First of all, I am a massive fan of the Jurassic Park franchise. I’ve seen each film countless times and read the books more often than I care to mention. I love Jurassic Park. But that love is not unconditional and an awful lot of it is a hangover from the first classic film. That movie itself is flawed. I get it, adapting a long book into two and a bit hours of cinema is not easy. It is not perfect, there are chinks in its armour however they are forgivable because overall Spielberg and co. did a stellar job. It’s in the sequels that the real cracks begin to show.
I’m not saying The Lost World and JP3 are bad films. They are very entertaining and I thought they were fantastic when I first saw them. No doubt if Jurassic Park 4 was a rehash of the third film I’d come out of the cinema smiling. Having said that, there’s a reason JP4 has been gestating for this long. Both sequels dropped the ball in a number of ways. What’s frustrating is that they could have easily avoided a lot of these pitfalls and been much more successful. Who knows, if things had been done differently then instead of eagerly awaiting JP4 I could be complaining about how much I enjoyed Jurassic Park 9’s space-raptors but thought the Tri-laser-tops was a bit of a stretch!
So here’s what I think Colin Trevorrow needs to bear in mind as he works on what will be a pivotal film in the franchise.
#5 – Hold onto your butts (you’ve got one shot at this).
There has been talk of JP4 being the first film in a new trilogy of Jurassic Park films. Fantastic! …but how well did that mindset work out for Terminator Salvation? My advice here would be to focus on this film and this film alone. By all means set up films five and six but don’t just assume they are going to happen. This could be the last Jurassic Park ever to be made. So it needs to be a self contained story that is compelling all by itself and not because it’s a stepping stone to JP8’s Teenage Mutant Ninja-sauruses.
This is where I think JP3 missed a trick. Watching it again I feel like “…meh, so what?”. Yeah it was great the first time but that’s because it was another window into the JP universe, not due to the story. The plot went as follows:
• “We need to go to the island.”
• “Oh God why are we on the island?”
• “Wow this Spinosaurus is bloody persistent!”
• “Why do these raptors keep bugging us?”
• “Aah Ellie sure is great.”
That’s pretty harsh but it’s all JP3 was. But it did not need to be that way. This film was the first not to have a book to draw upon so it’s understandable that the plot, cobbled together from bits missed out of the previous two films, was just a little muddled. JP3 did not really know what it wanted to be. Several times there was a glimmer of a deeper plot than “Which carnivore can we piss off next?”.
For example, that fearsome Spinosaurus that was paraded across the new logo. Mr Trevorrow? Are you listening? That would be a HUGE plot point for JP4 to explore. Yes, the Spinosaurus is all big and scary but do you know what JP3 could have told us was more scary? The fact that it was not in the first two films. There is a moment when Alan Grant says something along the lines of “That wasn’t on InGen’s list…”. But then the subject is promptly dropped. Where did this animal come from? If InGen did not make it in their first batch of cloned monsters then how come this Spinosaurus is suddenly around after the island was supposed to have been abandoned?
That could be a whole film right there. InGen are tinkering with the laws of nature again. Simple. It even opens up options for future instalments of Jurassic Park-y goodness. Jurassic Park 3 could have addressed this instead of mucking about with the clever girl raptors. It didn’t and the resulting story was essentially the group trying to get off of the island. Which would have been compelling if A) the characters had been less forgettable and B) it didn’t suddenly end on a full scale navy invasion!
#4 – Welcome…to Jurassic Park! (make it iconic).
I realise my previous point was basically “make a good film” so this one will be much simpler. Make it quotable!
Again, this is difficult, it’s in the hands of the masses. The original Jurassic Park is brimming with quotable lines and that just adds to people’s love of the film. The thing is it’s an indicator of the script quality; That can’t happen if the script is generic or just plain boring. I’m bashing JP3 again here but as far as I know nobody particularly revelled in the discourse between the Kirbys discussing their divorce. The first film had plenty of scenes that were just talking. No man-eaters in sight. And yet they hold up because they had great back and forth between Malcolm, Grant, Sattler and Hammond. Instead of chatting about a Paint ‘n’ Tile hardware store we were treated to their views on scientific principles and the moral implications of the theme park.
I get that the family scenes in JP3 were meant to make the audience care for the characters but, for me at least, they just fell flat because they were so mundane. Contrast that to the dinner scene in the first film and there’s just no contest. That scene simultaneously gives a sense of foreboding, questioning whether man and dinosaur should really mix, while also endearing the characters to us. I don’t fear for the Kirby’s because I found them annoying more than anything else. But I root for Ian Malcolm because he’s awesome. He’s an interesting, layered character that delivers iconic lines. Plus he hasn’t got a silly moustache.
#3 – They were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think whether they should (no silly “Hollywood” bits).
I don’t worry too much about this what with the current state of cinema. Dark and gritty is what many directors are going for and I hope JP4 follows this route too. Yes, the old leaked JP4 script detailing dinosaur hybrid super soldiers would be fun to watch……the first time. But it would not be a Jurassic Park film. If we want absurd and absurdly fun action sequences then we have Pacific Rim for that. If The Lost World’s “T-Rex goes to San Diego” bit was in a film today then I’d assume it was a parody. The more I think about it now the sillier it seems. I liked it when I first saw it … but then I was a five year old. Spielberg could have cut the entire sequence and the movie would have been all the better for it. Years later we’d laugh about it just like the rejected JP4 script.
Jurassic Park actually had a moment like this. The ending where big ol’ Mrs T-Rex bursts in and saves the day. But I’ll allow that; the end to the book was a bit drawn out and it would not make any sense because they cut out a whole storyline from the film (which could work for JP4 so I shall talk about it in a minute). The Lost World book’s ending was pretty much: They got off of the island. The End. So I can see how it needed spicing up but oh boy did they overdo it. Let’s just pretend it was a King Kong homage and move on…
But wait! Number 3 also suffered from this “Hollywood” ending with the beach landing. Does any JP film end well? While The Lost World finale smacked of them stalling for time, JP3 felt like they’d forgot to check their watches. I suppose that wasn’t as bad and they had kinda been leading up to it (I guess). Even if it’s rather convenient that the Navy owed Ellie a favour and didn’t have much to do that day anyway.
#2 – Life will, uh, find a way (remember it’s not a monster flick).
“Are you crazy?” You ask, “dinosaurs chasing people is the best bit of Jurassic Park! That’s what we come to see!”
Well I’m afraid that’s not what Jurassic Park is. There’s plenty of scary dinosaur scenes, sure, but JP has never been as simple as that. There’s always been a balance. JP1 started us off slow; We had the Brachiosaurs, baby raptor, a hint of the full size raptors and two no-shows before we were treated to our first touchable prehistoric critter. Even then it was a sick triceratops. A herbivore. Not one of the big guns for sure. The first film was very good at building up a sense of foreboding until unleashing T-Rex and friends on us. What Jurassic Park did was give us terror but also a sense of wonder. It showed you that these were animals, not monsters.
“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”
That’s basically how it goes. The Lost World (sorry, I mean JP2: T-Rex’s Big Day Out) did this with the Stegosaurs and it worked well. JP3 started with a bang, with as little set up as it could get away with. That was fine in that case but you can’t bust out another Spinosaurus-esque surprise. The selling point for JP4 can’t simply be that there’s a new dino on the block. This film is effectively going to be a reboot regardless of whether it carries on the story or does a full reset. With such a massive gap between entries there will be kids completely new to the franchise so it needs to give us that sense of wonder once again.
If the franchise is to continue all the way to space-raptors then this film cannot be a quick cash grab. If people aren’t impressed like they were the first time around then there might not be a JP5. They certainly won’t wait with baited breath for JP7: Pteranadons On Ice.
#1- Clever Girl (a decent story).
This is obvious but, as I said earlier, Jurassic Park III somehow messed this up. So I’ll offer some of my own ideas for which direction Jurassic Park 4 could take. (Trevorrow, time to take notes. If you’ve got something better then great! I’d also love to hear everyone else’s ideas for potential sequels, these will just be a handful of mine based off of the books)
I think there are two main directions in which Jurassic Park could naturally evolve during the next few films:
1) InGen are at it again (those crazy guys!) and we have to learn again why that is a very bad idea.
2) The islands have a dinosaur leak. It needs plugging before San Diego citizens’ insurance policies go through the roof.
Now, both of these scenarios were set up in JP3. I mentioned previously how the Spinosaurus should not be on Isla Sorna at all. But also in JP3 we see the Pterosaurs flying off the island after some silly sausage didn’t close the gate. WHAT HAPPENED THERE? The film just showed how formidable these animals are and now they’re off to lord knows where.
I think the best thing for the franchise to do would be a combination of the two scenarios. Have JP4 as a potentially self contained film (can’t have it doing a Terminator 4, remember) where the main plot is InGen restarting production (or BioSyn, they were big in the books but not so much in the movies). Then have the dinosaurs escape as we all know they will. But instead of mopping up the mess from the escape be the main worry (like in the first film) have some of the dinosaurs escape the island completely. In Jurassic Park the book, this was actually the plot. There were two storylines. The first being the park security failing and the ensuing chaos. The second, for added spice, was just before the power went out they noticed that there were some raptors hidden on a boat headed for the mainland. So in the book they were not only trying to survive but also racing to restore the power so that they could warn the boat and get it to turn around. JP2: T-Rex’s Big Day Out cannibalised this storyline and replaced raptors with something bigger, meaner and less bus-friendly.
What I would propose is for JP4 to follow the book. By all means do what you want on the island but have a few raptors (and more, in the books there were hints of big herbivores having made it to Costa Rica) but make sure that something escapes the island. It could simply be an after credit scene. Then you’ve nicely set it up for JP5 and beyond. There’s only so many times we can watch people romp around an island before we get bored. If the dinosaurs take a trip to the mainland then there’s a whole new (lost?) world of possibilities.
There’s a bunch of source material for this in the books. Crichton had the Costa Rican government spotting “aberrant forms” for years and having to dispose of bodies with flamethrowers. Perhaps JP4 could skip the InGen part and go straight for revealing that there’s been a cover up hiding dinosaurs from the public. So, in a nutshell, I want JP4: Mr Velociraptor’s Holiday.
In all seriousness, I’m sure Jurassic Park 4 will be made to a wonderful standard and I’ll love it even if it breaks every one of these rules. Having heard Jurassic Cast’s interview with Colin Trevorrow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6vnBYPfJ5o) I am very impressed with the way he’s handling it and thankful that the film has such a person onboard.
That’s my take on it anyway. What are your thoughts?
P.S. Bit of a shameless plug here but I’m writing an episodic ebook series that (I think) could double as a future Jurassic Park script with a bit of tweaking. You may like it, you may not but it’s here if you want to give it a try: http://www.amazon.com/Forest-Devils-Episode-One-ebook/dp/B0056NZ1XM/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top . Just tweet me @AlexNott92 if you would like a free copy.