What I want from ‘Jurassic World’
Let me start by prefacing this article with the fact that I’m a pretty big fan of Jurassic Park in both the film and book versions of the source material. I even spent a couple of hours breaking down the source material in each of them and comparing and contrasting the main differences between the two. So as you can imagine I was just as excited, intrigued, nervous and all-around skeptical when Universal announced they were going through with a fourth Jurassic Park movie to be released in the summer of 2015. Why was I skeptical? Well because we’ve heard this same idea before and I can think of a half dozen times when Universal floated out a Jurassic Park 4 rumor between now and the release date of Jurassic Park 3 back in 2001. Hell we were very, very close to a sequel that focused on dinosaur/human hybrids that fired rockets on their backs and fought an army of military personnel, and I’m not even kidding. We’ve seen this same project eventually die off too many times for me to count so I can honestly said to myself at the time that “I’ll believe it when I see it”. However, something magical happened. Universal announced that up and coming director Colin Trevorrow would helm the project after his small budget hit Safety Not Guaranteed wound up being one of the most creative and surprising films of 2012. All of a sudden they were speeding up pre-production and set an end date in mind for the release of the film.. and casting rumors started to fly left and right.. and they delayed the movie’s release only to follow it right up with an official title of Jurassic World and a new banner on top of it.. and then Trevorrow took to twitter to tease fans with tie-ins to the original movie by posting pictures like this:
Well my god, THAT’S THE ORIGINAL ISLAND! Once the news broke last week that Bryce Dallas Howard officially signed on for the lead in the movie and David Oyelowo was being courted for a supporting role then the ball was officially moving without anyway of stopping it. While yes I’m more excited than anything for a new Jurassic Park movie I’m also a bit skeptical and have a checklist of a few things I’d like to see in the fourth installment before I start to get my hopes up.
#1 Return to the ORIGINAL island of Isla Nublar
I think I speak for every Jurassic Park fan on the planet when I say that the first movie reigns supreme over the trilogy and avoided the multiple failures of the two sequels that followed. The Lost World should at least be viewed as something ambitious since Spielberg brought a stylistic difference to the movie and played it more for a tense horror of the dinosaurs that is pretty evident with the extraordinary amount of characters being eaten in that film. Yeah it’s a little too preachy and misguided and it turns into some sort of Godzilla rampage in the final act but there a handful of things to like about it and it’s more than just a bland failure on all levels. Except it does have unforgivable garbage like this:
Jurassic Park III however took it to an entirely different level of pure cheese, new and bland characters, a sad attempt at giving us a family centered message and comedic moments that were completely out of place for a movie like Jurassic Park. Yeah it was great to see Alan Grant again and we even got a cameo by Laura Dern (You know what, fuck them for not having these two end up together) but was it really worth another entry just to follow around William H. Macy doing his best Ned Flanders impression for 2 hours?
Both of those movies failed in different aspects but one misstep they had in common was the fact that they decided to leave the original island behind and go to Site B. Now yes, this gives the movie a more “wide-open” terrain to work with and a sense of something new but that’s not what the fans want! We want to see the worn down remains of the visitor’s center, we want to see the abandoned jeep left by Dennis Nedry, we want to see if the shaving cream can of embryos somehow survived under mountain of mud it landed in and we want to visit the sites of the first movie (Which the Telltale Jurassic Park game managed to give the fans). In fact, I always envisioned a return to the first island to go down something like this:
<Group walks into the worn down, destroyed entryway to the visitor’s center>
<Camera pans to the decayed remains of a half-eaten velocripator as well as the leftover fossils from the display skeletons destroyed in the climax of the first movie. It’s dark and they can’t see much of anything that isn’t lit by the half-finished doorway covered in tarps.>
<The group slowly heads down a corridor and into what looks like an abandoned auditorium.. one of them blows the dust off of a control switch and hits a red button when all of a sudden–
“BINGO!! DINO DNAAaaaaaaaaaaaaa”
<The Mr. DNA sequence runs on the display screen but the filmstrip malfunctions and is jammed on the projector, creating a loop that’s startling at first to the audience as well as our survivors>
It’s moments like this that can be both nostalgic and exciting for the audience with the right balance of “new vs. old” to keep us anxiously awaiting what’s coming in the next scene. So please, Universal, if we’re gonna go back to the world of Jurassic Park than please let us go visit the original island again. There’s so many places we’ve yet to discover and so many dinosaurs we’ve yet to see that you could renovate the place, turn it into an entirely new and state of the art theme park and give us a sort of re-enactment of the original.
#2. Leave the kids at home
As the great Red Letter Media once said “child actors are the kiss of death for your movie” and I think there’s too many arguments in favor of this to not agree (Hey Jake Lloyd, what’s up?). While yes there are exceptions and some really strong performances from children on film two of the biggest flaws in the sequels rested in the characters of Kelly and What’sHisFaceHanggliderKid. I understand why big tentpole movies like this bring kids into the picture since it makes it more family oriented, helps them to sell action figures and gives children someone familiar on the screen to associate with but did anyone really wanna be Lex or Tim as a kid? I saw the movie as a wide-eyed 6 year old and wanted to be Grant or Malcolm or Muldoon but never the wining children who were kinda sorta there to get them into dangerous spots. I give credit to Spielberg for creating one of the most suspenseful scenes in movie history during the raptor attack in the kitchen but most of the time when a child is in distress during a movie like this we know beforehand that they’re getting out of it alive and it kinda ruins the suspense. At least in the original the kids were more or less used as a great plot device to flesh out Alan Grant and give him an interesting character arc but they were used so poorly in the sequels that I’d rather they just set them aside for Part 4.
UPDATE AS OF 10/14/13: News broke today that Ty Simpkins from Iron Man 3 was cast in a “lead role” for the movie amid circulating rumors all weekend. On one hand he was pretty solid in Iron Man 3 so at least he’s not a terrible child actor but on the other hand seeing a kid in a lead role for JP4 is pretty discouarging to me. We can only hope for the best and a usage of his character in the movie that actually makes sense rather than being written in as a plot device like JP3.
#3. Bring us fleshed out characters we care about
While the dinosaurs are the stars of Jurassic Park it’s the characters we love and care for that keep us deeply enriched from start to finish. When you compare them to characters from other blockbusters who have 30 more minutes of screen time and still can’t get evoke any real feelings from you than you can see what I mean. Grant, Malcolm, Ellie, Hammond and even Lex and Tim are names that bring up specific character traits and moments that we remember and thrive to experience again. Each one is a colorful manifestation of clashing mindsets that don’t have long winded monologues or prolonged characterizations but are developed so efficiently that we know so much about them in such little time. Malcolm and Grant’s budding rivalry in the movie as well as Hammond and Malcolm’s clash of ideals is what provided the groundwork for a lot of the dualism and metaphorical dynamics of the movie that are so crucial to its popularity. We love these characters because they each represent something different and a little bit of ourselves as well. Grant is the everyday hero that is skeptical but wants to believe, Malcolm is the man of science that’s constantly countering with a realistic point of view, Ellie is the free-spirited thinker that fights fiercely for her loved ones and Hammond is the little kid inside all of us that so badly wants to see dinosaurs exist again. When one of the best and most intriguing moments in a movie about dinosaurs is nothing more than a round-table debate between these individuals as they’re merely voicing their opinions on the matter than you know you absolutely nailed each character. I want more of that in Jurassic World and less of the hired guns we saw in the sequels or the cookie-cutter character placements in the shape of “Mom”, “Dad”, “Son” and “Sidekick” from part 3. Give us individuality and ambitions and a mind-set that mirrors our own or at least brings some sort of realistic perception to such a fantasy-based premise. If they really do want to bring back some of these same characters we’re familiar with than for the love of God have it make sense and don’t just throw them in for a reason that isn’t plausible. You’d need something absolutely rock-solid to bring back the main three that saw the horrors first-hand in the original and to be honest I’d rather they just moved on without them. So please, I’m begging you Trevorrow to give us three dimensional individuals that we want to root for instead of ones we’ll nonchalantly brush off if they die.
#4. Don’t leave out the old when you bring in the new
We’ve seen too many reboots or prolonged sequels of popular movies that focus on “a new angle for a new generation” and wind up leaving the original fans in the dust. Bring in new dinosaurs? I’m absolutely down for that and nothing would work better for me than an aquatic dinosaur to bring new and incredibly suspenseful moments into the movie, but don’t leave behind the T-Rex and the raptors. Bring us a new and updated version of the first park? I’m so on board for this and the title even implies it’s a resurrection of the theme park (Disneyland/Disney World) but bring us familiar places and images from the first movie and only update the necessities (technology, vehicles, monitors/screens). Jurassic Park III gave us the Spinosaurus which not only looked goofy as all hell but replaced the T-Rex on top of that, and that’s before they gave us raptors with purple stripes and feathers on their heads. I’m just asking them to stick with what they know and to avoid being different for the sole purpose of just being different. Everything needs to be ambitious and bring something new to the table and I would be UPSET if this movie didn’t do that but don’t leave out what made you so popular in the first place.
#5 Please be born out of inspiration and not greed
Too often we’ve seen the Hollywood well-oiled machine come in and reboot a movie that we loved or give us a sequel to a classic only to watch it slowly amount to nothing more than a painful attempt at a boring cash grab. It seems that every single property be it an original feature, comic-book, fairytale, popular novel or older TV series is being re-imagined, re-shot and re-packaged to make a quick buck with name-brand recognition… and that would be the very worst thing to happen to a Jurassic Park sequel. Not much is known about Colin Trevorrow but he’s been saying all the right things about Jurassic World and went as far as to dedicate this movie to the fans of the first one. Here’s what he had to say about the project earlier this year:
“Surprisingly it’s not that different [from ‘Safety Not Guaranteed]. We have a very small team who we’re working with right now. It’s incredible to have Steven [Spielberg], who’s done this for decades and has such an incredible film knowledge and this understanding of the language of story – in a way that for us, is very refreshing. It’s not like getting notes from a studio executive. It’s really trying to crack this and make it the best movie it can be. We don’t want to create a new scoop here [laughs], but we really want to honor what came before us. We are very aware of how much a certain generation especially cares about this movie and we talk about it all the time in conversations. It’s not about us, it’s not about our careers, it’s – how do we make something that can stand [against the first ‘Jurassic Park’]?”
If that doesn’t make you feel even the slightest bit comfortable with this movie being in the right hands than I’m not sure what else will. Look, Jurassic Park means something different to everyone but the ones who saw the movie as a kid or even experienced it later in life can always come back to one specific aspect: The wonderment of it all. It’s the childhood fantasy of seeing living, breathing dinosaurs come to life before our very eyes while bringing us to a place where all of the everyday nonsense ceases to exist. It’s an escape into a dream and a feeling that we long to experience when we visit the cinema and if the new movie even manages to capture a sliver of that essence than I’d feel like it succeeded. Either way, I’ll be anxiously awaiting it’s release with baited breath.