Welcome to our new column, Keeping Track, a space for us to indulge our nerdiness with the kinds of pop culture lists we all love to make and the pop culture debates we all love to have. Today’s list: 10 Requests for Jurassic World – Part One
Keeping Track: 10 Requests for Jurassic World – Part One
by Chad Jewett
Last week, Universal gave us our first glimpse of the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel/reboot Jurassic World. The image: a folding chair (to be occupied by Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow) with the film’s blue-scale variation on the classic T-Rex logo, poised in front of what would appear to be a landscape of Isla Nublar, the island from the first film. Additional images show Bryce Dallas Howard looking at a dino-insignia marked piece of equipment, and a dented up truck, labelled with the T-Rex-circle logo and the word “Construction.” Jurassic World is officially a reality; and, with news that Trevorrow is committed to capturing the awe-inspiring scale of the original film – including plans to use animatronic dinosaurs, blended with CGI, in keeping with the blend that made the 1993 film work so well (and, based on repeat viewings of the 2013 IMAX re-release, still work) – there is reason to hope. With all of that said, here are ten ideas, characters, concepts, and most importantly, dinosaurs, that we hope to see in Jurassic World. Today: Part One.
There is literally a zero percent chance that Jurassic World doesn’t feature Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the franchise’s signature dinosaurs, and the heavy-weight carnivore that Steven Spielberg famously stated was the “hero” of the original film. No, the point here is how the film should use Rex. Maybe the only positive to be gleaned from the confused, uneven, weirdly mean-spirited The Lost World was the clear affection the film showed for its central Tyrannosaurus family. Of course, one of the Rex’s was used to terrorize San Diego (in one of Spielberg’s ugliest moments, and far and away his most misanthropic), and the weird majesty of the Tyrannosaurus was somewhat dulled by overuse, but the film still showed arguably its only trace of heart in focusing on the Rex family. On the flip-side is Jurassic Park 3, which infuriated fans by (spoiler alert) killing off the film’s lone Tyrannosaurus in a King Kong style fight with a Spinosaurus – a dinosaur no one cared about, and few had ever heard of. Hopefully Jurassic World will learn the lessons of Jurassic Park – T-Rex is your ace-in-the-hole, your clean-up batter. You have to show respect. All hail the king.
2.) Ian Malcolm
Jurassic Park was interestingly poised between two sensibilities, characterized by its two male heroes, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm. As played by Sam Neil, Alan Grant carried the leonine humanist-heroism of Spielberg’s 80s blockbuster, Indiana Jones, all square jaws and quiet confidence. But Ian Malcolm, portrayed by the ever-wonderful Jeff Goldblum with a blend of academic stylishness and bemused hipsterism, gave the film an interesting undercurrent of existentialism. Ian Malcolm made a monster movie into a movie about ideas, pulsing with questions about scientific ethics, humanity, and the hidden pitfalls of progress and discovery. The character’s one-liners were not only the film’s funniest moments, but also its most clever reminders of the philosophical wanderings motivating its dinosaur stampede. Anticipating the flashy post-modernism and the cerebral comedy aesthetics of the 2000s (the internet is full of Ian Malcolm memes), Malcolm has arguably eclipsed Grant, even if Grant made a cooler action figure. All of that edge and beatnik bite was muted by The Lost World, which shoved Goldlum and his creation into an Alan Grant hero template necessitated by the film’s bang-bang action plotting, leaving little time for Ian Malcolm’s humor, his philosophical soliloquies, his now-recognizably essential infusions of Big Questions. In Crichton’s novel, Ian Malcolm all but loses his mind at the end of The Lost World, doubling down on the character’s abstract musings and turning them into reveries. Think of a new Jurassic Park film with Malcolm coming apart at the seams, turning into some sort of chaos-theorizing prophet. Think of the meal Jeff Goldblum would make of such a role. It has been widely reported that Goldblum won’t appear in the new film, but it’s never too late (after all, Life finds a way), and more than the specific character, the film could use and the portent and Jungian weight that Malcolm’s perspective gave to the first film. Even without Malcolm specifically, hopefully the film will find a way to recapture that undercurrent of seriousness, questioning, and consequence.
If you were old enough to have seen Jurassic Park in the theaters back in 1993/1994, and still young enough to see life without filters of irony, you had one thought: “I’m going to see dinosaurs.” And afterwards, you had a new thought: “I just saw dinosaurs.” As much as the film was an action movie, a monster flick, a horror film, a philosophical treatise, a pseudo-science lessons, it was also a deeply romantic piece of wish fulfillment. Unlike its (incredibly inferior) sequels, Jurassic Park showed an instinct for just how deeply people care about and are fascinated by dinosaurs. Accordingly, the film spent a lot of time both physically and emotionally close to the animals. There are shots of Grant or Tim touching a Triceratops for the first time, with the herbivore’s legs and horns in distinct, ultra-sharp relief. Thanks to the film’s use of robotics (which Jurassic World is thankfully reincorporating) close-ups of Velociraptors were able to capture the predators’ marbled skin, their flaring nostrils, their roving, cat-like eyes with thrilling tangibility. The original film knew that we all want to be close to these creatures, and constantly fulfilled that wish, both whimsically, as with a quiet interlude wherein Grant and the kids feed a Brachiosaurus, and nightmarishly, as when a Tyrannosaur’s maw fills the rear-view mirror of a racing Jeep. As such, this also meant that the film almost never used the dinosaurs for jokes, instead showing an earnest willingness to focus on their miraculously-captured majesty rather than say, Alan Grant’s PTSD dreams of a talking raptor (ugh). One can assume that, since Trevorrow’s statements on the upcoming reboot have themselves broadcast a remarkably earnest desire to align his film with the spirit of the original, that we can expect a movie that takes dinosaurs as seriously as well all did when we were five.
4.) Lex and Tim
Following up on the previous entry, Jurassic Park was able to remind adults about just how awesome the very idea of a dinosaur is to kids by featuring, you know, kids. Despite sharing the stage with brilliant actors like Laura Dern, Sam Neil, Jeff Goldlum, and Sir Richard Attenborough, the sister-brother duo of Lex and Tim (grandchildren of Jurassic Park owner and proprietor John Hammond), played by Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello not only aced the film’s best scene (the still-thrilling hide-and-seek mind game between the kids and a pair of Velociraptors in a gleaming obstacle-course of a kitchen), but also offered real-time Cliff Notes on how jaded adults should be reacting to say, the world’s cutest Saurapod (pardon me, “Veggiesaur“), or a sick Triceratops. The film’s other signature set-piece, wherein the park’s T-Rex figures out that the electric fences are down and Jurassic Park is now a large buffet, is also primarily concerned with how the kid’s react – essentially telling us how we’d react, since most of don’t have the steely dino-knowledge of Grant or the Nietzschian irony of Malcolm. That said, introducing another kid duo might feel dully repetitive, the kind of box-checking slavishness that Crystal Skulls and Phantom Menaces are made of. Instead, why not reintroduce Lex and Tim as adults? Granted it would take some serious writing-room brainstorming to come up with a good reason for either character to want to be in the same ocean as Isla Nublar, there remains a compelling possibility in revisiting familiar characters and their relationship to the Park and its creatures without the generic quality of The Lost World or the “I’m-Getting-Too-Old-For-This-Shit” sarcasm of Jurassic Park 3.
Do you realize that, despite six-plus hours of Jurassic Park, we have yet to have any real quality time with an indisputable top-3 dinosaur? Jurassic Park at least used its Triceratops to pluck our heart strings, and indeed, one of the film’s most poignant, lasting moments, is Alan Grant reacting to touching a Triceratops for the first time, all but bear-hugging the dino. That said, it was also a bummer to see one of your favorite dinosaurs breathing laboriously after too many poison berries. And to make matters worse, the film never resolves this, leaving you wondering what happened to the poor Triceratops (the book solves the mystery – spoiler alert: the herbivores were accidentally ingesting berries while scarfing rocks to serve as gall stones). There were glimpses of the full, bulldog awesomeness of the Triceratops in The Lost World, which essentially used the dinos as bulldozers smashing up a camp of poachers. While that was obviously gratifying, it suffered from that film’s overall emotional and physical distance from its starring creatures, seemingly only valuing Triceratops (and an equally awesome, even less showcased Pachycephalosaurus) as plot tools rather than the objects of fascination that they were in Jurassic Park. A best-case scenario for Jurassic World will be a film that balances crowd-pleasing gestures with the weightier questions and philosophical mysteries of the first film. In other words, there’s room for a Triceratops or two.