Earlier today Adam Chitwood from Collider put together an article titled “‘Jurassic Park’ Is Not a Franchise“. As a massive fan of the franchise, I have a few things to say about his argument.
Adam certainly raises good points during his discussion of the Jurassic franchise. The emphasis on the incredibly weak story of Jurassic Park 3 and the irony of Jurassic World becoming “the very thing the script tries to take down” are both relevant points.
But Adam’s core arguments, that no film in the franchise after Jurassic Park could capture the magic of seeing a dinosaur for the first time and that no film since has correctly balanced the adventure with the horror we felt in the first JP movie, for me do not hold enough weight to warrant the end of a franchise at the first port of call.
I spoke about it recently and Adam Chitwood echoed the sentiment that Jurassic Park will always be held on a pedestal for its contribution to the film industry, and in particular the revolution of CGI. That awe-inspiring feeling we get when we see the Brachiosaur for the very first time can emote real emotion in people. But expecting that feeling to last into future entries of a franchise is unfair on not only the people behind the film, but also on the audience.
Steven Spielberg would not have gone into the The Lost World: Jurassic Park anticipating, or even trying, to wow the audience in the same way that he had done previously. The film industry is much like a news cycle, it moves incredibly quickly, so quickly in the modern era that a trick will only work the once. Take Avatar for example, it was so successful not because it was telling a story that blew everything else out of the water, not because it was being held up as the epitome of film-making, but because of the revolutionary use of 3D effects. But the trick was short lived, and now 3D is a dying trend that saw its true success born and die alongside Avatar. James Cameron won’t go into the Avatar sequels expecting to bring in the same audiences that he did last time, the trick is done and he will need to rely on something new to turn his commitment to the franchise into a continued success story.
And that is where Adam’s arguments around the Jurassic franchise begin to fall apart in my eyes. He is too focused on what the original did right, and could not be repeated, as to why that meant it should have stayed as a one and done. The sole purpose of a sequel is not to repeat the success of its predecessor, but instead to build on it in new and creative ways. Whether that be through new filming techniques or through a new plot that builds on a pre-existing world and lore.
The Jurassic franchise is far from perfect. JP 3 is as poor as Adam makes it out to be, and only avid fans of the series would find positives there (I count myself among those people), and whilst certainly better than a lot of sequels The Lost World still has a number of faults. But poor execution does not expel the effort involved and it does not grant weight to the argument that a franchise should never have been attempted.
The Lost World itself had the continuation of John Hammond’s character arc from “capitalist to naturalist” as he sought to protect Site B from the outside world, a full circle story thread that isn’t given the credit that it deserves. JP3 is the bad egg of the bunch, and then we have Jurassic World, potentially the most divisive of the series. Adam points to this film as being the best example of why a franchise should never have been conceived, but I disagree. Jurassic World does exactly what a franchise (That isn’t built on pre-existing source material) should try to do, and that is build on what came before, but do something new that makes it stand out as its own film with its own identity. Jurassic World did that, not by wiping the slate clean and starting again, but by introducing new characters that a new generation of children could grow up loving, by showing us what it would be like if the Park had finally been opened on the same island as the original, and what happens when capitalist greed goes too far and the DNA is exploited for other means (A thread that will carry on in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).
One of Adam’s final comments states that should Fallen Kingdom director J.A.Bayona pull off the terror aspect of the franchise then “maybe we’ll get a decent enough film”. That is not only underselling a movie before it has even been released, but it is also patronizing to the director, cast and crew involved with the movie.
It’s no secret that thousands of people criticized Star Wars: The Last Jedi for being too different, for doing things that didn’t feel enough like the Star Wars of old. Adam Chitwood was not one of those people:
Yet here we are, less than a year later talking about why a franchise that tried to do things differently, that tried to take a step in a new direction to inspire a new generation of children (And hey, let’s be honest, make some money along the way) should never have existed. Did the Jurassic franchise live up to the excellence of the original? Not even close. Does that mean that it should never have been allowed the chance to try? Not at all.
If you do happen to read this Adam then I would love to talk about it further with you. But for the rest of you, let me know what you think about the Jurassic franchise, should it have stayed as a “one and done” or were there aspects that needed exploring in sequels?