Jurassic Park should never have worked so well. Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dinosaur blockbuster was a jumble of contradictions: an absurdist fantasy with down-to-earth human characters; a horror-tinged monster film that kids might still enjoy; a tech-heavy CGI fest with a beating human heart. It’s no wonder that studio executives, noting the film’s immediate cultural ubiquity (and nearly billion-dollar gross), rushed to release a sequel. People wanted more, and damn it, they were going to get it — even if it meant cloning star Jeff Goldblum from amber DNA.
Of course, that wasn’t necessary, and Goldblum v1.0 returned, e.g The Lost World: Jurassic Park 1997, adapted from a novel that Michael Crichton had somewhat reluctantly published two years earlier. Another sequel followed in 2001, without Spielberg and Goldblum, but with Sam Neill reprising his lead role from the original. Cut to 20 years later, and the franchise seems finally ready to hang up its straw hat with the release of Jurassic world domination. domination is the third film in the Jurassic world series, a trilogy of films loosely based on the original Jurassic Parks. domination is significantly the first film since 1993 to reunite the three original leads – Neill, Goldblum and Laura Dern. Characters from the previous two Jurassic World films, including Chris Pratt’s mild, heroic velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s dinosaur conservationist Claire Dearing, are also thrown into the mix with significantly less fanfare.
In modern usage domination is what’s been dubbed a “legacy sequel”: a sequel made years after the original that brings back the old, time-ravaged cast and mixes them up with young money. If they work – as in the recent case of Top Gun: Maverickor Bladerunner 2049 a few years ago – they can really work. If they don’t, you get it Ghostbusters: Life After Death. A bad legacy sequel isn’t just a crappy movie; it can feel like a vulgar and cynical betrayal of decades of goodwill. domination has already fallen flat with critics. “domination is the final entry into a trilogy that never knew what it was doing,” writes Clarisse Loughrey. “It was like watching a chef butcher a recipe whole before maniacally pouring in spice after spice to fix it.” The problems run deeper than just Pratt’s shallow affect or a few too many nauseous callbacks. Jurassic Park didn’t need a sequel. Five is ridiculous.
at its core, Jurassic Park was a perfectly self-contained story: a moral tale about the folly of playing God. But layered into his script were a handful of other narratives – a critique of capitalism; a fatherly awakening; an inquiry into human behavior in the face of disaster. In five consecutive films, these themes were never really expanded or replaced with new ones; All we had is blunt repetition. I suppose that stems from the limitations of the franchise’s core premise — if your brief is pretty much “dinosaur theme park goes awry,” you can’t exactly wax lyrical about the politics of lust or suburban ennui. (Or maybe you could. You’ve certainly never tried.) These are adventure films essentially built around big CGI monsters and adrenaline-pumping chases. But even with that caveat, the sequels’ approach to their subject matter is shockingly unassuming. Are there really any? saying anything that hasn’t been expressed twice as cleverly in one of Jurassic Park‘s original subplots?
Another factor that most Jurassic Park sequels have failed to emulate is the craft behind the camera. Jurassic Park was of course made by one of our greatest filmmakers of all time. Under the revolutionary special effects, craftsmanship oozed from every image. Who else could have pulled off such exquisitely suspenseful set pieces – the finale of Velociraptor cuisine; the water-shattering arrival of the T-Rex; Wayne Knight meeting his end at the hands of a venom-spitting Dilophosaurus?
Even The Lost World, which went into production in a hurry and is considered a miserable failure by Spielberg’s high standards, had sequences of real cinematic bravado. (Most notable: the sophisticated attack by two T-Rex on a trailer home; a shorter sequence in which velociraptors pick up victims running through tall grass). Sometimes it’s so easy to know where to put the camera or how long to hold a shot. Take Spielberg away from the original Jurassic Park, and you’d be left with any old kitsch adventure film. And that’s exactly what the franchise did.
I kind of doubt that domination will be the last we see of Jurassic Park, though the whole “saga’s conclusion” line is passionately driven. The fact is, these films continue to be extremely popular; Jurassic world and its continuation Fallen Kingdom, collectively grossed about $3 billion. (domination is poised to be the biggest test of cinema’s pandemic recovery since Spider-Man: No Way Home.) I suppose it’s fitting, if a bit on the nose, for a franchise about greedy corporations cynically profiting from dangerous cloning technology to continue to commission hollow facsimiles of a bygone classic. Jurassic Park has almost become a dinosaur himself. But you can’t just keep doing these things and hope that life will find a way. Sometimes, as it turns out, life doesn’t.
Jurassic World Dominion is in theaters now