Hopes and Dreams
I’ve been anxiously anticipating the release of “Jurassic Park IV” for about…14 years now. The film was first announced in 2001, right after the release of Jurassic Park III. Originally Steven Spielberg said he would return as director because Joe Johnston had so severely bollocks’d up the third one. Naturally that was music to my ears, but hope faded as the years went on. I turned thirteen, then fourteen, and then fifteen. Eventually I graduated high school, served a year in the military, and travelled to the other side of the world to begin my university studies. I graduated from uni, travelled back to Norway, worked for a year, then returned to Australia for another batch of education. Here I sit today, twenty-six years old, halfway through my second bachelor, and it would appear that after all this time…life found a way.
The fourth episode of the Jurassic Park franchise has just hatched at the box office. There are, however, some unpredictable changes that have occurred during its development. Spielberg has taken a backseat producing role and the film’s no longer called Jurassic Park IV; it’s called Jurassic World.
I, for one, love the title! It’s perhaps not perfect but, considering the legacy, it’s a great choice.
We have Jurassic Park, followed by The Lost World, leading into Jurassic Park III, and now a great hybrid creation; Jurassic World. It even bares some poster-design similarities to JP3, so every previous venture has been acknowledged.
I’m working over the next two weekends and as a result will probably not get to see Jurassic World for quite some time. The reactions so far have been mixed but largely encouraging, so I’m looking forward to it with all the excitement you would expect. In fact, I’ve done something unusual in preparation for it; I’ve avoided absolutely all advertising and premise information about the film. I want to go into this movie knowing nothing, just like I did with the original, and as a result have averted my gaze from every trailer, screenshot, and plot synopsis that I could. At this point all I know about the film extends the width of the poster. I’m going in totally plot-blind.
Well, not really. I know Chris Pratt is in it. That fact couldn’t be avoided. I also know that it has something to do with genetic modification. Aside from that, though, I’m effectively Hans Schultz.
Most people who know me will know that the original Jurassic Park is my favourite film of all time. I love it so much that it was the first film I ever wrote about on this blog. I could spend weeks talking about the effect it had on me as a child. Like a Catholic Priest, it touched me in a very special place. At 7 years old, this was my first moment witnessing the awesome power of computer animation and masterful filmmaking. Nearly two decades later and I’ve chosen to follow two complimentary artistic career paths; Computer Animation and Filmmaking.
In a little over 14 days I’ll be sitting in a theatre with a big box of popcorn on my lap. The lights will go down, the screen will widen, and I’ll once again be back in that luscious jungle landscape. So what, you may ask, am I hoping Jurassic World will give me?
Well, I try to lower my expectations every time I see a film…but since you’re asking…
Let’s start with the small stuff. Many people won’t know this, but there are in fact two Jurassic Park islands. They’re part of an island chain off the coast of Costa Rica; six islands, one far off in isolation and five strung close together. The latter five are known as Las Cinco Muertes, or “The Five Deaths”.
It’s on one of these Islands, Isla Sorna (known as Site B), that the dinosaurs were cloned and nurtured. They were then moved to Isla Nublar and placed in the Dino-Zoo we see in the original film. Both The Lost World and Jurassic Park III took place on Isla Sorna. Why? I have no idea. Personally I’d like to see a return to Isla Nublar. It would be a chance to step back into the original architecture from the first film. The Jeeps, the Tyrannosaur paddock, the kitchen where the Raptors stalked the children, I want to see some of that again. However, it’s a minor nostalgic request that I can certainly live without.
This one might seem pointless and pedantic, but it’s actually a big deal. John Hammond saying “Welcome to Jurassic Park” is one of the best moments in the first film. It bathes the audience in a revealing moment of awe, that gives us a glimpse of the unending possibilities before us. The best part is that we know we’re only at the beginning of our journey, and already enjoying such bliss.
Now, if this line does appear in the fourth film, it will obviously be changed to “Welcome to Jurassic World“. That’s fine, but the correct emphasis needs to still be there.
While we’re at it, it would be nice if someone also said “Clever Girl!” or “Spared No Expense!”, but I won’t be greedy.
John Williams isn’t providing the score for Jurassic World. He left the franchise after The Lost World, just like Steven Spielberg. However, his musical score is iconic, and needs to be honoured. I’m not just talking about the main themes. Remember the opening titles, with those slow thudding buildups, foreshadowing female voices, and that final creepy flute? That’s the kind of thing I want from the very first moment.
How great would it be to see Mr. DNA again? Come on, you know you loved this guy. Of course, Mr. DNA was always just a narrative device that explained the science of dinosaur cloning to us without Hammond having to utter even more exposition than he already was. It doesn’t matter to me though, this guy gave us an insight into the family-friendly intentions of the park. He’s an obvious homage just waiting to be exploited.
Don’t worry, I don’t need someone to say “It’s a Dinosaur”. What I need is for the filmmakers to remind themselves of this fact.
One of the things that made Jurassic Park unique among dinosaur films was its attitude to the creatures themselves. Spielberg made it very clear from the first day of pre-production that he wanted to treat them like animals.
He was adamant about not turning the dinosaurs into monsters. Sure, once everything goes south “there’s running and screaming”. Still, the Raptors and the Rex are depicted as believable carnivores. Stan Winston recalls several times when Spielberg would re-think the specifics of the dinosaur effects just to allow for subtleties like an expanding ribcage, so you could see the dinosaur breathing. Palaeontologist Jack Horner was front and centre as the dinosaur consultant, making sure that everything was accurate. That is, of course, with the exception of this:
The Dilophosaur never had a frilled neck, nor venom to spit at anyone. This creative licence was used to make a plot point during the demise of Dennis Nedry. While we’re at it, it was also significantly larger and Velociraptors were actually the size of a small dog. Whatever!
The point is that I don’t want Jurassic World to forget that it’s depicting animals. If I get too much of a monster-movie feeling I’m going to be disappointed.
It’s important to remember that technically Jurassic Park was always science fiction. The book is almost entirely concerned with science and scientific/philosophical discussions. The film does a masterful job or retaining as much of that idea-clashing in its script as possible before giving way to spectacle. Of course I’m typing this directly under a still from the movie that shows “Tyrannosaurus” spelled incorrectly. Brilliant!
Here’s a telepathic pop quiz for you. Which Jurassic Park scene do you think is my favourite? Is it the T-Rex breaking out of her enclosure? No. Is it the Raptors hunting the children in the kitchen? Nope! Is it the first time we see the Brachiosaur? Nuh-uh! It’s this one:
From a narrative point of view this is the most crucial scene in the whole film. It’s where everyone lays their cards on the table and billboards their perspectives; Belief, disbelief, ignorance, concern, and agnosticism. Beyond that, there’s wonderful rich dialogue going on with scientific and philosophical approaches brushing up against each other in fury. It’s a lovely thing to watch.
If you devise a premise where dinosaurs are being brought back to life for entertainment purposes, then you owe it to your own story to explore the implications of such an event.
One of the reasons I’ve tried to avoid everything about Jurassic World is because I don’t trust movie trailers these days. Studios have decided that they will always prefer money over critical acclaim, and therefore have adopted the “bums in seats” marketing strategy. They throw everything juicy into the trailer in order to make people think “that looks good.”. Then when you watch the actual film, there’s nothing left to enjoy. The only bits that were kept in the dark were essentially just filler anyway.
Here’s the original trailer for Jurassic Park:
Notice something? It gave you the premise and even a fair bit of plot development, but you basically saw nothing of the dinosaurs. Every shot of a dinosaur was either obscured, incomplete, went by too fast, or was implied. This is what’s known as…wait for it…”good marketing”!
That’s right, it was better to just give us a hint of the “monster”. If you wanted to actually see it then you had to buy a ticket. That was brilliant, and I have no doubt that the Jurassic World marketing campaign falls far short of it.
As for the film itself, only 15 minutes of the 2 hour long Jurassic Park actually contained dinosaurs. That leaves 1 hour and 45 minutes devoted to people talking, walking, and pushing the plot along on their own. It’s 1 hour and 3 minutes before the main dinosaur, the T-Rex, makes her appearance and only after 1 hour and 44 minutes do we get our first look at the much-discussed Velociraptors (That’s just 16 minutes before the end of the film!). I can only hope that Jurassic World takes some inspiration from this and doesn’t completely saturate us with the animals themselves.
I don’t have high hopes for this one, but I really want to see the continued use of animatronics in the JP franchise. Nowadays creatures are rendered entirely in CG, both in wide shots and closeups. That’s fine, but since all the previous films in this franchise have used animatronics, it essentially becomes a continuity issue.
How bizarre to be sitting here asking for less CGI in a sequel to a movie that was so highly regarded for its pioneering contributions to that very industry. Weird!
Stunts have always been a big part of Jurassic Park. In the original we have a car pushed off a cliff with Tim inside it, the car then chasing Tim and Alan down a tree, Tim being electrocuted on a fence, and then a dinosaur skeleton falling on top of…Tim. Jesus Christ! Tim really was tortured a lot in the first one! What, did Spielberg just hate the little tyke?
In The Lost World we have that long, but very well paced, “trailer-hanging-off-the-cliff” sequence. In fact, we have a stunt within a stunt, when the people inside struggle to prevent each other from falling out the other end.
Jurassic Park III starts off with a parasailing boat-collision, then throws the main characters into a plane crash, and eventually ends up with someone skydiving amongst Pterodactyls. The skydiving was too much for me. I hope they don’t go that crazy in Jurassic World, but there needs to be some decent stunts. Preferably they give us some that aren’t just spectacular but also provide a lot of excruciating tension.
Let’s not forget that the first (and to some degree the second) Jurassic Park had a great deal of horror sequences. The scene with the T-Rex is an obvious example, but it’s easily matched and possibly even outdone by the sight of a Raptor chase Ellie down a dark underground hallway. With jump scares, dingy lighting, and eerie music, there are entire sections of the series that are downright terrifying. Jurassic World, please don’t beckon me into the cinema just to give me colourful flashy fun. I want to be a little frightened as well.
I know I’m not going to get all of my requests. In fact it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll even get most of them. The film is out now, so all I can do is cross my chromosomes and hope for the best. Obviously it goes without saying that I’m hoping, above all, for a good story with interesting characters and a plot that keeps me hooked. Getting my little wish list would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.
Regardless, it’s a wonderful day when a new Jurassic Park film is sitting in the cinema waiting for me. How can I complain, really?
Well written, as always, Carl. I hope you are not disappointed, and, if and when I see this film, I will now be looking for completely different features from those I observed all those years ago. A pity your hero, Steven Spielberg, is not as responsible for this film as the original.