Life finds a way.
In 1993, we got to experience "an adventure 65 million years in the making" with Jurassic Park. The groundbreaking effects, the drama, the tension and the characters all still hold up. It is a landmark movie in cinematic history. It’s the type of movie you can watch and re-watch a hundred times and still enjoy it. It’s a blend of adventure, horror, sci-fi, and even has a dash of humor which gives it a charm that is all its own.
The movie is a masterpiece, but it garnered sequels that have been substandard copies of the first film to say the least. Each movie has a lot of the same basic elements. Let’s take a look at some of those elements.
Starting with the characters, every “Jurassic” movie needs children of divorce with amazing super powers of some sort. In the original, John Hammond’s grandchildren come to the park whilst his daughter is going through a divorce. Tim was a dinosaur genius and Lex was his computer hacker sister. This was pretty convenient since technology and dinosaurs were the main antagonists of the film. In fact, Lex’s ability to hack Dennis Nedry’s computer was the thing that saved our heroes from being raptor food.
In Lost World, Ian Malcom’s daughter Kelly was the child of divorce who turned out to be an amazing gymnast who could use those skills to kick raptors in the face.
In the third movie, Amanda and Paul Kirby are a divorced couple who convince Dr. Grant to go with them to find their son who is lost on the island. When Eric Kirby shows up, we see that he has gone full Tarzan mode and learned to survive in this prehistoric environment and not become food for the apex predators that surround him.
Jurassic World also features two kids, Gray and Zach, whose parents are getting a divorce. When they get stuck in the park they use their uncanny abilities to fix a 22 year old SUV in order to reach safety.
Part of the Jurassic formula also includes the whistle-blower who is trying to warn everyone that keeping dinosaurs or interacting with them is a bad idea. Ian Malcolm serves this purpose in the first and second movie, while it is Dr. Grant who takes up the mantle for the third film. Owen Grady was introduced in Jurassic World as the heroic type who sees the inherit danger before everyone else does.
We also have several characters who need to act with nefarious purposes to show that man is incapable of being trusted with the immense power of genetics and cloning. Dennis Nedry in the first film tries to steal dinosaur embryos. Lost World has Peter Ludlow, the guy from INGEN who wants to bring dinosaurs to San Diego. Billy Brennan attempts to steal the raptor eggs in the third film. World has Vincent D’Onofrio playing Vic Hoskins, a man who sees the potential for military application of trained raptors as the antagonist to Owen Grady.
Without beating a dead horse, it's obvious that the human characters are basically the same cloned archetypes in each movie. But what about the dinosaurs? This is a series about them. Eventually, you will have dinosaurs on your dinosaur blog post?
Yea, well here is the basic rundown… each movie features 3 types of dinosaur scenes. There are the same “awe and splendor”, “big predator attacks a vehicle”, and “man vs. raptors” scenes.
In the original, we marvel along with our main characters in amazement of the brachiosaurus as they are shown for the first time. Then we get personal with the sick triceratops before the tyrannosaurus rex attacks the vehicles and our heroes are split up. Tim and Lex meet up with Ellie and Grant who then have to fend off some raptors.
Lost World shows us all the awe and splendor of a baby stegosaurus followed by men hunting and capturing these beautiful creatures before they double down and give us 2 tyrannosaurs attacking a bigger vehicle in the form of an up fitted RV. Then they spend the rest of the first half of the movie running from raptors before the movie basically becomes a Godzilla film about a T-Rex set loose in San Diego.
Three actually breaks this format by having a spinosaurus attack an airplane and a boat and giving the raptors the ability to talk to each other (and to Dr. Grant at one point). Also, apparently they can evolve extraordinarily quickly. But let’s be honest… Jurassic Park III is the redheaded step child of these movies, so just roll with it.
World lets us see this amazing park and all the natural wonders within, before… you guessed it… the dinosaurs get loose. The indominus rex goes about the island killing extras and attacking a gyro sphere ride with the kids inside. Obviously, they escape and have to avoid some raptors before we get to see a pretty sweet battle between the T-Rex and the “I-Rex” with a little bit of raptor sprinkled in for good measure.
So by this point, you’re probably saying to yourself “this guy really doesn’t like the sequels to Jurassic Park”. Well, you would be wrong. I enjoy them, but for different reasons. What once was groundbreaking cinema, has become a popcorn flick. The sequels are great to just turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. They remind me a lot of the Godzilla movies. They don’t have to be masterpieces, but they are just fun. I wish they would have went another direction with this franchise and made it as intelligent as something like the recent Planet of the Apes films, but ultimately, it really is just all about watching dinosaurs hunt people and enjoying the action and suspense.
However, the fifth movie in the series has just released in the form of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and this movie seems to be moving the franchise away from the typical tropes and predictability it has become known for. There are no children of divorce with super powers, although there is a kid with a very dark secret. The first half of the movie feels like an action film while the second half feels more like a horror or slasher picture. I can honestly say that in a franchise that feels a bit stale by now, this movie has been my favorite of the sequels.
I hope other people enjoy it as much as I did, because I think the films are actually heading in a good direction. I don’t think these films are for everyone, but as long as dinosaurs show up to eat people, I will be there to watch.