1993 was a fabulous year to be a movie buff. From Schindler’s List to Philadelphia, and Groundhog Day to The Fugitive, so many classic movies filled the silver screen that you never had to worry if there was a decent one for you to take your date to see on a Friday night.
However, there was one that struck the perfect balance between sci-fi and horror, comedy and adventure. That movie was of course Jurassic Park; a film brought to life using the combination of Michael Crichton’s imagination, Steven Spielberg’s creative genius, and dinosaurs that didn’t go on TV telling me how much they loved me every morning.
Jurassic Park was an instant hit with children and parents. Kids loved it because, well, dinosaurs. Parents loved it because, well, dinosaurs. And, teenage boys loved it because watching a T-rex break his diet triggers in teenage girls the “eww, I’m scared, must grab hold of nearest strongest man for protection” response. Unfortunately, my then soon to be next ex-girlfriend and I were sitting next to a bodybuilder when that happened.
But, I still loved the movie. I even liked Jurassic Park II. It was a good follow-up full of “what if’s” that hadn’t really been covered in the first movie. That’s what a good sequel does. It provides pieces of the storyline that weren’t covered in the first movie and blends them together with a seamless continuation of the story. For example, my ex-girlfriend and the bodybuilder made a baby bodybuilder, at which point her mother turned into a T-rex.
In hindsight, Jurassic Park should have stopped at two movies. Dinos are bad. Dinos are dangerous. Stay away from dinos. People get smart and the Costa Rican government allows the US to nuke the island in exchange for unlimited visas and cheap electronics for life. Everyone’s happy. Well, everyone except the dinos and the executives at Universal Pictures who have to come up with a new, original story to tell in order to pry the money from our wallets.
That’s my whole problem with modern movie franchises. Jurassic III just sucked. First, William H. Macy married to Tea Leoni? Not buying it. Of course, he was selling plumbing fixtures, so maybe he was highly skilled at laying pipe. Then there was Dr. Grant. Good ole’ Sam Neill. His whole performance in Jurassic Park III made it clear that he was really just in it for a paycheck. And, don’t even get me started on the pathetic storyline. It was Home Alone with dinosaurs. In retrospect, had Spielberg put McCauley Culkin and Joe Pesci on the island and let Barney’s merely misunderstood mother eat them both, I might have a different opinion of the movie.
Then, for nearly 14 years there was nothing. No more dinos. No more pathetic storylines. The franchise went extinct the way it should have after a terrible 3rd installment. The movies were put upon the shelf to collect dust and royalties from cable television.
But, some greedy executive at Universal decided to dust everything off and bring it back to life and call it Jura$$ic World (Hey, did you see what we did there? We changed the name before we unleashed more teeth on your wallet…)
Sounds a lot like the storyline, doesn’t it?
It had about the same result as Jurassic Park III. The formula for the storyline was the same. Dinos + island + people doing science + greed = $$$. No doubt the executives at Universal Studios saw this same equation through the polished surfaces of their amber desks bought with profits from the first movie. Let’s change 99% of the cast, call it Jura$$ic World, put it on a lunchbox, sell a few t-shirts, and voila, another few hundred million dollars will miraculously appear in the company vault right next to the missing minutes from the Nixon tapes.
It was such a bad idea that Spielberg wanted almost nothing to do with it. He has a reputation for being protective of his babies, but it was clear he’d had enough of the wild child he’d brought to life and had abandoned for a reason. At 22 years-old, not even the father of the modern action adventure movie could reign this monster in. Sure, he’s listed as Executive Producer, but by all accounts he was more of an absentee parent standing in the back of the movie theater sipping a bottle of Ensure and saying, “You’re an adult now, do what you want.”
And, it showed. The movie sucked. The dino evolves through genetic engineering performed by a 2nd tier cast member from the original movie. Dino gets mad. Dino eats every dino on the island and a few tourists from Omaha to show how mad he is. And, the T-rex is now the hero of the story?
As far as I’m concerned, the hero argument was already made in Jurassic Park when the T-rex ate the lawyer. Had he been a true hero, he would have eaten the entire Board of Directors at Universal for even suggesting a 4th installment to the franchise.
That’s because the whole Jurassic Park storyline really boils down to two main themes: A) Stupid, greedy people putting a bunch of innocent stupid people in danger, and B) The T-rex is the most misunderstood lizard in history.
It’s been told. It’s done. Bury it and let it fossilize the way it should.
But, I shelled out my $29.99 for two tickets anyway. Dinos + eating people = girlfriend hug response. I even sprung for the $80 bucket of popcorn and $49.99 worth of soda which were just large enough to get us through the opening credits. As predicted, the dino got mad, the dino ate people, girlfriend turned into a boa constrictor, and I wept because the movie sucked so badly that I wasn’t even amused by the awe-inspiring special effects.
But, even though I hated it, I did leave the theater smiling when the credits rolled I looked up my stock portfolio. There at the top was GE which owns most of Universal. It was up just enough to cover the cost of the popcorn.