Steven Spielberg has been quoted as saying that they had the “mother of all ideas” for this sequel, and that if they’d come up with it earlier, this would have been the third film. He claims this will completely reinvigorate the franchise, and Kathleen Kennedy promises that it’s nothing like the other films so far. Normally, those sorts of comments could be dismissed as hype... but in this case, they’re not kidding around. Bill Monahan wrote the first draft based on a story by Spielberg. Monahan’s a busy guy, but most of his stuff hasn’t hit the screen yet, so don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize his name. Ridley Scott’s wrapping up work on his KINGDOM OF HEAVEN right now, and wants to make TRIPOLI at some point, while Martin Scorsese is just gearing up to make THE DEPARTED, which Monahan adapted from the Hong Kong thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS. As a result of all these other obligations, Monahan moved on after that first draft, and none other than John Sayles was brought on to bat clean-up. I know that most people think of John Sayles as Mr. Indie Cinema if they know his name at all, but he’s also a big-time script doctor and, more importantly, he came from an exploitation background. ALLIGATOR, PIRANHA, and THE HOWLING are all great early genre scripts that he wrote, smart and funny and very aware of what they’re supposed to do.
I’m pleased to report that this second Sayles draft of JURASSIC PARK 4 sees him working in full exploitation mode. I’ve talked to a number of people about this draft, and it seems to radically divide them in terms of reaction. Some people adore the premise and get excited as soon as they hear it. Some people (including the person who gave it to me) are convinced it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read and a signpost on the road to Hollywood Hell. Personally, I think it’s well-written and certainly inventive, but I also think it just might be the single most bugfuck crazy franchise sequel I’ve ever read, and I’m not sure we’re ever going to see this thing onscreen. It just doesn’t seem possible that Universal would make something this vigorously whacked out.
I spent the entire first act of the script thinking I had it figured out. I knew where it was going. Problem was, every time I thought I had it figured out, something happened that seemed to change the entire premise of the movie.
The script starts at a Little League game somewhere in America, an idyllic scene that quickly goes bad when pterosaurs attack the kids and their parents. It’s a cool scene, and I couldn’t help but immediately anticipate what might lay ahead. Dinosaurs in America. All-out warfare on home soil. This should be fun. In a series of television clips, we learn that this is the first attack on North American ground following months of this sort of thing in Central America and Mexico. The UN has created a task force to exterminate the dinosaurs. Awesome, I thought. A bad-ass heavily-armed United Nations task force versus the dinosaurs. Bring it on! But then the script throws its first major curve ball, introducing Nick Harris, an unemployed soldier of fortune. Nick’s the lead in the movie. Not Alan Grant. Not Ian Malcolm. Despite all the rumors to the contrary, those characters are not back for this film. Instead, we meet Nick as he watches those same reports on TV that we are. He’s approached by an ex-commander of his and offered a meeting about a job. He’s warned that the guy he’d be working for is a little bit strange...
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