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Quick Change: Making an OK Movie Great - "Jurassic Park" Sequels

The Movie Hole

Quick Change: Making an OK Movie Great - "Jurassic Park" Sequels

JJ Mortimer

In light of next year's release of the fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, titled Jurassic World, I want to highlight some of the minor fixes that could have been made to the existing two sequels, all from the standpoint of a fan of the first film.  Hopefully the new film will harbor some of these concepts that many fans have been so vocal about in the past as being things that would make the movies great again.

It probably won't.  Money talks; it doesn't listen.

And who knew Jeff Goldblum would foreshadow what we would all be saying about the sequels in the first film:

Indeed it is.

Indeed it is.

--------

Jurassic Park was an event when it opened June of 1993.  Everyone went to go see it, and I mean everyone.  At school, it was a literal shock to the brain if someone said they hadn't seen it.  I legitimately thought one kid was Amish and/or homeless when he told me he hadn't a clue of what it was.  To this day, staring at a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex terrifies me to think that a creature like that once roamed the upper west coast of what is now the United States.  Hell, if people still believe Sasquatch lives up in those same forests, I'm going to go ahead and believe that a T-rex is still milling around in some idiot's back yard in rural Oregon, hunting the man-ape for sustenance in an ever-growing battle to see who can stay the most hidden from human eyes and technology.

Obviously there were to be sequels based on the worldwide success of the first film.  What we got instead were two films, 1997's The Lost World and 2001's Jurassic Park III, that didn't care for audience expectations, and went instead for cheese, cliche, often terrible acting, and stereotypical scene-by-scene dinosaur havoc that carried no place in an overall narrative or thematic nature of the story.

These were all things that could easily have been fixed in pre-production, or in some cases with a second fucking take in front of the camera.

Symptom:  The Lost World didn't work because Spielberg just didn't give a fuck.

Quick Fix:  Make Spielberg give a fuck.

I read a story/rumor once where director Steven Spielberg, aka "The Beard", went on a two-week vacation with his family during the actual production of the film, often directing scenes via satellite and laptop computer, and leaving second-unit director Stan Winston to make all the decisions.  With all respect given to the late, great Winston, I would have to believe that the majority of the scenes for this film were shot in those two weeks when Spielberg was gone, and some of the crew members (including highly overrated screenwriter David Koepp) said, "Let's screw with Steven and see if he notices the changes in tone we made to the story."  Steven didn't notice, and therefore nobody bothered to fix them.

Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm and Pete Postlethwaite's "big white hunter" character Roland are the only two characters that work in the entire film.  On the other hand, Julianne Moore's character, and her annoying disregard for the dangers listed by a more-experienced-with-the-dangers-of-wild-carniverous-dinosaurs Malcom, makes for a poor excuse to shoehorn Goldblum's character back into the story.  Also, get rid of his adopted daughter and that other-worldly awful scene where she dispatches of a near 300-pound velociraptor with her finely tuned skills in....gymnastics. 

"Why the hell would they cut YOU from the team again?  Oh yeah, it's because you're a shitty daughter who doesn't listen to a damn thing I say."

"Why the hell would they cut YOU from the team again?  Oh yeah, it's because you're a shitty daughter who doesn't listen to a damn thing I say."

In parts, The Lost World actually works.  But, the sum of its parts do not equal an entire film worth recommending to an infant chimpanzee (speaking of the word "infant", I swear Julianne Moore used it to describe the baby T-rex about two dozen times, and I hate that word now because of it).  The Lost World feels entirely like a dozen different people drew up storyboards for different scenes they wanted to see in a Jurassic Park film, and writer David Koepp said, "Yep, there's our movie."

Everyone:  "But, there's no actual story or purpose for this film with only these scenes.  There's no theme that makes this movie give a resounding message other than a seemingly anti-Sea World propagandist bullshit."

Koepp:  "What do you mean seemingly?"

The first Jurassic Park felt like a movie with a purpose, and was a lot of fun in the process - while being both scary and awe-inspiring.  The Lost World opens weak with little baby dinosaurs attacking a girl and a mother reacting with the worst-acted scream in recent memory.  No awe.  No shock.  Just a lazy example that leaves no hope for a strong middle and end to the movie.  We see big dinosaurs again, and there's no trumpeted affair.  Even composer John Williams seemed bored with the themes he wrote.  Too many characters exist solely to be eaten, or have only one personality trait to boot (namely a villainous one, so that we the audience will hopefully enjoy their deaths even more).  And too many of them are fucking idiots.

There's a reason the signs at zoos say not to touch the animals.  A)  Because it'll piss off the parents and they'll kill you, and B)  See A.

There's a reason the signs at zoos say not to touch the animals.  A)  Because it'll piss off the parents and they'll kill you, and B)  See A.

 

Simple solution:  Focus more on the hunting aspect of the film, and somewhere in the mix add in a rescue party made up of well-armed Marines that actually have to fight the fucking dinosaurs.  Because God willing, if any country, let alone the United States, knew of the existence of an island of dinosaurs, you know there would be instant military involvement and international political strife.  Hell, if the film makers were too afraid of the film having significant Aliens undertones with the Marines...GOOD.  That film WORKED as a sequel and a stand-alone film.  Make it the Army then if not the Marines.  Do anything to not make The Lost World seem like a poor excuse to make money by flooding the screen with every dinosaur an eight-year old with a boner complained about not seeing in the first film. 

And make the raptors efficient killers, and not the clumsy, Three Stooges-inspired fools the last half of the film made them out to be.  Spielberg established them as terrifying creatures of expert hunting prowess in the first film, and by the second, their feet were made of banana peels.

And that fucking San Diego bullshit.  Jesus, that was an idea that I'm sure sounded great on paper, but the implications of said event were nothing short of a 1950s era giant monster movie in the vein of a Twilight Zone episode, or Them!, the movie about the giant mutated ants.  The human reactions were corny at best (the sound of people being killed sounded like a joke, as was evident of writer David Koepp's cameo as the man that tried to hide in Blockbuster Video but got eaten by the T-rex instead, with his death cry sounding like a two kids pretending to choke each other out with the Force).

And you know what?  Have the fucking Army or Marines show up AGAIN and dispatch of the fucking T-rex.  At least the makers of King Kong had the balls to kill the monkey.  It certainly is a lot cheaper than transporting the fucking thing back to an island while keeping it constantly sedated, and somehow transplanting it back ONTO the island while not being eaten by other dinosaurs in the process.

Symptom:  Jurassic Park III felt like the deleted scenes of the first two films were meshed together to make one more film.

QUICK FIX:  Make the movie thirty minutes longer, and much like the previous film, give the audience something to actually care about - like a giant dino vs. dino battle to end the film, or a military excursion to rescue the survivors.  Show us what bullets do to a Spinosaurus, much like King Kong showed us what 30-caliber bullets do to ape meat.

First off, the new "Spinosaurus" is fucking stupid.  Again with all due respect to Stand Winston and his team, the mostly-imaginary dinosaur comes out looking more like a "monster movie" monster than a "dinosaur movie" dinosaur. 

The main problem I had with Jurassic Park III is its scaled-down approach.  I have no problem with some films being more subtle and small-scale to focus on characters and the fear they may inhabat in such supernatural-in-nature circumstances, but I couldn't give one handful of shit about any of the characters, except for Sam Neill's returning Alan Grant.  Seriously, I was waiting for/hoping for him to sacrifice that kid and his idiot mother to the Spinosaurus to help quicken his escape.  But, alas, this is a Jurassic Park film, and things should be big and grand, and not feel and look like they were shot in a made-for-TV approach.

This picture could be titled, "Dr. Alan Grant and his Assistant, the Most Useless Character in the Jurassic Park Franchise."  Seriously, this guy was written as though he was Grant's gay lover, but at the last second the idea was scrapped despite all of actor Allesandro Nivola's method-actor preparation for the part.  If you know method acting, then you get an idea of what I'm uncomfortably talking about.

This picture could be titled, "Dr. Alan Grant and his Assistant, the Most Useless Character in the Jurassic Park Franchise."  Seriously, this guy was written as though he was Grant's gay lover, but at the last second the idea was scrapped despite all of actor Allesandro Nivola's method-actor preparation for the part.  If you know method acting, then you get an idea of what I'm uncomfortably talking about.

Director Joe Johnston has a decent track record of films on his resume (The Rocketeer and October Sky are the highlights), but for some reason there's a substantial lack of quality and substance that I had hoped he would have brought to the film.  What was missing was his balls.  I will explain.

When a movie is in production, there is typically a final script and a budget.  The film had no solid version of either because the script wasn't finished as shooting began, and significant cut-backs were made as major decision were made on where the film was to go story-wise.  At one point, there was brainstorming as to what would happen at the end of the film.  The main notion was that there would be a rematch battle between the Spinosaurus and another T-rex, in which the T-rex would win and reclaim its crown as the King of the Dinosaurs.

If you re-watch film, you will notice the scene where it would have been inserted and made total sense.  At one point, after (yet again) another raptor encounter, a man appears on the beach, yelling at the survivors.  They yell back at him to be quiet because he will be noticed and eaten, and rightfully so because we as the audience deserve a higher body count than six dead people devoured in this second sequel.  At that point, the Marines finally fucking show up, but only to pick up the remaining cast members and take them home.

Seriously, the movie ends on the low-key note that The Lost World was supposed to end on before Spielberg decided to turn THAT film into a cheesy homage to a Godzilla film - to have raptors lazily terrorize our stars (AGAIN) and then that would be the end.  Jurassic Park III, instead of upping the ante or improving on the cheese factor of the previous film, decided to scale itself back on the whim of the producers (coming back to director Johnston's lack of balls in saying this film NEEDS a large scale battle at the end), and end the film again with raptors and with a giant missed opportunity sitting on the beach.

If everything else about the film were left the same (i.e. not changing any of the terrible acting or adding more spectacle to the set pieces), and they added my following description of how it SHOULD have ended, my grade for the film would easily have gone from a C- to a solid B:

ME:  "When the man signals to Grant and the survivors on the beach, the Spinosaurus should have run out from the jungle and eaten him.  Just then, from the other side of the jungle comes a pissed-off sibling of the T-rex killed earlier in the film.  The two engage in a giant, Skull Island monster battle homage, until the T-rex finally gets the upper hand and tears the throat out of the Spinosaurus.  The rex then rears its head in triumph as Dr. Grant watches in horror and discomfort, having just shit his pants for the third time in two days.

"Just then, the Marines show up and begin a full-scale assault on the rex, blasting it with their M249 light machine gun and M-4 assault rifles before being attacked in an ambush by the raptors.  At one point a fucking Pteranodon swoops in an carries a soldier off, eating his head as it flies away.  One soldier, in his own pants-shitting terror, grabs an M72 anti-tank rocket launcher and blasts the Tyrannosaurus in the stomach, putting a hole through it the size of a taxi cab in an homage to the 1985 movie My Science Project (showing that the film makers have the balls enough to pay dues to obscure, hack movie retreads that hardly anyone remembers)."

Dinosaurs and M-16s:  Getting it right nearly thirty years ago.

Dinosaurs and M-16s:  Getting it right nearly thirty years ago.

Seriously, envision that as the end of the film.  Instead of the film being a paltry 92 minutes (a decisively-huge cutback from the over two-hour lengths of the first two films), the film could have added another 20/25 minutes of military and dinosaur action, and the film would have been fucking fantastic.  Everyone would sit and wade through the shit JUST to get to that last quarter of movie, and loved every second of it.

I would have.

Envision the Omaha Beach scene from Saving Private Ryan, but replace the Nazis with American Marines and replace the American Soldiers with dinosaurs, and you have a real fucking end to a movie worthy of a new Oscar category - Gratuitous Use of Fan Fiction Orgy Material.

Envision the Omaha Beach scene from Saving Private Ryan, but replace the Nazis with American Marines and replace the American Soldiers with dinosaurs, and you have a real fucking end to a movie worthy of a new Oscar category - Gratuitous Use of Fan Fiction Orgy Material.


P.S.  There is nothing to claim that dinosaurs only ate and hunted at night.  In fact, much like lions, they probably hunted during the day when packs of animals were out and about.  So why the insistence on the sequels to only have nearly all the dinosaur action occur in the darkness?  Let us see the dinosaurs, namely the T-rex, in the daylight as the first film did so lovingly.

P.S.S.  When a 15,000 pound creature walks around, there are going to be multiple footprints on just about any surface other than concrete.  So why do people always only find ONE FUCKING FOOTPRINT when they are out adventuring in the wild?

P.S.S.S.   Have a reason to make the movie, but make it a dinosaur movie and not a "monster movie" again.  The idea behind Jurassic World, that a living, breathing dinosaur theme park is up and running, has some true potential.  If it ends with raptors chasing people again, I'm going cry diarrhea tears from the shit I can't believe I saw with my eyes for the fourth time.