Jurassic Park IV has been slated for a June 2014 release and has been greeted with a triumphant ‘meh’ by the majority of film fans, at least by those on the internet. If you’re anything like me, and by that I mean born in the Eighties, Jurassic Park was most likely a defining part of your childhood. I don’t necessarily mean that you loved it, but that it was something so huge that it was unavoidable. It was everywhere: merchandise, video games, TV parodies… it was an event. Dinosaur mania swept the western world: kids everywhere were brushing up on their dinosaur knowledge; swapping stickers, collecting file-o-faxes, even reading books (imagine?). It was a time in my life that makes me particularly happy to be nostalgic about.
The moment when Dr. Alan Grant gets out that car and removes his glasses was a glorious mirror-image with the audience: we were as much in awe as he was. It was the magic of cinema captured in a single moment; its ability to transport us to a completely new and exciting world. For me, Jurassic Park and the hype surrounding it was not only one of the defining cultural events of my childhood, it was one of the most important events in shaping me into the adult I am today. I am, first and foremost, a film-lover, and I believe Jurassic Park was one of the first films to really kick start my love for the moving image, even at age 6 as I was. It was through it that I discovered other films at a young age; my family were also cinema lovers, and encouraged my enthusiasm for the medium by introducing me to many of my other childhood (and adult) favourites. It was my gateway to film, and for that at least it will always have a very special place in my heart.
So, bearing all that in mind, how do I feel about Jurassic Park IV being announced 20 years after the original? Well, there are a number of reasons why it’s pretty much going to suck. Anyone who was a kid in the 80s or 90s has pretty much had their entire childhood shat upon anyway by continuous sequels and reboots of their favourite films, so this is nothing new. What bothers me most is that its first two sequels weren’t very good anyway. Regardless of how you feel about newer sequels to older films, at least the original franchises were good to start with. Star Wars, Indiana Jones… they were legitimately good trilogies for the most part.
The problem with creating further sequels to Jurassic Park is in the way it approached its greatest selling point: the dinosaurs themselves. They were the main attraction; like the animals in the zoo, or the ghosts on a ghost train: we were just along for the ride. The following video pretty much captures how we, the audience, reacted to the film when it first came out. Warning: slightly NSFW.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9AVTlvbhKM]
Jurassic Park: ‘Holy fucking shit, it’s a dinosaur!’
The Lost World: ‘Oh, more dinosaurs! Cool, I guess.’
Jurassic Park III: ‘…more dinosaurs. LOADS of dinosaurs. CGI dinosaurs. Yeah. Is there any Van Damme on Channel 5?’
The awe is gone, and with it the fun. Trying to re-capture the magic of the original essentially leads to a re-hashing of exactly the same story, which was never going to work. Which is why for The Lost World, they had to make up some bullshit ‘oh actually there was another island that no-one mentioned in the first one’ excuse, and in the third ‘well let’s just get Sam Neill to go back to the original island, cos there’s a kid there that needs to be saved, or something.’ The first film is so self-contained that it’s nigh on impossible to do a sequel, unless you get lazy. There’s no progression. Re-hashing the formula has also clearly been a problem for the writers, as Jurassic Park IV was famously touted to be a kind of ludicrous ‘super dinosaurs with guns‘ affair, which thankfully got ditched. There is simply little to no room for any kind of credible creativity. Also, with this generation of filmmakers almost completely disregarding puppetry and prosthetics as a method of special effects, its highly likely that we would be treated to a CGI fest of one uninspiring dinosaur after another. It’s easy to forget that 80% of the effects in Jurassic Park were not computer generated.
I realise that I’m being overwhelmingly negative, but don’t get me wrong: I would love to see a film with dinosaurs in it again. They are a great movie monster: their coolness- factor has been ramped up massively by the fact that they actually existed on this planet once, which is what makes them so compelling and terrifying. I would love Jurassic Park IV to work. I really, really would. I hope that I get proven wrong and that it’s a masterpiece; an epic, soaring thrill-ride of a blockbuster with memorable characters, and awe-inspiring enough to influence a whole new generation of film-lovers. Maybe they’ll replace the cast with their modern day counter-parts: Sam Neill with Russell Crowe, Laura Dern with Naomi Watts, Jeff Goldblum with Sam Rockwell, Richard Attenborough with Ian Mckellen, and Sam Jackson with, well, Sam Jackson. Actually: I take it all back. This film sounds the tits. Just add some slightly obscure character actor in the mix and I’m in!
The director has also yet to be announced, as Spielberg has taken the role of producer as he did with III. If I desperately hoped the film would be any good, then ideally I’d like someone who has a track history of being able to balance story-telling with great action set-pieces. Someone like Guillermo Del Toro (in my dreams) or Rupert Wyatt, director of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be pretty cool. But we’ll probably end up with Brett Ratner or someone else with a terrible track record but big enough box office returns. Ho Hum.
At best, we’ll come out going ‘well, at least that wasn’t terrible.’ We won’t be, as I and so many other children were, completely speechless. It’ll most likely be met with the apathy with which I now approach it, which will address the question as to why they keep bothering to resurrect these dead franchises. Again though: I really hope I’m wrong. I really do.