Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom– a review, or who left all this dino-poo on my front porch?

I went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom today–

I have been generally a fan of the Jurassic Park/World franchise since its inception– loved the first movie, enjoyed the second and third films, even though they were not nearly at the same level, and really liked the first Jurassic World film, despite having to give my suspension of disbelief an extra lube job just to keep up.

This time around, though– well, my poor suspension may have busted its torsion bars.  To put it succinctly, this is a stupid movie.

Not that Chris Pratt, who I generally love in everything I see him in, didn’t do his best.  Ditto for Bryce Dallas Howard.  I lay none of the blame for this eyesore at their feet.  No, in this instance I can only suppose the director (J.A. Bayona) and the writers (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow) bear the heavy responsibility for hatching this turkey (or turkey buzzard).

Oh, where do I start?

Oops, almost forgot…..

SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****

T

R

E

X

R

U

L

E

S

!

Put simply, what with the exploding volcano (which was seen in the trailer) and the standard corporate villain planning to market rescued dinos to international scumbags, the movie exhibits the standard sequel weaknesses of amping up the action to ridiculous heights while recycling the core conflict.  I particularly have a pet-peeve about the volcano, which, like the one in Dante’s Peak, exhibits traits that do not usually go together, i.e., free-flowing magma and peak-destroying magmatic explosions.  It makes me grind my teeth–

  1. Owen (Chris Pratt) outruns (almost) a pyroclastic flow.  And lives to tell about it.  Without even getting singed.  SPUNG!
  2. The characters (or the writers) think they can survive a pyroclastic flow by diving into the sea.  Wrong– pyroclastic flows can cross extensive bodies of water, on a layer of super-heated steam.  Parbroiled, anyone?

Okay, enough about the volcano– as irritating as I found it, it’s not even the core problem with the movie.  Moving on–

  1. The idea that you could weaponize dinosaurs in some useful manner for modern warfare is a major motivator for the bad guy (Eli Mills/Rafe Spall).  Please.  A mechanized infantry platoon would chop any dinosaur you care to name, including the vicious hybrid who’s the main dino baddie in this flick, into little quivering dino cubes.  It’s just silly (and, yes, it was silly in the first Jurassic World, too, they just didn’t play it up as much).
  2. There are vague references to “pharmaceutical uses” for the dinosaurs as an additional motivation for the bad guys, but its never elaborated on.
  3. Claire’s evolution (or is it devolution?) from corporate hotshot all about exploiting the dinosaurs to a save-the-dinosaurs activist just hit me wrong.  Granted, the events of the first film would have jarred anybody, but I’m not sure I’m buying this.
  4. Blue, the surviving velociraptor from Jurassic World, is now a leading character and so smart I expected her to start doing arithmetic, like a latter-day Trigger the Wonder Horse.  It got really irritating.
  5. Why in hell, when you’re trying to escape a vicious predator with better senses than you, would you turn off the lights?  Oh, yeah, to heighten the tension.  Screw that, leave the lights on, I want to see where the bastard is.
  6. Why, why, why would a girl (Maisie Lockwood/Isabella Sermon) smart and resourceful enough to elude the main villain for good portion of the film, run to her room and jump in bed to hide from the hybrid dinosaur?  If she were five, maybe, but this kid is a pretty sharp ten-year old, or thereabouts.  It was another example of dumb things being added to the film to artificially pump up the tension.
  7. About that kid– there is a revelation about her that made me suddenly sit up, all interested– and then they do nothing with it.  I mean, at that point I would have watched a film just about the kid.  And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was, although I bet a lot of people guessed it ahead of time.  A missed opportunity.
  8. The final fight against the hybrid, which takes place in and around and on top (?) of the mansion/laboratory of Benjamin Lockwood, a partner of John Hammond (who, btw, I don’t remember ever being mentioned in any of the previous films).  How does a dinosaur weighing probably two or three tons get on the roof of a mansion, anyway?
  9. And then a final bit where Claire seems to target Owen with a laser-guided dart gun, only it’s to trick the hybrid, but Owen has to get past the hybrid to make it step on to a glass roof so it would fall through, only it doesn’t, and then Blue saves the day by jumping on the hybrid, which falls and gets impaled on a triceratops horn, and I didn’t really understand how all of that fit together.  It was so confusing I had a passing thought that Claire was about to betray Owen.  Bleh.
  10. What is with the screaming tech nerd?  Shit….
  11. The number of people doing positively stupid things just so they can end up as dino chow is stunning.  Granted, in general the Jurassic movies depend on the humans being seriously mentally impaired in the presence of dinosaurs, but it was really bad in this film.  Really bad.  It made me wonder which was the intelligent species

In short, and in general, a disappointment.  Not that I had particularly high expectations going in, given the reviews beforehand, but the actuality fell short of even those.  Artificially pumped-up danger, nonsensical character actions, and same-old, been-there bad guys– all of it mashed together and not particularly well-seasoned, it was a dish for which I lost my appetite about halfway through.  Too bad, because it had two of my favorite things– dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes.  How do you mess that up?

Later.

 

 

Just a note….

Just a note, to note, in passing, something that happened last night.  Last night I completed a first draft for Princess of Stars.  The progress bar over there on the side reads “100% done”, which, over the last three years, is something I frequently despaired of ever seeing.

The breakthrough came in the first week of May, when I dumped thousands of words that were just…not…working, rethought the action of the middle third of the book, changing it essentially from a chase to a quest, and gave myself wholly over to writing while striving to ignore the ever-circling harpies of judgment.  This last week I pushed on despite developing a touch of carpal tunnel, and finished at about 9:15 PM yesterday.

The whole process for this novel was far more rocky for me than usual.  There were a lot of reasons for that, some of which I’m not really ready to talk about.  It wasn’t just that I found this novel hard– there were times when I was ready to chuck the whole writing thing altogether, and other times when I just couldn’t get my hands to the keyboard to do anything productive.  Some days it was just easier to watch YouTube videos.

By the grace of God and some hard thinking about what I was trying to do, I managed to get this first, and most essential, task done.  I’ve mentioned in other posts that once I have a draft in hand, I know I have the basic problem of any novel licked.  Like Aristotle’s ‘beginning, middle, end’, it sounds trite to say it, but it’s true– the most important thing you have to do when writing a story is to finish it.

Of course, having said that, there are weeks of work ahead.  I tend to see all my first drafts as narrative horrors, but this one is particularly scaly and gruesome.  I’m going to be a while getting everything ironed out and reconciled.  But that’s a normal part of my writing process; it was the inability to get to that first draft that log-jammed me for months and months on end and caused me to doubt whether I’m cut out for the writing life.

Well, truth to tell, I still have doubts, but with this novel, the completion of the Divine Lotus series, out of the way, I can move on to other projects and test the proposition in fresh fields.  Hopefully ones not filled with stuff that makes me sneeze.  I hate that.

Is the story any good?  Beats the crap out of me.  I’ll have to rely on others to make that judgment, because mostly I can only see the flaws.  But just finishing this, after so long a struggle, is a win, and a sure sign that final victory is in sight.

Later.

 

 

The Rubicon – Trump and what must be done

Looked at from a certain perspective, the course of the Trump administration so far could be depicted as a series of moments best characterized by people’s reactions to them– summarized perhaps as “OMG!” or “WTF?” or “ROFLMAO!”  The last might be more common, I think, if most of the stuff this incompetent buffoon puts out did not have so many serious implications.  His ludicrous imposition of tariffs on our allies (Canada?  CANADA?) is just the most recent example.

Unfortunately, any humor we might have found in the gyrations of a president unhindered by such mundane virtues as truthfulness and an allegiance to facts is fast becoming impossible.  His clownishness has begun to have real world impacts, to the point that some think the Western political and economic order as we know it is in danger.

More than that, closer to home the implications of Trump’s attitudes and actions are crowding in on our domestic political life.  To put it succinctly, we are now effectively living through a constitutional crisis.  To put it more informally, this shit is getting real.

The Mueller investigation may be approaching a climax.  Certainly, Trump’s hysteria over it continues to grow.  This past week, it reached a gobsmacking peak when Trump asserted the idea that he can pardon himself in the event of any indictment.

Please, roll that one around in your brain for a minute.  What Trump is saying, effectively, is that he is above the law.  That he can commit crimes and then escape any consequences for those crimes.  This is, essentially, the assertion of an absolutist privilege, something never countenanced in the Constitution or among the Founding Fathers.  This would be a major cornerstone for an authoritarian regime.

I take some comfort in the fact that most people, aside from Rudy Giuliani and a few of the more servile Trumpist lackeys in Congress, think the idea either laughable or unacceptable or both.  Any attempt by Trump to pardon himself, most agree, would swiftly bring impeachment down on his head.  It’s so obviously a threat to our republican form of government that even hard-shelled right-wing GOP congressmen would have to reject it.  As a possibility, it probably exists on in Trump’s own deluded imagination.

But to me the fact that Trump is even willing to broach the idea publicly means we must have crossed some sort of Rubicon last week.  To anyone other than a true believer, there can be now no doubt as to how Trump sees himself, and himself in relation to the Republic.  This man has been a threat, is a threat, and will be threat, to that republic until he has been removed from office.

Now, a reality check.  It’s so easy to type the words, “remove from office”, but not at all easy to carry out in fact.  Under our Constitution, removal of a president by impeachment has to meet a high bar–that of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.  This was intended by the Founders to prevent presidents from being removed for mere political disagreements.  This requirement is right and proper, and has helped keep the United States from the sort of governmental chaos that other nations have all-too-often known.  But it means that removing a president, even one that deserves removal, is not easily done.  Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both acquitted in their Senate trials, and Richard Nixon resigned before the articles of impeachment against him could be completed.  Removing a president by impeachment, in other words, has never actually been done.

To remove a president from office means that matters of evidence have to be presented to the Senate in a trial.  If we want to remain a nation of laws– which is really what this is all about– that means we can’t impeach a president just because we dislike him or disagree with him.  This is essentially what they tried with Bill Clinton and the effort fell flat, as it should have.

Evidence is what the Mueller investigation is about.  At this point in time, however, we don’t know what, if anything, Mueller has uncovered, beyond the indictments that have already been made public.  There is plenty of gossip, supposition and rumor about what Mueller is finding, but we really don’t know.

In the end, he may not find anything, especially around the charges of collusion with the Russians.  It may be all smoke and no fire.  Despite the overheated nature of press speculation around the investigation, there may yet be nothing there.

If that happens, then we have one problem– how to deal with the incompetent, narcissistic clown occupying the White House.  Because, quite aside from alleged criminality, Trump is still horrifyingly unqualified to be president, intellectually, morally, and in terms of skills.  He is already causing damage to the reputation of the United States, our ties with our closest allies (Canada, come back!), and our diplomatic efforts to make the world safer and more free.  He has no policy other than his whims and what he thinks will please his base.  And the Constitution makes no provision for the dismissal of a president for incompetence– otherwise, our history would look very different, perhaps for good, but far more likely, for ill.

In the case of Trump remaining in office, then for the sake of the country he will need to be legislatively quarantined.  That would mean Congress would have to act to reduce his power and hedge him about with legislation that will limit the damage he can do.  To a certain degree, this needs to happen, anyway– the powers of the presidency have grown outlandishly over the last seventy or eighty years, in large part because the successive crises this country has faced that required a strong executive power.  With Trump as chief executive this realignment of the executive branch of the government becomes an emergency priority.

This would not be easy.  Among other things, Congress would have to act in a bipartisan manner that’s almost a myth nowadays.  This is where the paralyzed, sclerotic state of our national government would come back to bite us.  An incompetent president, blundering around like a drunken Godzilla and destroying the functionality of government, our alliances, our economic ties with other countries, and on and on, should be a matter of urgency for all Americans, regardless of political stripe.  Instead, we see a Republican congressional leadership, in both the House and the Senate, who have been willing to hold their nose and lend their lip-service to Trump, in the cynical hope that he will further their agenda before he topples.  If Congress continues to be controlled by these sort of opportunists then there is little hope of reining in Trump, unless and until he commits some blunder so horrifying– getting us into a shooting war with North Korea, for example– that even the Republican leadership could not ignore it.  But by then, the damage will be done, and millions could suffer for the GOP’s lack of courage.

If, on the other hand, the Mueller investigation does turn up evidence of an impeachable offense– well, then we have the same problem.  Impeachment would require votes in the House pass the articles; the trial in the Senate would require a two-thirds vote to convict.  It’s an open question whether the current majority party in either house has the patriotism and the spine to follow through with an impeachment and trial, even if a plethora of smoking guns are lined up in a row in front of them.  In Watergate Republicans were among the leaders who helped force Nixon out of office.  In a Trump impeachment, it seems doubtful that more than a handful of honorable GOP members would even show up.

As an aside, there used to be something called the Republican Party in this country– the party that produced Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.  That party is, sadly, long, long gone.

Whether it is to contain a chaos-producing president or to impeach a criminal one, it seems unlikely that Congress in its current form will have the will or the ability to do what is needed.  The only remedy then will be to change the composition of Congress in the next midterm election.

Note– this is not a partisan call for Democrats to swarm the polls.  This is a call for everyone who cares about their country to vote for people who will do what is needed to contain Trump, or bring him to justice, regardless of partisan label.  At this point I don’t care if you call yourself Democratic, Republican, Socialist, Tea Party, Green, Independent or People for the Restoration of High Button Shoes, if you recognize the danger Trump poses and are willing to act to counter it, we need you.  Like yesterday.

After that, if Trump is still in office in 2020, he needs to be voted out.  Period.  End of sentence, and slam the door.

After Trump, however his administration ends, it will then be the patriotic duty of all Americans to start picking up the pieces and putting things to right.  At that point, we will need to address the systemic problems of our political system that allowed this waste of mortal matter to gain the highest office in the land in the first place.

But that’s another post, for another time.

Later.