Dino Sequel Proves the Chaos Theory
In the weeks leading up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we’re revisiting the original Jurassic Park trilogy.
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG/1997
In the original Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is in the middle of explaining the “Chaos Theory” to his fellow park tourists, scientists Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler, when Grant notices a triceratops just off road. He jumps out of the car to get a closer look. “Look at this—see? see?” Malcolm says. “Nobody could’ve predicted that Dr. Grant would suddenly, suddenly jump out of a moving vehicle.” A moment later, Sattler follows. Malcolm laughs to himself. “There’s another example. See, here I’m now sitting by myself, talking to myself. That’s, that’s the Chaos Theory.”
Four years after that adventure, Malcolm is called to the dinosaurs once again, but this time on the island genetics company InGen calls Site B, where dinos have roamed free for years. Dr. Richard Hammond (Richard Attenborough) wants sends in a team to document them to prove to the public they deserve to exist, but one of his top candidates, Malcolm, wants no part in it. That is, until he finds out his girlfriend, paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), has already left for the island without telling him.
Once he arrives, Malcolm runs into two obstacles. One, his daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), stowed away. Two, another InGen team shows up determined to bring dinos back to the U.S. for a new zoo exhibit, causing negligent destruction in their wake. Now Malcolm’s team must protect the wildlife without ruining their chance to escape the island.
Apparently Malcolm’s Chaos Theory foreshadowed the franchise’s future. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is an unexpected turn for the series. The actors playing Grant and Sattler (the leads of the first) jumped out, rearranging the emphasis to the few returning cast members and new ones who try to fill the gaps in the DNA. The result is one of the weirdest casts this side of Valentine’s Day. Julianne Moore? Baby Vince Vaughn? Toby from The West Wing? And a bunch of other randos?
While one of the most unifying beliefs on the Internet in 2018 is that Jeff Goldblum is one of the few people in the world we can count on—in fact, it’s the main reason I decided a Thor movie might be worth seeing—the weirdest shift in The Lost World is making Malcolm the lead. Imagine if Lando Calrissian became the main character of The Return of the Jedi. I like the guy, but there are so many other things I need before Lando becomes a fully developed character. In the first film, Malcolm balanced the clash of viewpoints, playing both the comic relief and a much-needed voice of reason, but the sequel doesn’t use his additional screentime to play up either of those strengths.
Instead, he returns a different character. On the first tour, he quips he’s “always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm,” but suddenly, suddenly we’re expected to believe he’s in a committed relationship with a woman he doesn’t seem to share any chemistry with. To be fair, they don’t have much opportunity to show it between the running and holding onto miscellaneous objects for dear life. He loves Sarah because we’re told he loves her. Every other character is all good or all bad because we’re told they are, and we don’t have time for nuance or for most of them to play the Moralist.
I’m all for movies resisting repeated storylines and genre tropes, but this doesn’t feel intentional enough to meet those criteria. While it’s full of promising ingredients, they’re scrambled them in the wrong proportions. Just like its seemingly out of order title, The Lost World: Jurassic Park proves the Chaos Theory—you just can’t expect what’s coming next.
We all want some adventure in our lives.
That said, the plot and character development are of secondary importance here. Really, we’re here to see dinosaurs wreak havoc on whomever is unfortunate enough to step in their way, and it doesn’t really matter how or why it happens. And if close calls and moments of panic are the metrics for success, The Lost World roars its way to the top of the class. I mean, I can’t be the only one who thought Kelly using gymnastics to kick a velociraptor in the face was cool, right?
Of course, some of those moments are (PG-13) brutal. Part of me wonders why we get a thrill out of watching person and after person get squashed, ripped, clawed, and/or chewed to their end. Why do we pay to watch “the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas” (per Malcolm) that only feels a few science experiments away from reality? We would be outraged if it did happen in real life, but we want the chaos here, and we want it concluded and wrapped up with a bow in 120 minutes. Perhaps it’s because we’re still separated by that buffer of imagination, but then again, a movie about a team of paleontologists finding a herd of herbivores and just adopting them as pets would be tamer than The Land Before Time.
Full disclaimer: These are the musings of someone counting down the days till Jeff Goldblum stutters on the big screen again in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom because apparently I’ve not yet been satisfied with the gajillion dinosaurs I’ve already seen in this franchise. (Didn’t I enjoy The Land Before Time as a kid? And wait, it’s on Netflix. Woo!) Maybe I’m not the most objective witness, but if this movie sounds the least bit intriguing to you, then maybe that means I’m not crazy. Maybe it just means we all want some adventure in our lives.