I grew up loving dinosaurs. Like most kids, I thought dinosaurs were amazing, and tv shows like Denver: The Last Dinosaur, Dinosaurs, and Land Before Time did little to curtail my dinosaur fandom. Most kids outgrow their dinosaur phase at some point. I did not. The reason why is because in 1993, Jurassic Park came out and took dinosaurs from animated/puppet caricatures to real animals. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were perfectly done; the size, the sounds, you could see the texture of their skin. The interactions between dinosaurs and humans were flawless, and almost most importantly, they were terrifying. All of those features left a lasting impression on my seven-year old mind and to this day Jurassic Park is still my favorite movie ever.
I say all that as the least mysterious lead-in ever to discuss the upcoming movie Jurassic World. Aside from Avengers: Age of Ultron, no movie this summer will be more hyped or marketed than this one and it is going to make a ton of money. It has everything a summer blockbuster needs: action, adventure, broad demographic appeal, and oh, hey, DINOSAURS! More than anything though, this movie has a legacy, and it’s a strong one. Consider that Jurassic Park came out 22 years ago and spawned two sequels which were not very highly regarded critically (personally I think they’re fine). Jurassic Park III was released in 2001, eight years after the original, and still made over $250 million (adjusted for inflation)! People loved the Jurassic Park movies and they just kept going to see them. Now here we are, 22 years later, and the kids that saw the original movies are grown up and have their own kids to take to the movies to see Jurassic World. In other words, the amount of money this movie will make will be silly. For those involved in the making of the movie, making the money is the most important thing; but for fans, a franchise revival is a tricky thing.
The most obvious example of the danger inherent with reviving a beloved film franchise is Star Wars. From all of The Phantom Menace to Jar Jar Binks to Hayden Christensen, there was a lot to hate about the prequel movies which came out twenty years after the original trilogy. Having said that, there was a lot to enjoy too, but people tend to focus on the negative. Other examples include Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Godfather III (filmed 18 years after the original), and Rocky Balboa. All of these are sequels which failed to meet expectations. There are specific reasons why each failed, Star Wars fans are notoriously hard to please, the first two Godfathers set a bar way too high, and the Indiana Jones and Rocky movies just weren’t that good. How can Jurassic World avoid this? I’m glad you asked. Here are three things Jurassic World will need to avoid the franchise revival trap:
Acknowledge the fans of the originals, but create a new story.
This has already been slightly addressed in the trailers, with the introduction of Jurassic Park original Henry Wu as one of the park personnel, but the original Jurassic Park series centered around the same principal characters and all occurred in a small universe. As a big Jurassic Park fan I really hope to see more cameos by original cast members (no Lex or Tim though). I would even settle for an off the wall connection to the originals like Chris Pratt’s character being the son of Robert Muldoon. Ultimately, this story needs to be able to stand on its own, apart from the originals, or it will just feel like a rehashing of old stuff. Series like Christopher Nolan’s Batman and most recently the new Godzilla and Mad Max work because they created their own world and stayed within it.
Keep things real.
As I alluded to earlier, part of the enchantment of Jurassic Park was that it felt real. The animals looked real, the park looked real, even the CGI stuff they did employ looked real. Very few special-effects driven movies like Jurassic Park stand the test of time as well as it has. One of the issues with Jurassic ParkIII is its increased usage of CGI which gives it a much more artificial feel than the previous two. Trailers for Jurassic World suggest that CGI will be a big focus (they spared no expense), but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Technology has come a long way since 2001 and interaction between CGI and real-life has improved drastically. Hopefully the dynamic will echo more of the original Jurassic Park than the later iterations.
The most obvious thing, but also the most unknown. Prior to this movie being made there were many ideas and rumors floating for a fourth Jurassic movie. One such rumor was about Velociraptor soldiers taking over. In any case, the overall plot for Jurassic World seems simple and somewhat formulaic, but that’s ok. Going back to the second point, the closer this movie is to reality the better. If Jurassic World ends up having a T-Rex running around with lasers shooting out of its eyes and raptors are firing assault weapons I think I’ll end up disappointed. Actually, that doesn’t sound all that bad and I would probably watch it anyway.
Like restarting any franchise, Jurassic World has its work cut out for it in order to carry on the legacy of the original. Jurassic Park sparked in me a love of dinosaurs that exists even now (my Playstation name is Terrordactyl) and I hope this new movie inspires as much wonder for filmgoers as the original did for me. Being such a big fan of the Jurassic Park, I’m cautiously optimistic and will go in not wanting to relive the nostalgia of the original, but wanting to see the continuation of my favorite theatrical story. It’s been a long 14 years since I’ve been to the InGen islands, and for a time I thought the possibility of a return had passed. As we all know, however, life finds a way.