How a 'Jurassic World' Surprise Unbalances the Franchise

James Cromwell in Jurassic World- Fallen Kingdom - Publicity - H 2018
Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures
James Cromwell's 'Fallen Kingdom' character rewrites the past — and may change the future — of the series.

[This story contains spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.]

Appropriately, given the subject matter, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a movie that seeks to relive the past, and rewrite it along the way. This is true on both the macro scale — oh no, the dinosaurs are loose again — and the micro; Fallen Kingdom features an unexpected revision to the mythology of the franchise as a whole that teases that, as the cliche goes, everything you know about the history of the Jurassic World is wrong.

As established in 1993’s Jurassic Park, it was John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his bioengineering company InGen that created the cloning process and technology responsible for bringing the dinosaurs back to life, things so secret that it was easier to try and hire InGen employees to steal information than for competitors to simply reverse engineer it or hire anyone else. I know, I know; the plot demanded it. But still. As late as Jurassic World, Hammond was treated as the sole author and arbiter of the technology, and therefore the dinosaurs themselves.

And then, Fallen Kingdom introduces Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the previously unknown co-creator of the cloning technology, who had split with Hammond before the first movie because of ideological and ethical disagreements over what to do with the technology. On the one hand, it’s a retcon that is easy to insert, because of course Hammond would write this man out of the official corporate version of events, considering they’d fallen out. Then again, the idea that Lockwood wouldn’t be mentioned or make any kind of appearance in any of the earlier four movies — even simply as an alternate option for the rival corporations trying to undercut InGen — is a stretch, to say the least.

The addition of Lockwood is a curious one; in many ways, he’s purely fulfilling the need for a Hammond-esque figure in the narrative, after the death of the character between the second and fourth movies in the series (Attenborough himself died in 2014). Lockwood, in fact, is closer to the original incarnation of Hammond in Michael Crichton’s original Jurassic Park novel in terms of an apparent willingness to disregard certain ethical dilemmas; after all, Lockwood has no problem with human cloning, having mastered bringing dinosaurs back to life.

Yet he presents a larger problem for the series as a whole, because his introduction — and that of his “granddaughter” Maisie (Isabella Sermon), more importantly — immediately makes the rest of the Jurassic franchise seem dull by comparison. Sure, there are dinosaurs running around, but there’s also this other scientist who’s apparently been cloning actual human beings for years. What else has he been up to since splitting with Hammond, more than two decades earlier? And who else has he partnered with in all that time? His relationship with Eli Mills certainly suggests he’s hardly the best judge of character…

Lockwood opens up the scope of the franchise, but also arguably overextends it. Once you take the cloning focus away from the dinosaurs — even just for one character, as part of a shock reveal — it changes what the entire series is about: Is it not a dinosaurs gone wild series anymore? Is it actually about ethics in cloning after all? Are we reducing the dinosaurs to a metaphor again, instead of leaning into their potential for spectacle and over-the-top action sequences?

If so, it feels like a move away from what audiences actually want from a Jurassic movie towards something more intellectual, contemporary…and more generic. Perhaps, if moviegoers are lucky, this new retcon will itself be retconned away — or, at least, ignored, by the time Jurassic World 3 rolls around in 2020.