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SO LONG, ISLA NUBLAR: THOUGHTS ON FALLEN KINGDOM’S FIRST TRAILER

Full of spectacle, Fallen Kingdom’s first trailer is big, loud, and definitely has more teeth. Unfortunately, though, it’s far from perfect.

THE END OF THE (JURASSIC) WORLD

For Jurassic fans, the past few days have been the best in — without exaggeration — years. After a ridiculously long period of complete, confidence-shaking silence, Universal finally started giving J.A. Bayona’s sequel to Jurassic World the marketing it so desperately needed, and that fans so desperately craved. Director-turned-writer Colin Trevorrow had said things were about to get loud, and — though past experience with Jurassic’s marketing did cast some doubt over that statement — he certainly wasn’t mistaken. We’ve been treated to teaser, after teaser, after teaser, culminating in a tantalising behind-the-scenes featurette… and then another teaser.

I’d planned to discuss it all in this article, finishing up with my thoughts on the trailer itself — but that’s not going to happen. After watching said trailer, it’s pretty much all I can think about. Besides, there are many months — and, I suspect, maddening periods of little to no news — ahead in which to talk about the other stuff, and a handful of the points I’d intended to make will still prove relevant here. So…

After spending more time than I care to admit repeatedly refreshing various social media feeds and Universal’s main YouTube channel, I promptly disconnected from everything when the trailer finally dropped. I wanted my thoughts to be entirely my own as I set about writing this article, and entirely my own they are. Other than some vague impressions from a few lucky folks who got to see it early, I have no idea what the various members of the Jurassic community made of the trailer. I, however, genuinely enjoyed it.

THAT’S HOW IT ALWAYS STARTS…

A predictable, eye-rolling response, yes, but, given my borderline hatred for the first Jurassic World film, a surprising one, too. If you’re thinking, ‘It’s just the hype talking. You’ll hate it tomorrow!’ bear with me; I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do.

The main reason? Dinosaurs. I don’t intend to keep bringing up my feelings about Jurassic World when talking about its sequel — in fact, other than a potential project or two I’m in the very early stages of, I’m pretty much done talking about it — but it’s necessary to do so here.

As revealed through the teaser site masraniglobal.com, Simon Masrani opted not to brand his park Jurassic Park because he thought it sounded ‘small.’ Jurassic World certainly sounds the opposite, and, in doing so, fosters expectations… which is why it was disappointing to find so relatively few dinosaurs in the film that shares its name. In Michael Crichton’s original novel, there’s reference to herds of hysilophodonts bounding around like kangaroos, to flocks of procomsognathids roaming around taking care of… well, more than one big pile of shit. There’s almost none of that in Jurassic World. As far as dinosaurs are concerned, in fact, the park looked a little boring. And, yes, I know there’s none of it in Jurassic Park, either, but I think that can be overlooked in light of the the extreme technological hurdles overcome in bringing even its handful of dinosaurs to ‘life.’

Fallen Kingdom, however, looks to have taken a big, three-toed step in the right direction.

Though it does raise some questions about just where the hell these new animals were during the events of Jurassic World*, I couldn’t stop a big, goofy grin from spreading across my face when I noticed those compys fleeing the volcano alongside Owen… a grin that was quickly replaced  as the trailer continued.

It isn’t often that I have a physical response to… anything. Usually, everything I’m feeling goes on strictly on the inside, behind an expression that, I hope, betrays nothing. The second half of Fallen Kingdom’s trailer represents a rare exception. My mouth fell open as that fantastic-looking carnotaurus rounded the Gyrosphere, and my hands jumped to the sides of my head as the Rex took it out.

First time through, I’d assumed that would be where the trailer finished. Cut to black. Logo. Date. It wasn’t, though… and I sat glued to my screen as the madness continued, culminating with a shot no doubt intended to make general audiences, ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Aah!’ but which was, for me — and, I assume, a fair number of fans — an emotional gut-punch.

Seems like that rescue mission doesn’t go quite according to plan…

AND THEN, LATER, THERE’S…

Somewhere out there, there’s a Jurassic fan who just watched the trailer once and proceeded to get on with their life. Needless to say, it isn’t me. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many times I watched it in the minutes following its release, but a conservative — very conservative… — estimate would be ten. And it’s a good thing, too, because about forty-five minutes after it dropped, my WiFi stopped working. Half-an-hour later, it’s still down, which means I’m writing from memory (and the copious amount of screenshots currently scattered across my desktop).

I’m pretty sure the inability to watch it a couple of hundred more times qualifies as a form of torture, but, in a way, it’s been for the best. The minutes spent trying to figure out what’s wrong with my Internet have given me time to think, to digest, and to come up with a few thoughts more coherent than, ‘OMG-I-loved-it!’

Truth be told, I didn’t love it. I really, really liked it, but it has a few issues I can’t ignore.

The most general of these issues is that some of the CGI is still noticeably rough, and in the scenes set on Nublar, there seems to be more of that unpleasant bluish tint that made Jurassic World such a cold-looking affair. Coupled with the fact that I expected the volcanic stuff to be a good deal darker and more visually dramatic, I can’t help but find what’s offered here a little disappointing. Instead of this

… I expected something more akin to this

And then there’s the fact that the thing is, frankly, a bit of a mess.

After that weird title-card touting Spielberg’s involvement rather than Bayona’s, it’s pretty much all over the place — which is concerning, given that inconsistency was one of Jurassic World’s foremost problems. There’s very little sense of flow, and when the film’s logo appears at the end, it feels awkward, forced, like the trailer originally had a different, more natural, conclusion.

Of course, the finale isn’t the only thing that feels unnatural. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the Rex ultimately being treated as the hero of both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, and Fallen Kingdom looks set to repeat that mistake. Given that both Claire and the character played by Justice Smith (rumoured to be named Franklin) seem to teleport into the Gyrosphere, there’s obviously a bit of clever editing going on, but — whatever leads to it — the end result is the Rex standing over the downed carnotaurus, roaring in victory while a very edible human stands mere feet away. What…?

You might make an argument that Owen is standing relatively still at that point, but, given that his position relative to the Gyropshere changes continually, the Rex must’ve noticed him as it approached. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fantastic moment, and the shot of the volcano exploding as Jurassic World’s Rex finally unleashes her most iconic roar is jaw-dropping, but without the context I hope the film provides, there’s an undeniable element of convenience to it.

SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF

Elsewhere, we see Owen’s reunion with Blue, which, in an excellent twist for long-time fans, takes place in the vicinity of a very familiar vehicle.

The thing is, said vicinity isn’t anywhere near as familiar as it should be. When it fell from the tree in Jurassic Park, the Explorer came to rest at a distinct angle in the tree’s roots. In Fallen Kingdom, it’s presented as lying pretty much flat, with any nearby trees being a good few meters away. There is an argument to be made that the Explorer would absolutely have moved after almost thirty years in a constantly growing and shifting jungle, but with Jurassic World having underwhelmed on the nostalgia front, I reckon a bit more accuracy wouldn’t have gone amiss. Then again, in a film that apparently sees Owen survive being engulfed by a pyroclastic flow with the potential to reach 1,000°C, I doubt accuracy was the foremost concern…

Still, overall, I enjoyed the trailer. (Or maybe I enjoyed finally watching it more than the trailer itself. Ever-conflicted, I genuinely can’t make up my mind.) Whatever the case, it wisely excluded the cheesy, and, frankly, atrocious comedy present in some of the other footage we’ve seen, and didn’t spoil anything at all from the latter parts of the film. In fact, on the basis of the trailer alone, you could be forgiven for thinking that Fallen Kingdom is just a big, dumb disaster movie with dinosaurs. Those of us who’ve been paying attention, however, know it’s not, and those who haven’t been are in for a hell of a surprise next June — assuming, of course, future trailers take a similar non-spoiler approach.

Would I have liked the focus to have been a little more on story and a little less on spectacle? Would I have preferred to witness that jaw-dropping shot of the Rex in a darkened cinema rather than a well-lit bedroom? Definitely, but there’s still a lot to be excited about here — and a lot of new questions to ponder. For example, we know the Rex makes it off the island, but the volcano erupting as it takes down the carnotaurus certianly makes it seem like an incredibly close call.

And if Owen, Claire and Franklin (?) plunge into the sea, why did we also see them flee the carnage on the back of a truck? Given those leaked pictures of the three scrambling onto a beach, I doubt their time on Nublar ends with that plunge — which opens the door for some truly heartbreaking shots of the island (and its inhabitants) post-pyroclastic flow…

Like I said, there’s a lot to be excited about, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot more over the coming weeks. At last… at long last, the marketing for Jurassic World 2 has begun. It’s here. It’s (mostly) awesome… and this is just the beginning. There’s never been a better time to hold on to your butts.

*
Obviously, there’s the budget to consider, but I would’ve been more than happy to abandon some of Jurassic World’s more bombastic moments in favour of seeing a few more dinosaurs.

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