Exactly a year ago today, millions of us swamped to theaters all over the world to see a sequel we had been waiting 14 years (though some might argue 22) for. Yes, a year ago today Jurassic World stormed into theaters to the tune of very ridiculous record setting numbers and breathed new life into a beloved franchise that had been basically dead for a decade and a half. Now that we have all had some time to cool down, love it or hate it, this presents a good opportunity to reflect on Jurassic World and understand what it did and what the future of the franchise will be as a result.
Jurassic Park just turned 23 and in case you haven't watched it in a while, it holds up on a level that very few effects heavy films, or any films for that matter, ever do. A few years after that, we got The Lost World which isn't without its problems, but in hind sight is actually a really good sequel and still holds some of the most awesome moments in the franchise. And then Jurassic Park III happened. It takes a lot to almost totally kill a franchise as monumental as the Jurassic Park franchise, but Joe Johnston's third installment damn near did it.
The film is far and away the lowest grossing of the franchise according to Box Office Mojo, it was panned by critics, introduced a very big, dumb dinosaur that killed the face of the franchise and had almost no stakes because none of the characters were allowed to die after the first 30 minutes of the film. After Jurassic Park III, Universal clearly didn't know where to go with it, but development on Jurassic Park 4 started and went through countless iterations ranging from predictable to utterly ridiculous. We've all seen the human/dino hybrid concept art by now.
However, thanks to a simple yet brilliant idea from the series creator Steven Spielberg to have a fully functioning version of Jurassic Park, now we're here. Ever since 1993, we all pretty much knew that it was a bad idea to have a lot of people around man eating dinosaurs, but not one of us who grew up watching the original films wouldn't go to a dinosaur filled version of Disneyland. And that is what Spielberg realized. Jurassic Park III failed for a lot of reasons, but primarily we all just realized that dinosaurs chasing people on an island with no purpose somehow gets old fast. The driving idea behind Jurassic World gave the installment purpose and not only that, but it played heavily on the nostalgia factor of the audience that was going to see it.
Sure, there were prevalent themes of man's relationship to nature and greed present, but really this film was all about nostalgia and on that level, no matter how you feel about Jurassic World, it is incredibly effective. That is why it was able to garner $1.67 billion worldwide, good enough for the number four spot all time, behind only Star Wars, Titanic and Avatar. The film was perhaps the absolute definition of fanservice and it paid off for the studio, sure. But outside of over analytical cynicism, it is hard to imagine anyone didn't enjoy watching the movie and at least have moments of that childlike sense of wonder that the JP franchise is good for. Plus, Chris Pratt totally rode a motorcycle alongside a pack of raptors.
The potential problem is that Colin Trevorrow and Spielberg put most of their eggs in Jurassic World's basket. They gave us what is by most accounts the Jurassic Park sequel we deserved, but in modern Hollywood one sequel isn't good enough. We are getting at least two more sequels to the film and honestly, it is hard to imagine where anyone can go with it from here that isn't pure Furious 7 style bananas kind of crazy. But here is what we do know will happen and what might happen.
First off, we know that military applications for dinosaurs are going to be a factor. Hopefully we aren't going to venture into raptorman style hybrid territory, but Dr. Henry Wu, played by B.D. Wong, made it off the island with the dino embryos and clearly had some kind of deal worked out with InGen to further their exploration of militarized dinosaurs. First they bred raptors, then they trained raptors. That whole thing. To what degree this idea is going to be explored, we don't exactly know, but we do know we are finally going into the real world with dinosaurs and not just hanging out on an isolated island, or in San Diego for a brief period in 1997.
Trevorrow won't be back to direct Jurassic World 2, but he has worked on the script and story for the sequel and has dropped some big hints about what to expect. Point blank the director has said that this stuff won't be limited to theme parks in the future of the franchise, which actually makes a lot of sense. There are lots of scientific applications for this kind of thing and those seem to be the ideas that will be explored in the future. Here is what Trevorrow said in an interview with Wired about it.
"I feel like the idea that this isn't always going to be limited to theme parks, and there are applications for this science that reach far beyond entertainment. And when you look back at nuclear power and how that started, the first instinct was to weaponize it and later on we found it could be used for energy."
Some people may hate on Jurassic World, but if Rotten Tomatoes and box office receipts are to be believed, the vast majority of people are very happy that we got the fourth installment of the franchise. All we can do is hope that new installments won't totally bastardise it, but much like the Transformers franchise, people will very likely turn out in droves no matter what the quality. The only question is, are we going to get another pointless island adventure like Jurassic Park III, or is Universal going to go all out with it and do Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but with dinosaurs? We'll find out when Jurassic World 2 drops on June 22, 2018.