Warning: SPOILERS for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ahead!
There are many people and dinosaurs who die in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but only one death is having a real impact on audiences – the death of the Brachiosaurus, the sole dinosaur left standing on the dock as the last boats leave Isla Nublar, and the volcano’s ash and lava consume the island.
Jurassic World 2 explores the idea of dinosaur conservation more than any previous Jurassic Park film, arguing that because these dinosaurs are alive they deserve to be saved. Not as sideshow spectacles or weapons of war, but simply as living, breathing dinosaurs. Saving the dinosaurs might start out as a lie told to get the film’s characters on the island and put the story in motion, but it quickly becomes the film’s central message – and it begins with the cruel and harrowing death of the Brachiosaurus.
But the Brachiosaurus’ death isn’t just sad because it’s the tragic demise of a majestic and benign animal, wrongly and unnaturally revived, then abandoned by the very humans who challenged the laws of nature to create it. No, the death of the Brachiosaurus is so sad because it’s also the death of Jurassic Park itself, destroying that sense of wonder the characters (and us, the audience) felt at first seeing a dinosaur – this dinosaur, in fact. A Brachiosaurus.
The scene in Jurassic Park where the characters first see a living, breathing dinosaur is now an iconic movie moment – selling not just them on the idea of a dinosaur theme park, but audiences as well. With each new film in the franchise, the digital effects get better and the dinosaurs look more polished, but never again will they be able to recapture the amazement and pure wonder that this first look at a dinosaur inspired.
That feeling is tied directly to the Brachiosaurus, and it’s why when Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s new characters first come to Isla Nublar, the Brachiosaurus is the first dinosaur they see. But in having it be the Brachiosaurus who also has the film’s most powerful death, Fallen Kingdom is tapping into those emotions for another purpose – not to inspire wonder, but to create mourning and evoke a deep sense of regret over what’s been allowed to happen to these dinosaurs. Those who created the dinosaurs not only didn’t consider the consequences of their actions, they didn’t take responsibility for them either – the result of which is this brutal and unforgettable death.
As Claire and Owen look on as the Brachiosaurus wails in agony, lava flowing ever higher and the ash cloud making it impossible to breath, the dinosaur appears to make a last ditch effort to survive – standing on its hind legs and reaching up with its long neck, gasping for air. The image is striking not just for its desperation, but because it is a direct callback to the scene in Jurassic Park where a Brachiosaurus – potentially even the very same Brachiosaurus, given their estimated lifespan of 70-80 years – amazed and delighted Alan Grant and Ellie Satler by making a similar motion when reaching to feed on the high tree branches. The visual reference is deliberate, enhancing the tragedy of the moment and tying the Brachiosaurus’ death all that more closely with the destruction of the park and the wondrous possibilities it once promised.
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