Humans have an obsession with the past, it’s engraved in our very beings. We love digging through history to find things that we’ve forgotten, or look back at our past triumphs. Sometimes, we like to search for beings that used to exist, like dinosaurs. The fascination with dinosaurs runs deep, but was brought to its inevitable climax in 1993 with the release of “Jurassic Park”.
Jurassic Park revolved around a group of tourists travelling to the eponymous Jurassic Park, a large island filled with clones of long dead dinosaurs. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, and featured an all-star cast including Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Richard Attenborough. Jurassic Park ended up being a huge success, due in large part to its massive advertising budget.
Jurassic Park was everywhere in 1993, to the point of it being inescapable. This popularity would eventually prove to be a double-edged sword for the film, since it introduced something that watered the series down: Lots of sequels. In my eyes, the original Jurassic Park worked because it showed corporate greed in its rawest form. The film was basically about bringing dangerous animals back to life, for the sole purpose of profit.
The film showed the darker side of theme park attractions, when things go horribly wrong and out of the creator’s control. Sadly, this sentiment echoed into the franchise itself. After the first film did amazingly well, the film was given two rather disappointing sequels. The first was Jurassic Park: The Lost World, which brought back Jeff Goldblum and made him the star this time around.
The film takes place four years after the original, and has Jeff Goldblum travelling to an island that houses the escaped dinosaurs from the last film. Jeff has to deal with InGen once more, as they attempt to reclaim the dinosaurs for their nefarious deeds. The film received middling scores, yet still did really well in the box-office.
As a result, we got Jurassic World III. Most people agree that the film is rather bland, even when compared to the last film. Despite Sam Niell returning as Alan Grant, the film still lacked in terms of entertainment value. The plot this time had Alan going to the same island Jeff Goldblum went into the last film, in order to find a divorced couple’s lost son. As you can expect, Alan has to deal with a legion of rampaging dinosaurs. The film came out a whopping eight years after the original, at a point where the series was starting to feel played out.
Despite this, Jurassic Park III made bank and did extremely well internationally. After the third film, the series went extremely quiet for the next 14 years. What kept the series alive during this period was its myriad of video-game sequels, and its attraction at Universal Studios. Jurassic Park remained in the public’s eye during this 14 year period, despite the franchise being mostly dead at this point.
This all changed in 2015, with the release of Jurassic World. This film was a big deal at the time, due to the public not having a new JP film for almost a decade and a half. As a result, Jurassic World gained a lot of exposure. Unfortunately, what we got wasn’t a new film at all, but rather an old film with a new coat of paint on it. Jurassic World was the first film all over again, but with new characters (and one returning one, played by his actor from the 90s) in a near identical plot and setting as the first film.
Jurassic World focused on a new protagonist named “Owen Grady”, played by Chris Pratt. Owen is basically an animal trainer, who has trained various dinosaurs within this new Jurassic Park. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there’s a new Jurassic Park in this movie! This made little sense to me, as the first film’s whole plot revolved around showing how a seemingly innocent attraction could become a dangerous land of death. Why would anyone want to make a new park, especially after all of the chaos the first one brought?
The first film’s messages of corporate greed are downplayed, in favor of showing off cool dinosaurs. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it feels like Jurassic World and its writing/directing team don’t get what made the originals great in the first place. Jurassic Park took a silly concept, but portrayed it in a serious and semi-realistic way.
As a result, the film felt strangely believable. The dinosaurs looked and felt real, and the explanation for how and why they were created made sense to the general viewing audience. The protagonists had goals, dreams, and traits that made them feel like real people. In the original movie, Jeff Goldblum’s character was a firm believer in “chaos theory” and acted as sort of a mouthpiece for the audience.
He believed Jurassic Park was a terrible idea, and his many predictions echoed what the audience thought on the situation. His theories were often true, which resonated even further with audiences. As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to remember this film solely for Jeff Goldblum, even if they can’t recall his character’s name.
The thing is that without a character like the one Jeff Goldblum played, there is no anchor for the audience. There isn’t a firm naysayer to the concept of Jurassic Park in the film, but rather a bunch of characters who fill archetypal roles and are totally cool with dinosaurs. With that being said, despite Jurassic World feeling like a retread with little heart to it, I still found it to be very enjoyable.
It had some fun scenes, some great action, and a fantastic final battle. The thing is that Jurassic Park was more than just these things, and the soul that had once made this series great was slowly vanishing. This brings us to the newest Jurassic Park film, known as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”. After Jurassic World brought in over a billion dollars in the box office, Universal wasted no time in hobbling together a sequel.
Fallen Kingdom came to theaters in June of 2018, and was widely considered to be one of the worst Jurassic Park sequels ever. In fact, it has the second lowest review score of all five movies. What makes this film falter so greatly? Well, a lot of this comes down to its use of elements from previous films. While this film seems to be the most connected to the first film than the others before it, it still suffers from being a soulless cash-grab.
The first JW film was certainly flawed, but it was a fun and enjoyable film. Out of all the sequels, it’s probably the most watchable. Fallen Kingdom starts off with an interesting premise that could’ve made for a truly unique Jurassic Park film, had they chosen to stick with it. The general setup for the film was that the island the last movie took place on was being destroyed by a volcano, while people are arguing whether they should save the dinosaurs.
The idea of treating the dinosaurs as an endangered species sounded interesting, but they never did too much with it. Most of the main characters are focused on saving/helping the dinosaurs, despite the fact that they are gigantic and dangerous wild animals that were bred in a tank.
Unfortunately, all of this is dropped 30 minutes into the film. From there, it becomes yet another formulaic Jurassic Park sequel. A lot of it didn’t make sense, the film was filled to the brim with dumb stuff, and the characters were pretty bland. Not even Jeff Goldblum himself could save this movie for me.
To summarize my thoughts, I’m not the biggest fan of the Jurassic Park sequels. Jurassic Park always felt like a concept that only worked well the first time around. That’s why its imitators (such as Godzilla 1998) usually flounder, because they try too hard to capture what the original did well. Not only this, but they often fail to understand what made the first film so great in the first place.
It’s tough to do a sequel to anything, since there are many factors to consider when constructing a sequel. However, none of the following 4 films came close to capturing the raw emotion and creativity that the first film did. Despite being a book adaptation, that first entry did a fair bit to stand on its own. While the Jurassic Park sequels aren’t the worst follow-ups out there, they’re still far from the quality set by the franchise’s first entry.