Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Hammond's Island of Diminishing Returns?

Star Wars vs Jurassic Park
As likely as any other speculation about the plot of JP4. By David Fisher, via Flickr.

At this year's San Diego Comic-con, Steven Spielberg made the odd decision to somewhat undercut the buzz around Terra Nova to announce that Jurassic Park 4 is, finally, close to production. Today at Saurian, Mark Wildman posts about this, and expresses a sentiment I share:
What has surprised me, however, is the amount of people demonstrating their opposition to the film being made at all, and that is without the criticism of the project that has been demonstrated on social networking sites, blogs and also by the paleocommunity at sites such as the DML. I understand people wanting to protect the legend of the original Jurassic Park but it was inevitable that sequels would be made and that the franchise would escalate. Incidentally, I don’t think the sequels were bad films anyway – they were good fun and entertained people, which brings me too the main point of this post.
Read more of his musings on this reaction, and why it might be so, at Saurian.

While I'm a fan of the franchise, I'm by no means emotionally invested in it. I'll be thrilled if Jurassic Park 4 is a quality piece of cinema. If it's not, though, I don't think I'll lose any sleep. The negative knee-jerk reaction to its production somewhat baffles me. On Twitter, Myspace boldly tweets, "Jurassic Park 4 in the works. Ironic that they are reviving something extinct. Does anyone even remember 3??" Buzzfeed tweets, "It hurts me to have to tell you that Steven Spielberg announced today he's making JURASSIC PARK 4." The Dinosaur Mailing list hasn't seen an overwhelming response to the news, with only a few people expressing their distaste. Reaction at IGN has ranged from "give it up already" to mockery. The AV Club's commenters deal in their usual snark. Variety readers seem uniformly stoked by it - one commenter reminds people of JP3's poor quality, then immediately leaves another comment about being excited by the JP4 news. I imagine that the Variety commenters reflect the general public, who will likely be happy for another installment of the franchise. While the third movie did about half of the total domestic gross of the original, their opening weekend grosses compare favorably. With more than a decade having passed since the third movie, and having been primed by Terra Nova, Dinosaur Planet, and Dinosaur Revolution, I could see it at least matching The Lost World's numbers.

There will always be harsher criticism for prehistorically-inspired entertainment from paleontology enthusiasts and the scientists who feed our obsessions. As Mark Wildman notes in his post, fidelity to the research done with such painstaking care by paleontologists is ideal, but it may be a pipe dream. It's akin to the dilemma faced by the journalistic media, as discussed in Marc Vincent's final entry in his Prehistory and the Press series on this blog. That is, money. Every day, we are surrounded by people who don't share our passion for paleontology, who may simply see it as a scientific backwater that only interests eccentrics and children. Add the business interests of a studio to that, and it's easy to understand why sauropod biomechanics or integumentary structures of dromaeosaurs may be lost in the noise. I'll continue to argue that attention to such considerations deserve a place in the creative process, as they can result in more believable, beautiful, and surprising creatures for the cinema, but I'm not naïve about it. I'm ready to be entertained again by the franchise, and each bit that reflects the revolutionary insights of the last couple decades will be icing on the cake.

In other Jurassic Park news, a movement has begun on Facebook to petition Universal to subject the series to the current trend of "reboots." It's been 18 years since the original came out - a number that staggers me, as I readily recall my multiple trips to see it over that summer - so a reboot wouldn't be as egregious as those given to The Hulk and Spider-Man only a few years after their original installments. But you have to figure that a well-conceived fourth entry in the series, perhaps with adult versions of Tim and Lex, would achieve the same nostalgic impact. But hey, if it's an idea that turns you on, join in.

6 comments:

  1. As a wannabe paleontologist and extremely picky about inaccuracies in current documentaries I believe all Jurassic Park movies had make a considerable good job in putting out the latest paleontology discoveries and hypothesis to the public at the time of their releases.
    We have to remember the last of Jurassic movies is ten years old.

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  2. @Dr.Dino Jurassic Park 3 did feature a Spinozilla and Pteranodon with teeth, among other things...

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  3. Thanks for the link guys and another great post!

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  4. No problem, Mark. You're doing great stuff at your blog, and I'm always happy to send folks your way.

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  5. Jurassic Park 3 > Jurassic Park 2

    By Far.

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  6. I still don't know where they got the idea that Dilophosaurus was about three feet long and spit poison.
    It's a good movie besides the inaccuracies.
    Walking with Dinosaurs trumps all.

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