(Spoilers ahead — consider yourself warned if you have not seen the Jurassic franchise films.)
The Last Jedi has been called a lot of things: the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back, a subversion of the franchise’s worst tropes, something something it ruined my childhood so let’s remake it starring Bib Fortuna as Rey. (Actually that sounds pretty good). But one thing the film doesn’t get enough credit for being is weird. Rey’s mirror cave vision is (creepy) weird, Chewbacca barbecuing a porg in front of its friends is (funny) weird, Luke milking the engorged thala-siren is (disgusting) weird. Weird is good! Weird is different! Weird stands out! Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fun movie I enjoyed, but the only line of dialogue I remember is Hannibal Buress pressing play on the Captain America Fitness Challenge video and commenting, “I’m pretty sure this guy is a war criminal now, but, whatever, I have to show these videos…” That’s a weird line in a superhero movie, and it’s hilarious. You know what recent blockbuster could have been weirder? Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Now, I know that may sound, well, weird, considering this is a movie about evil billionaires buying dinosaurs in a secret auction, but with the exception of that possibly-concussed goofball “Stiggy” the Stygimoloch, Fallen Kingdom has disappointingly little fun with this inherently goofy premise. Instead, the film, as noted by the Washington Post, “achieves the impossible: it makes dinosaurs boring.” Dinosaurs should never be boring. They’re magnificent, thunderous, awe-inspiring [cue Spielberg face] pre-historic beasts. Look at this dumb thing!
So why is Fallen Kingdom so humdrum?
It’s partially because 2rassic World is the fifth film in a franchise with a limited premise (how many times will the humans visit Dinosaur Island before, uh, stopping to think if they should?), but also: it’s not weird enough. For the Jurassic Park series to continue (and considering Jurassic World made over $1 billion at the box office, it’s going to continue for a while; Jurassic World III already has a release date), it needs to go full throttle on the ridiculousness of “genetically engineered dinosaurs escaping an island.” Or maybe just have the dinosaurs talk… Hm, yeah. Let’s go with the talking dinosaurs thing.
Now, I’m not envelope-pushing enough to claim Jurassic Park III is an objectively “good” movie — our own Kimberly Ricci ranked it last among all the Jurassic Parks; I’d probably put it… fourth? — but it does have my favorite scene from any non-OG Jurassic Park movie. (I say this as the world’s biggest The Lost World: Jurassic Park stan.) It happens 17 minutes into the film, after Dr. Alan Grant has foolishly agreed to visit Isla Sorna to rescue William H. Macy and Téa Leoni’s kid, but before we met the Spinosaurus, the most literally-named dinosaur (until the Indoraptor — it’s a raptor that stays indoors!). Dr. Grant has fallen asleep on an airplane, and when he wakes up, this happens.
I was 13 years old when Jurassic Park III came out, and up to that point, I’m not sure I had ever seen something so equally terrifying and hilarious. (Terrifying/hilarious is now a frequent occurrence in our current hellscape.) There are certainly other ways to show Dr. Grant’s PTSD-level anxiety about returning to Jurassic Park, but nope: talking raptor. This was the best decision — from writers Peter Buchman, Jim Taylor, and, weirdly, two-time Oscar winner Alexander Payne — in a mediocre movie. It’s also truly, impressively, amazingly weird, a lesson Colin Trevorrow should remember for Jurassic World III. Now that the park is gone and the dinosaurs are loose, that gives him the opportunity to do whatever the heck he wants in the trilogy-ender (as long as books and/or people named Henry aren’t involved). I want jockeys riding dinosaurs like race horses! Dinosaurs parachuting out of helicopters to attack their prey! If apes can shoot guns, why not dinosaurs? (We already know that they’re good at opening doors and windows.) Make Dino-Riders a reality. What does a Stegosaurus with a flamethrower look like? There’s only one way to find out.
(To circle back to the talking raptor for a second: Is that the weirdest scene in any tentpole blockbuster? I say yes. It stands out from, say, the trippy multiverse sequence in Doctor Strange, or the tedious silliness of Johnny Depp’s dancing in Alice in Wonderland, or Halle Berry playing basketball in Catwoman (everything in Catwoman is that weird), or literally all of Avatar, because Jurassic Park III is an otherwise normal-ish movie. It’s like if Ludwig van Beethoven decided, you know what would spice up this symphony? A sound drop of Stewie from Family Guy saying “victory is mine.” It’s also telling that according to director Joe Johnston, “Five weeks before we started shooting this movie, we threw the script out and started over… We never did have a final script. We did not have a final script until after we wrapped the movie.”)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — at their core, these are B-movies that too often try to be taken seriously. The moral consequence of dinosaurs being brought back to life has been tapped dry as a concept. Have a little fun! Clone kids shouldn’t be so depressing. Fallen Kingdom scratches the surface of so-goofy-it’s-good at times (“a haunted house… but with dinosaurs” is an inspired genre mishmash from J.A. Bayona — I’m also a fan of the t-rex vs. lion roar-off), but we, as a dinosaur-fearing/loving nation, should demand more weirdness from Jurassic World III. Here’s a pitch: Las Vegas has turned into the Hunger Games, except instead of arrows and knives, the survivors use dinosaurs to kill each other.
Does it make a lick of sense? Nope, but that’s the beauty of a film series where a doctor gets woken up by a talking raptor: it doesn’t have to.