Jurassic Park has long been regarded as the dinosaur movie to end all dinosaur movies. Since it hit theaters back in 1993, no one has managed to duplicate its simple genius, with two ill-advised sequels and a bevy of imitators all falling flat. It’s always difficult when it comes to recreating a timeless classic, especially given this one’s seemingly endless stream of quotable Jeff Goldblum lines, paired with the special effects that hold up surprisingly well 20-plus years later. But you can never put it past a studio not to try anyway, so now we have Jurassic World set to land in theaters next June.
What was it about Park specifically that made it so special? For one, it was Steven Spielberg in the prime of his early career. He’d just come off of directing the final Indiana Jones movie in the original series (because we’re all pretending Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never happened), and in the same year his dinosaur classic debuted, Schindler’s List was released, later winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Spielberg was in a period in his directorial life when classics were virtually all he made. This time around, a relative unknown in Colin Trevorrow is taking the reins, so it remains to be seen what kind of action/adventure movie chops this new director has (his most successful project to date is the comedy/romance drama Safety Not Guaranteed).
Jurassic Park‘s brilliance wasn’t just in Spielberg’s directing ability. What it managed to do back in 1993 was become the very movie of its kind. Hollywood has always had monster movies, but what it didn’t have was something of Park’s ilk: A monster movie that tapped directly into our sense of childhood awe. Many kids grow up developing a fascination for dinosaurs. They’re as close to actual, real monsters our planet has ever had, and what child isn’t even a little interested by that? When we see our very first dinosaur in Jurassic Park, our jaws drop right along with the characters on screen at the pure majesty. So why weren’t subsequent sequels able to re-capture this magic?
The reasoning here seems simple enough: We’d already been there before. Park showed us something we’d never seen before. Anything after that was just window-dressing, chock full of tropes we were no longer shocked or surprised by anymore. The “oh look, dinosaurs!” wonderment couldn’t be duplicated, despite each sequel’s attempt to tell themselves that showing a rampaging T-Rex again would definitely be just as effective as the first time. When Jurassic World was announced, there was a healthy dose of skepticism that we’d be getting more of the same. But then the trailer debuted with four words we’ve been dying to hear: “The park is open.”
In the initial World teaser, we see the proposed theme park of the first installment already up and running. Despite the abject failure of the first try, we now have a fully functional island theme park where tourists can gawk at the monsters of Earth’s past in safety. Then we see flashes of Chris Pratt riding along with his own (supposedly trained) herd of raptors, mentions of a brand new dinosaur escaped from its enclosure, and the consequences of a fully realized theme park being overrun. It initially seems like a newer, fresher conceptualizing of a source material that’s been beat to death by sub-par follow-up efforts.
Jurassic World will almost certainly have its work cut out for it in being measured up against one of (if not the) best monster movies of the last three decades. If it succeeds, it’ll have to be because it sets itself apart as its own film, not simply a rehashing of its predecessors. We’d be lying if we said weren’t at least a little excited by the trailer, although when it comes to Jurassic sequels, it’s not like we haven’t been hurt before.
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