-human animals, but inherently cannot be discussed from their perspective. Fallen Kingdom‘s take on this is interesting in that it raises the question about animal rights and animal liberation but does not provide a clear answer and instead leaves things open. While this might look like fence-sitting, you could also argue that the film does not presume to just offer an answer, as that would ignore the issue mentioned above.

At the beginning, a court decides that there should be no governmental interference on the dinosaurs’ home island, since it is private property, as are the dinosaurs, which in turn leads to the rise of extinct animal rights movements. When the protagonists decide to take action, they unknowingly contribute to the abuse of the creatures, as they are going to be shipped off and sold as weapons and such and end up in mortal danger towards the end of the film. Despite acting in the non-human animals’ interest the characters’ actions do not necessarily benefit them, which again is due to other characters’ lust for profit, but the issue remains: as a human you cannot really act in favour of non-human animals, as the barrier in communication is still present. You can only do what you think is right for the animals. Finally, the climax and ending of the film further highlight these issues.

There are alternatives to this and the parallels between the scenario at the end of the film and this stuck out to me. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur on Unsplash

Towards the end, the protagonists find themselves in a vicinity in which the last dinosaurs are about to suffocate due to leaking gases. They have the choice to push a button and free them, risking that the dinosaurs run wild and harm humans or not to free them and let them die. This is iffy in terms of framing, as there is a slight difference between freeing dinosaurs and smaller, less dangerous types of non-human animals, but apart from that, this dilemma again problematises human interference and the relation between humans and other animals. There is not really a right choice in this scenario and both options are merely more beneficial to one side: option one to the dinosaurs and option two to humans but both choices are given to humans and the exploitative system that has led to this situation in the first place just continues to perpetuate itself. In that respect, I really adore the scene that follows, as the cloned child decides to free the dinosaurs because they live – as she does. Of course, there are greater ramifications to this, but I love this moment because it points out what I think is enough justification for just leaving non-humans animals alone: the fact that they are living, breathing creatures like us should be enough justification to let them live without suffering, especially if we have the choice as we do in real life. For instance, we know what destruction animal agriculture causes to our planet and the ethics of it are out of question, so if we know that we do not need to depend on it and that we can adopt other ways of being that do not involve the exploitation and killing of other living beings, why shouldn’t we use them? Unlike the characters in the scene, we do have a choice whenever we buy food or choose not to pick the animal-based products .

That’s just my two cents but Fallen Kingdom does not really pick one answer as the correct one. The girl frees the animals and they start to roam freely, which results in casualties but just letting them die also wouldn’t have been a morally squeaky clean option. Instead, the story has an open ending and the state the Jurassic world finds itself in afterwards is up to debate. It makes you think about how humans and other animal can coexist and this question is too complex for a film to answer, which is why the open-endedness is fitting.

The End of an Era – the Beginning of Another or: Welcome to Jurassic World!

In the epilogue, Ian Malcolm, a recurring character from the first movie who was against the re-creation of dinosaurs in the first place, gives a monologue on the new world that has come to be after the release of the creatures. He points out the responsibility of humans for this, as this is a human-made issue that has gotten out of control. Things come full circle as the events he prophecises at the beginning of the film come to fruition in the epilogue. Initially, he remarks that we need to be wary of the ramifications of our technological progress, which led to the creation of dinosaurs and predicts that the fruits of this technology might otherwise spread over the planet without control and with unpredictable consequences, which happens at the end of the story, as the dinosaurs are now out in the open and all lines have been crossed through both the creation of a living killing machine and a human clone. At the end of the story, humanity has to learn to adapt to the new situation, for better or for worse, as Malcolm welcomes them to Jurassic World, planet earth with free-roaming dinosaurs and humans coexisting. As for the form of this coexistence, only part three is going to cast light on that.

Conclusion

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is among my favourites of the series, as it develops virtually all of its central themes further in a much grander scale than all previous films. Also in terms of visuals and the story, this is a stunning experience with great foreboding shots and an imposing plot stuffed with interesting themes. Just reducing this film to its subpar side characters and comedy seems incredibly reductive to me and the more I watch it, the more I enjoy it for its strengths even if I watch it trying to dislike it.

This is of course subjective and may vary from person to person, but I hope I could do this motion picture justice and bring across how well-developed its themes are, especially in context of the series overall.

What about you? Are there any films that are generally rather disliked that you adore? And if so, why? Please tell me in the comments or on social media.

As always, thank you for reading.

-sovlpvnk

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Published by sovlpvnk

On this blog, I talk about the alternative music scene and its ethics as well as LGBTQIAP+ -related topics. I mostly write about asexuality, political issues and their representation in media. Expect content in English and German once per month. Book and film reviews on my goodreads and letterboxd accounts: sovlpvnkblog and sovlpvnk.

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