By Emad El-Din Aysha, PhD
... My only complaint, however, was how Bryce Dallas Howard was handled. She was almost the damsel in distress, especially in the scenes at the Biosyn HQ, in marked contrasted to the kick-ass Malta sequence. You see it in the parachute scene. You see it in the scene where she’s hiding under the water while the giant plant-eating dinosaur is inexplicably looking for her and a number of other scenes. If this was made to make Kayla look good, I don’t know. I certainly hope not, for both their sakes. Bryce Dallas Howard is a great actress and a very pretty one too. I liked her so much in the first movie. She was the quintessential busybody working girl that didn’t have time for marriage and kids and stuff. Its cheesy soap opera fair, but it works. Here you can’t quite place her down, and you can tell Bryce Dallas Howard can’t make sense of her own character either. And she’s gained weight for some reason and didn’t look very happy or enthusiastic while acting, even when she’s winning. Where’s the feisty actress who insisted on wearing high heels whilst running away from a T-Rex?
A laughable scene but worth it and consistent with her character as the ambitious businesswoman prototype. Here’s Claire is made out to be overly icky when it comes to the locusts, and the same goes for Ellie, which doesn’t make any sense. Hence the scene with the burnt locusts in the computer backup room. To be fair another consistently handled theme that is central to the plot is redemption. Dr. Henry Wu was always portrayed as a mercenary in the previous JW movies but here he’s older and wiser and also very humble, praising Charlotte for her true genius, whereas he’s just a functionary. He gets his second chance when Maisie agrees to work with him, defending his case to her friends, and so the world is saved and humanity learns to live at peace with the dinosaurs. When Kyla gets her new plane and writes the number ‘2’ on it, you feel this is an allusion to second chances. And of course Grant and Ellie get their second chance. Dodgson by contrast had his chance to redeem himself when he saw his forest going up in smoke, with Malcolm warning him that he was going to end up like Prometheus and be gored to death, and he didn’t take it.
There’s problems with the casting too. Everybody seems to have the same regulation size and shape head. This is very evident with Soyona Santos and Rainn Delacourt but even with one of the good guys, Wyatt Huntley (Kristoffer Polaha) and even Kyla to be honest, and the cappuccino maker dude that Malcolm has a tirade with. I’m assuming there’s no relationship between this and the equally roundish features of the director, Colin Trevorrow. Isabella Sermon was a pleasant surprise however. She’s strong willed and posh and frightfully grownup here, a far cry from her scared little girl performance in the previous movie. She’s practically the only person with some passion in her performance.
The person I least liked was Jasmine Chiu as the TV newscaster Gemma Zhao. She was so cute it was unbearable. Elva Trill wasn’t half bad. Daniella Pineda was non-incidental. And, and…
Let me clarify that the performances weren’t bad by any means but laboured. The performances in the first Jurassic World movie were much nicer. More energetic if comedic. Everything else seems low key, even in some of the action sequences. I wasn’t that impressed by the music either. It suffered from the same species of generic problems.
The special effects varied widely as well. Some of the creature design and animation was great, such as the feathered dinosaur that went after Owen and Kyla, and not nearly as good in others. Blue wasn’t that impressive here and her young pup Beta wobbled too much like a stop-frame animation creation. The CGI in the original Jurassic Park was better, as were the animatronics. It just goes to show that if you don’t start out in the stop-frame business, you don’t know what to do in CGI. Beginning from high tech is not a recipe for success.
Well, that’s enough of that. The movie still hits the mark on enough points and is better that Fallen Kingdom if not quite as good as the first JW. And on the plus side I don’t think they’ll be making any sequels in the foreseeable future, to keep both the critics and the fans satisfied – and quiet. Now to talk speculation about the past that could and should have been. I said above Colin Trevorrow was originally going to do the last Star Wars movie, even planning to call it (interestingly enough) Duel of the Fates, after the great musical piece by John Williams in Phantom Menace. That tells you straight away something about his character. He’s very loyal and a fanboy himself. His plan for the last movie included all the characters from the second movie and in important roles, including Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega). The plotline was convoluted and had too many storylines – sound familiar? – but, after watching this, you can be pretty damn sure that it would have been tremendously entertaining and satisfying emotionally if not intellectually. And we can cut the director some slack for the conflicting subplots here since it was J.A. Bayona who directed Fallen not poor old Colin. He just had to repair the pieces in this movie.
The Studio system however chewed him up and spat him out, and we ended up with J.J. Abrams who is a good director by all means but even more into nostalgia and recycling that this guy. And Abrams wasn’t nearly as loyal to the fans as Mr. Colin. He didn’t do the obvious and logical thing by having the three heroes from the original Star Wars series all pictured together – Princess Leila, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. That’s precisely what Colin Trevorrow did here, with Grant, Ellie and Malcolm. So, credit where it’s deserved. He has a rich colour palette here, as he did in the first JW movie, and it fits the kind of world and creatures on display. I’m also glad to see Laura Dern in a proper role where everybody loves her and delights at her femininity, a chance to redeem herself from her Vice Admiral Holdo role in Last Jedi. She was a looker in her day and can play the geeky doctor and the sassy nurse equally well; she does both here to be honest. (Sam Neill may not have been in best form in this movie but he was playing a klutz in the original Jurassic Park anyway, a far cry from his role in the Omen certainly). Imagine what would have happened in the third and last Star Wars movie if Holdo had survived Last Jed?!
Again, Star Wars as it could have been. Convoluted but well worth the wait. What does the future hold for the director and the franchise and dinosaurs in general? Who knows? We all owe a debt of gratitude to Steven Spielberg for the first Jurassic Park, a superbly paced, magical, exiting, tragic and downright scary and exhilarating movie and we should be charitable to anybody else who tries to do the same thing. Even he wasn’t able to do the same thing in his sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which came off as very cheesy and preachy and overdone. Thank Spielberg again for reviving the popular fascination with dinosaurs and I think Colin Trevorrow has done a decent job in keeping that obsession going for young and old alike.
Let’s just hope they don’t introduce dinosaurs in through the back door, via any rebooted Star Wars franchise, and if they do they can at least have the decency to hire Spielberg or rehire Trevorrow. They’re practically the only people on the planet who know how to do it right!!!
Special thanks to my Sudanese friend, El-Mubarak Saleh, for highlighting the significance of Maisie’s youthful rebellion. Otherwise I wouldn’t have caught onto the thematic functions of her character.