Every Jurassic Park movie faces the same question: what the hell is “a Jurassic Park movie”? A post-credits scene in this week’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom could finally let the question die, and allow Jurassic World 3 to be a totally new turn in the series.
[Warning: this post contains major spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.]
The end of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park had no franchise ambitions: After fleeing gallimimus, velociraptors and a T-Rex, Dr. Alan Grant and company jumped on a helicopter and never looked back at the overrun Isla Nublar. But a domestic box-office gross of over $350 million meant the dinos would return. Again.
Subsequent Jurassic sequels struggled to justify a return to the island and run-ins with reptilian carnivores. The pitch for The Lost World: Jurassic Park was bold: “This time there are two Tyrannosaurus rexes! And one plows through San Diego!” The third installment tricked Grant — and the audience — into returning for a rescue mission. The 2015 reboot-sequel Jurassic World felt an obligation to the theme park concept (despite dropping it from the title), and imagined a society dimwitted enough to reconstruct John Hammond’s vision with a bigger, more ferocious tourist destination. Lives were lost. Shocker.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a movie indebted to everything before it, finds No-Longer-Confined-to-Heels Heroine (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Charming Vest Guy (Chris Pratt) on a mission to save their prehistoric pals from re-extinction by volcano. A visit to a park? Check. Stampedes of omnivores? Check. A tussle with razor-toothed beasts? Many. A reminder of the loose, genetic science that inspired author Michael Crichton’s original book? You won’t see Mr. DNA, though BD Wong is back and shouting about splicing!
That interpretable identity of Jurassic World as a franchise, the question of which bits and pieces audiences need to summon the jaw-dropping spectacle of the 1993 original, is what ultimately bogs down Fallen World’s horror-splotched circus act. Like The Lost World, a completely down-the-middle sequel save for the freewheeling dino-hunt sequence and 8-year-old Spielberg rampaging his T-Rex toy through Amblin-esque suburbia, Fallen Kingdom is at its best when indulging in the ludicrous and eye-popping. Not even Volcano could stage pyroclastic terror like this movie’s early set piece. Lava is cool again, thanks to director J.A. Bayona.
What comes after that — the unraveling of a Capitalist conspiracy involving British Scumbag With Dollar Bills for Eyes (Rafe Spall), a hybrid-of-a-hybrid dino-assassin dubbed the “Indoraptor,” and an auction with the world’s most frequent Mar-a-Lago visitors — is... not as cool as lava. An amalgamation of Dennis Nedry’s shaving-cream caper in Jurassic Park and InGen’s salvage attempt in Lost World, the logic that allows for the Indoraptor to stalk Fallen Kingdom’s heroes and villains through a shadowy mansion slowly envelops Bayona’s wild ride like a thick blob of sap. “We need to save the dinosaurs!” each good person says at some point. “Bwa ha, no, we’re turning them into pets or weapons or something worth lots of money!” replies the multitude of villains. Didn’t Vincent D’Onofrio’s Burly Security Bro already explain this in the first Jurassic World? Shh, Bayona’s movie whispers, this is the only way we get to see the Indoraptor fight Blue the Raptor in fisticlaws, backlit by lightning like two 1930s Universal Monsters.
The reason Fallen Kingdom’s info-dumping doesn’t solidify into amber around this weathered franchise is because the final note is rather brilliant. In an act of moral righteousness, new character Precocious Granddaughter Clone (Isabella Sermon) slams a big red button granting escape to the imprisoned dinosaurs. They scamper into the woods of Northern California, free to be wild, American beasts.
This is what our heroes wanted… or not. Instead of relocating the resurrected species on the destroyed Isla Nublar to a nearby island (Isla Sorna looking pretty good right now), stygimolochs, triceratopses, brachiosaurus, compys, and the rest of the bunch will take root in the ecology of the continent. If rabbits on Australia are any indication, this is not going to work out well.
Fallen Kingdom’s final moments teases what could come in Jurassic World 3, with a post-credits scene promising a twist that’s even more ominous and expansive. In the film’s coda, we see Blue, distraught over the apparent betrayal by her friend Vest Guy, standing cliffside and gazing over a neighborhood straight out of E.T.. Is there room for a lonely, hyper-intelligent raptor in the world of mankind? Probably not.
”Welcome to Jurassic World,” says Dr. Ian Malcolm to a panel of worried senators. A simple “we’re fucked” would have been fine, but hey, we appreciate the reference, doc.
So mankind must now coexist with dinosaurs. Not easy! In the post-credits scene, we see a flock (er, a murder?) of pteranodon tearing down the Paris Hotel’s fake Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. It’s a sign that the end — or at least the end of humans reining over the food chain — is nigh. It’ll also make one hell of a Hangover sequel.
Anyone familiar with the recent arc of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes can imagine where Jurassic World 3 might go. Like Fallen Kingdom, Rise saw humans investigating the reasoning capacities of apes and experimenting with mind-altering drugs to expand their potential. Mankind’s failure to stay in its lane caused the trials to spin out of control, with a Simian flu wiping out large portions of the population and the brainiac chimpanzee Caesar leading a revolution for his species. By War for, the humans are all but decimated, with the remaining few either imploding or adapting to the ape lifestyle.
Blue could be the Caesar of this Jurassic future, InGen’s longtime interest in monetizing the reengineering of dinosaurs having caused an extinction level event for the world population. The post-credit pteranodon attack, along with a glimpse of the mammoth Mosasaurus gobbling up surfers off Isla Nublar’s coast, make this tease all the more terrifying: There was no stopping this takeover. The dinosaurs have wings! They can swim! We were already screwed. We were also stupid enough to build laser sights into their brains.
”[Jurassic World 3] is a movie I’ve wanted to see my whole life, and I knew it would take two movies to earn it and to get there,” writer-producer Colin Trevorrow told Uproxx in a recent interview. Trevorrow, who directed the first Jurassic World, will return to the director’s chair for this next film, and while his installment was a stale imitation, enthusiasm for the off-the-rails approach to the next sequel is hard to meet with skepticism. Rise of the Planet of the Raptors sounds ridiculous enough to work — barring any return to the park.
Around 2003, John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) wrote a screenplay for a never-produced Jurassic Park IV, in which a mercenary retrieves Nedry’s DNA-carrying Barbasol, only to be captured by an evil baron who’s created an army of Black Ops raptor SEALs, and wants the mercenary to lead them into battle. In one scene, the raptor soldiers parachute down and waste to a battalion of machine-gun-toting drug dealers. Later drafts reportedly featured dino-human crossbreeds. This is how far “Jurassic Park” stretches in the right hands.
I don’t expect Trevorrow’s apocalyptic take to depart that far from the source material, though Fallen Kingdom lifts heavily from Sayles vision of a weaponized raptor squad. British Scumbag With Dollar Bills for Eyes’ plan was always to replicate the supercharged Indoraptor and sell them to the highest bidder. How does mankind survive in a world taken over by dinosaurs? The genetic arms deal of the future could give way to a solution. The characters in these movies are cocky enough to think the answer is “with more dinosaurs.” (Or better yet, Sayles’ kooky crossbreed idea; based on how many times they cut to Precocious Granddaughter Clone’s raptor-like eye, I won’t be surprised to learn she was built with a dose of dino DNA.)
What is a Jurassic Park movie? Whatever it wants to be, and at this point, it’s time to shake things up. Jurassic World offered more of the same. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom explored new possibilities while playing it safe. Jurassic World 3: you have permission to go full chaos.