Second Thoughts

So I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for the second time last night, and I actually enjoyed it a lot more the second time around. Though most of my complaints still stand (the Indoraptor is not nearly as memorable of a movie monster as the Indominous Rex, too much of the film takes place in the Lockwood mansion, etc), I just thought it was a more fun film this second time around. Still not as good as the first Jurassic World, which is still one of my favorite popcorn movies of recent memory, but more enjoyable than I thought it was the first time around.

Of course, this has me considering if I should make some edits to my review of the film. Nothing major, mind you, but maybe enough to showcase my newer appreciation for the Jurassic World sequel. Normally, I hate changing my reviews (outside of correcting spelling and grammatical errors, and lord knows I have to go back and do that often), but it’s not like I’ve never done it before. Opinions do change, after all.

This also got me thinking of another 2018 movie I’ve been thinking differently about from when I first saw it, but in this case, for less positive reasons. This film is Deadpool 2, which I find myself liking less and less the more I think about it. Yes, I do think it was an improvement over the first Deadpool, and I think that it is decently well made for what it is. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I like what it is. I don’t hate it, but the whole self-referential/deprecating humor of movies has run its course in my book. In this internet age, when things are mocked for taking themselves seriously, entertainment and media has followed suit, insisting on mocking themselves to “stay cool with the kids,” as it were. This isn’t saying I have a problem with humor. A movie can still be a comedy or even a bit of a stupid entertainment, and still take itself seriously (perhaps “genuinely” is a more accurate word?).

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that all Deadpool is is self-referential jokes. There’s only so many winks and nudges I can take from a movie. And just because you make fun of yourself for following easy tropes doesn’t change the fact that you’re still following those tropes!

Okay, now I’m getting a bit sidetracked. I suppose I’ll save my rants on modern media’s insistence on self-parody just to appease the cynical internet age for another day. My point is that I initially awarded Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom a 6.5 out of 10, while I gave Deadpool 2 a 7.5. After consideration on Deadpool’s sequel and seeing the Jurassic World sequel a second viewing, I actually find myself wanting to flat-out reverse their scores. I haven’t quite decided on that just yet, so in the interim, I’ve altered both movie’s scores to 7.0s, until I can more strongly decide on whether or not to alter my reviews. Of course, some might say a second viewing of Deadpool 2 may be in order before making such a decision, but that’s just the thing. I don’t find myself particularly wanting to see Deadpool 2 again any time soon. Doesn’t that say something?

Does this dilemma of indecisiveness and possibly changing review scores make me a bad critic? Eh, maybe. But I’d also feel a bit lame if I felt my reviews no longer represented my opinions. Besides, it’s not like I’m altering something I thought was great and suddenly am claiming it to be terrible or vice versa or anything.

This whole ‘ordeal’ has opened up another can of worms, however, in that I’m once again considering changing my rating system from its current .5 state to a simpler whole number scale. With simple whole numbers, the possibility of altering a score just doesn’t seem quite as taboo. Then of course there’s my silly idea of the “mostly” whole number scale, in which it’s whole numbers, except the 9.5 score remains, both as a means to be a little cheeky and have some fun at the expense of people who are maybe a little too stingy with their scoring, while still being able to seriously retain the prestige of perfect and near-perfect scores. Because if my earlier sidetracked rant a few paragraphs earlier was any indication, I have a fondness for things that can balance sincerity and silliness.

Again, I’m sidetracked. Case in point: my complaints with Fallen Kingdom still stand, but I thought it was more fun the second time around, while Deadpool 2 seems less appealing with time, so I might change those scores. Hell, even Black Panther, one of the better movies this year which I scored an 8.5, is feeling more like an 8.0 to me. That is, if I keep that ‘.5’ differentiation at all.

So anyway, I thought I’d ask you, my beautiful, beautiful readers, your thoughts on the matter. Is altering scores and tweaking reviews too unprofessional? Or does the changing of opinions justify such actions, if even just on occasion? Am I a bad critic (even if I am, I’m gonna keep writing anyway. So that’s a moot point)? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and whatnot.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

I loved 2015’s Jurassic World. I know, in this day and age of internet cynicism, it’s a popular movie for people to hate on because the characters make some illogical choices here and there (apparently the people complaining forgot they were watching a movie about a dinosaur amusement park running amok), but damn it, it was the sequel the original 1993 Jurassic Park always deserved. Just as important to me on a personal level, it also reminded me of that almost mythic outlook on dinosaurs that I had as a kid. Dinosaurs are always interesting, but Jurassic World made them wondrous again.

That’s why it saddens me that it’s sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, lacks that magic. It’s still ultimately a thrilling and exciting addition to the franchise, and even cleverly veers the series into horror territory. But it never has that same sense of wonder as its predecessor or the 1993 original.

Three years have passed since the events of Jurassic World, and now the island that housed the ill-fated amusement park is facing an impending doom, as a volcano on the island is now active and threatens the remaining dinosaurs (man, this theme park was doomed from the start! If it’s not an Indominous Rex it’s a volcano!).

Returning heroes Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) become a part of an expedition to rescue as many dinosaurs from the island as possible, before the inevitable eruption (take a hint people! God wants these suckers dead!). The expedition is helmed by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Jurassic Park founder John Hammond’s old partner. Lockwood wants to save the dinosaurs, feeling that mankind brought them back to life, and thus it’s their responsibility to save them. But the well-meaning billionaire is gravely ill, and his conniving right-hand man Eli Mills – who is in charge of Lockwood’s company’s future – has ulterior motives for the rescued dinosaurs. This of course leads to a series of set pieces taking place both on the doomed island, and Lockwood’s castle-esque home.

This brings me to one of the reasons I was disappointed with Fallen Kingdom, too much of the movie takes place in Lockwood’s mansion, making things feel considerably smaller than they did in Jurassic World. On the plus side, this benefits the film when it ventures into the horror genre territory, as many of the thrilling set pieces have a claustrophobic feel to them. But after Jurassic World gave us the whole island – let alone the theme park – to house both adventure and suspense, this sequel feels strangely unambitious by comparison. It works for what it is, but Fallen Kingdom often feels like it would be better suited as some kind of spinoff with different main characters, as opposed to the continuation of a movie as big as Jurassic World.

“The Indominous Rex made you hate it for killing the “real” dinosaurs. But the Indoraptor feels like just another raptor.”

Another downgrade is in both the film’s human and dinosaur villains. Mills comes off as a generic businessman villain, which falls short of Vincent D’Onofrio’s hammy-yet-somehow-dead-serious Vic Hoskins of the previous film. Meanwhile, Fallen Kingdom introduces us to the “Indoraptor,” a new hybrid dinosaur created from Jurassic World’s Indominous Rex and a Velociraptor (didn’t the Indominous Rex already have Velociraptor DNA?). Not only is the Indoraptor not featured nearly as much as its predecessor, but it fails to leave a terrifying presence like the Indominous Rex did.

Before things start sounding too negative, I will say that I had fun watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Yes, it still features characters making baffling decisions that seem to go against the obvious, but I guess I’ve also never been chased by a hungry dinosaur, so maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. More importantly, the action set pieces, and the darker moments that veer into horror, are effectively entertaining. I admit I jumped out of my seat on more than one occasion, and clenched my knuckles in anticipation to the outcome of an action scene just as frequently.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a good piece of entertainment, then. The problem is that its 2015 predecessor was a great piece of entertainment, and in many ways matched up to the beloved 1993 film. Fallen Kingdom follows suit with the usual assets of the franchise (people running from hungry dinosaurs), and continues some of the lingering plot threads of Jurassic World to connect it into a proper trilogy. But for all the pieces Fallen Kingdom gets right (action, suspense, and trying its hand at horror), it lacks the sense of awe and wonder that made both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World standout.

There’s still another film to go in this Jurassic World trilogy within the greater Jurassic Park franchise, and here’s hoping that the third installment can add a bit of newness to the series while also bringing back its magic. Action and suspense are fun and all, but nothing I can’t see in other movies. When I see one of these dinosaurs on screen, I want it to mean something.