The Jurassic Park franchise is rich with themes of reproduction. All five movies deal out subtle commentary on the fear and obligation that accompanies having kids. One of the most memorable aspects of 1993's Jurassic Park, for instance, was how Alan Grant (Sam Neil) discovered his nurturing, parental instincts throughout the course of the movie. But what was a subversive gender flip in Jurassic Park has been unfortunately undone by 2015's Jurassic World and its new sequel, Fallen Kingdom. It was bad enough that in Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing was constantly criticized for her choice not to have children and her dislike for the world of parenting. But in Fallen Kingdom, she actually tries to be more maternal — and is ultimately rejected in what feels like a punishment for her initial ambivalence.
When Jurassic World hit theaters, many critics noted how the movie questioned Claire's femininity because of her lack of maternal instinct, as shown by her unwillingness to care for her teen nephews when she was forced to protect them. The Mary Sue mentioned how her choice of career over motherhood made her deemed a screw-up, while USA Today pointed out that Claire was "constantly demonized" for not being close to her nephews. The Daily Beast, meanwhile, called her an "icy-cold, selfish corporate shill," a frigid workaholic who is cold and uncaring to both kids and dinos, and Vulture wrote that the movie's "great takeaway seems to be that it's time [for Claire] to stop being a frigid bitch and start popping out babies."
It's telling, then, that in Fallen Kingdom, Claire seems like she's actually trying to be more maternal and more nurturing; it's almost as if she's "gotten the message" that the previous film was trying to send to her. While in World she would refer to the dinosaurs as "assets" and wasn't concerned with their emotions, Fallen Kingdom sees her attitude changed. No longer a no-nonsense executive, Claire now runs a foundation for dinosaur welfare. Trying to save the dinos from an active volcano, she's now supposedly in it for the love of the creatures, worried about their survival, their happiness, and their comfort.
Claire's attitude towards human children seems to have changed as well. When meeting with John Hammond's old partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), she's genuinely charmed by his granddaughter, Maisie, who's playing among his dinosaur dioramas. The idea of a child running amok among the displays would have put old Claire into a frenzy, but this new version of the character seems to no longer view kids as a nuisance. WhileWorld saw Claire grimace at her nephew's rush to hug her, Fallen Kingdom has her stretching out her arms to Maisie, hoping to embrace the girl.
But that scene of an attempted loving embrace, which comes late in the movie, also proves that Fallen Kingdom has no intention of letting Claire actually use her newfound maternal abilities. In the thick of the climax, when Claire and Chris Pratt's Owen are trying to gain Maisie's trust, they're both tender in their words and comforting in their approach. But when Claire stretches out her arms to envelop the child in safety, the girl runs past her and instead heads straight into Owen's burly chest. The scene mimics how in World, Claire's nephews quickly latched on to Owen, the motorcycle-riding, raptor-training, macho man who could truly protect them — rather than their own blood relative. And while Claire may have not minded being rejected by a child then, the version of her in Fallen Kingdom most certainly does.
While World seems to berate Claire for her lack of maternal instinct, Fallen Kingdom feels like it's mocking Claire for even trying to be parental. The moment of Maisie rejecting Claire and instead heading for Owen may seem like a tiny move on the girl's part, but Claire's crushed look when the girl denies her outreach is heartbreaking. It feels like punishment, because motherhood was what Claire was "supposed" to want and was criticized for not wanting back in the first movie. When she finally embraces it now and gets rejected, the thought of, "Why did I even bother?" seems to crawl across her face.
Granted, it's subversive that the Jurassic Park franchise's true "maternal" figures are men, beginning with Richard Attenborough's John Hammond calling forth a baby velociraptor hatching from its egg. In Fallen Kingdom, Owen laments his lost child, the velociraptor Blue, whom he raised from birth; the scenes of Owen repeatedly watching old videos of his "baby" will feel familiar to any parent. Then there's Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), the pseudo-father of the dinos now that Hammond is gone. Though he's made more zany, hybrid creations over the years, his real concern is that his creations lack parental guidance. "It needs a mother!" he screams at one point.
But for all those intriguing gender-swaps, Fallen Kingdom and its predecessor still criticize Claire for her disinterest in kids. It's a disappointing, no-win situation for the character; Jurassic World tried to force her into a stereotypical maternal state, thrusting two kids on her that she had to try and keep alive through a dinosaur disaster. But in Fallen Kingdom, when she attempts to be more maternal, she gets forsaken. Claire may be a feminist hero for running in heels and being a capable business woman, but it's a shame that the two movies chose to put her through such an emotional maternal roller coaster.