In Defence Of The Jurassic Park Sequels
In Jurassic Park you’re cheering for the humans to survive, while in the sequels you’re waving a flag for the dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park was a game changer when it was released in 1993. But we know that. We’ve been hearing of its greatness for 25 years. The sequels, on the other hand, have been greeted by sneers despite amassing box office in the billions. We’re now four sequels deep into the Jurassic Park series and there are no signs of extinction. The latest entry, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, netted more than $700 million worldwide during its opening weekend despite mixed reviews. So if these sequels are unwanted, why do we keep showing up for them? Well, it depends on whose side you’re on: dinosaur or human.
The key difference between Jurassic Park and its sequels is where your empathy lies. In Jurassic Park you’re cheering for the humans to survive, while in the sequels you’re waving a flag for the dinosaurs. Jurassic Park remains untouched as a classic for this reason. No sequel was ever going to compete with what filmmaker Steven Spielberg managed to conjure with the first film – his own sequel is a testament to that fact.
A sequel to Jurassic Park was never planned in the first place. Author, Michael Crichton, witnessed his novel (first released in 1990) become an unforgettable blockbuster. It’s rumoured that Crichton was then pressured to pen a sequel in order to cash in on the success of the film. Crichton scoffed at the idea until Spielberg offered to return to the Isla Nublar if the book ever got published. Crichton smashed out The Lost World, which was released in 1995 and the film hatched two years later with Spielberg, as promised, back at the helm. But comparison to the original is never going to work with these films because they now operate like monster movies that tap into nature getting revenge on mankind for tampering with dino DNA.
The sequels to Jurassic Park are best enjoyed through this monstrous filter. In The Lost World we see the human characters terrorised by dinosaurs before the film takes a bow with a T-Rex rampage through San Diego. Jurassic Park III is like a slasher film with a family stalked by a sadistic Spinosaurus while on a rescue mission. Finally, in Jurassic World we see the park in operation but we know in our hearts that we want to see it go horribly wrong, and it does in a spectacular way.
With Fallen Kingdom the series begins to resemble the later Fast and the Furious films with its dedication to allowing the dinosaur verses human battle to spiral out of control in the most entertaining way. To quote Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way,” and now it has a grudge!
I hate to betray my species but I am firmly on #TeamDinosaur when it comes to these sequels. The dinosaurs themselves (like Godzilla, a child of the atom bomb) are a warning about the dangers of meddling with nature. Science fiction is full of lab experiments turning on their masters but there’s something primal and terrifying about being eaten alive by a test-tube T-Rex.
In Fallen Kingdom the idea is floated that the dinosaurs may trigger an apocalypse and you can’t help but feel the people who inhabit this world had it coming – and so do we. There’s a delightfully wicked scene in Fallen Kingdom where a genetically altered dinosaur feasts on an elevator full of deplorable wealthy people more obsessed with money than scientific ethics. There’s a satisfying sense of Jurassic justice.
So as long as humans keep messing up the planet and its creatures, the Jurassic Park sequels will arrive to chomp back. Our own self-destruction is a blockbuster film franchise. Let dinosaurs inherit the earth.