This past weekend, as I exited a showing of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I couldn't stop thinking a peculiar thought: "Did I just watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but with dinosaurs?" Given some time to digest (both metaphorically and literally - theater candy is never as good as store-bought), I'm convinced I did. More than that, I'm convinced it's a sign of things to come.
SPOILERS ahead, for both The Last Jedi and Fallen Kingdom
Let's get a few of the more superficial similarities out of the way:
Both movies have, at the center of their stories, a young girl who may be more than she seems. The Last Jedi shows that Rey is obviously gifted in the Force, but Fallen Kingdom's Maisie is also presented as someone special from the get-go. When we first see her, she's a shadow in the background, scurrying around like an animal. She sneaks up on her caretaker and roars, clever girl that she is. The camera zooms in and lingers on her eyes the same way it does when giving us close-ups of the many prehistoric beasts. Even without someone explicitly saying "There's something different about her" until near the end of the film, director JA Bayona communicates that message through tone, composition, and cinematography.
There's also the fact that our heroes fail in their missions; Finn and Rose end up screwing over The Resistance when they get caught by The First Order, while Owen, Claire, and the newbies end up getting the creatures they were trying to rescue sold into captivity. Speaking of newbies, both films introduce new characters, one that's sassy and takes no shit (Holdo / Zia), one that's useful for tech-related plot devices (Rose / Franklin), and one that's a real bastard - albeit a charismatic one (DJ / Wheatley).
There are also a few nonsensical, secret plans to drive the action: Holdo insists on the Resistance's fleet slowly getting picked off one-by-one by the First Order because reasons, while Fallen Kingdom's evil megalomaniacs want to sell the Indo-raptor, a bio-weapon that is... basically more expensive and less effective than a regular ol' gun. (Did you catch that they demonstrate the Indo-raptor's killer instincts by making it follow the laser sight on a rifle? If you had your weapon already aiming at a target, wouldn't it be infinitely easier to just shoot 'em then and there instead of sending an animal after them? I've tried and I can't get this thought out of my head.)
Of course, you could - if pressed - apply this surface-level thinking to virtually any movie. So what if The Last Jedi and Fallen Kingdom both have women with mysterious pasts and unclear parentage which may or may not be the key to them finding their place in the world? Superman has that same arc - albeit played out with a handsome alien man - and Jon Snow's parents were a mystery for years, but you probably wouldn't compare Man of Steel or Game of Thrones to The Last Jedi or Fallen Kingdom.
No, where the similarities really take shape are in the two films' deeper themes, specifically the need to tear (or in Fallen Kingdom's case, burn) down the old to make way for the new.
Snoke is a brachiosaurus
"The Empire, your parents, the Resistance, the Sith, the Jedi... let the past die," Kylo Ren tells Rey in The Last Jedi. "Kill it, if you have to." And while no one spouts such a gravitas-loaded line of dialogue in Fallen Kingdom, it's not hard to argue that killing the past is exactly what the latest Jurassic Park film was going for.
Fallen Kingdom is the fifth film in the franchise, and all the movies preceding it had basically the same plot: Dinosaurs go where they're not supposed to, people get eaten, the survivors have to escape the island full of people-eating dinosaurs. Oh sure, there have been minor wrinkles here and there. In The Lost World, the twist was that events took place on a second island. In Jurassic Park 3, the twist was going back to the second island. In Jurassic World, the twist was rebuilding the park on the first island and having it run successfully for a little while before whoops, the dinosaurs got loose again! But in a broad sense, we have seen these beats play out time and time again.
It's not hard to draw a parallel with the Star Wars saga. If there was one resounding criticism of The Force Awakens, it was that it felt like a retread of old Star Wars plot lines, akin to a greatest hits album. You've got your enforcer-type villain, clad in black (Vader / Ren), a collective of bad guys who lean heavily on Nazi imagery (The Empire / The First Order), a mysterious figure who's strong in the Dark Side of the Force calling the shots (Darth Sidious / Snoke), a ragtag bunch of heroes without official backing (The Rebellion / The Resistance), a cocky, handsome pilot who swoops in to save the day (Solo / Poe), and a big-ass superweapon that can blow up planets (The Death Star / Starkiller Base).
Deconstruct the saga in whatever order you want
So when Luke tosses aside his old lightsaber, or Ren kills Snoke, or we find out Rey's parents are nobodies, it's The Last Jedi trying to kill the old tropes in order to tell a new story. You can disagree about the direction of that story all you want (I myself have never hid the fact that I dislike The Last Jedi), but no one could reasonably argue that it isn't doing something different.
This is why Fallen Kingdom's opening act is, quite literally, cataclysmic. The island is gone. And if you looked up Fallen Kingdom's meta-promo materials, you'll know the other dinosaur island is also done. Wherever Jurassic Park goes from here, it can't go back.
No going back. Killing the past. Those are powerful sentiments, and you need powerful scenes to sell them. Scenes that say "This is the end of what you knew." In The Last Jedi, that moment comes when Ren kills Snoke, as he cleaves in half the man that was set up as The Emperor 2.0 - effectively snuffing out not just a character, but everything you thought that character (and by extension, the plot and series direction as a whole) was going to be.
In Fallen Kingdom, the moment couldn't be more clear. As our heroes pull away from the island, we see a lone brachiosaurus, stranded on the docks. It calls out, screaming in desperation and agony. But the volcano cannot be stopped. The creature stands on its hind feet, and for a brief moment we see its immense and awe-inspiring form silhouetted against the embers, posed exactly the same as we first saw one of its kind so many years ago. And then, swallowed by the smoke and flames, it's gone. The metaphor is not exactly subtle.
Both movies tear down the old to give us something new. You know the saying "This isn't your dad's ___"? Well, we've become the dads. This isn't the Star Wars we knew. This isn't the Jurassic Park we knew. This isn't the entertainment we knew. But that also doesn't mean it has to be the end. Luke will not be the last Jedi. The chaos unleashed by the first Jurassic Park will not be contained.
Kylo Ren tells us to kill the past. Ian Malcom tells us that life finds way. The Last Jedi and Fallen Kingdom prove they're both right.