Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): Jurassic World

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)

This time around I’ll be examining the Jurassic Franchise! The fifth installment in the series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in theaters now. With that in mind, let us look out this franchise jumped The Park and became Jurassic World!

Film franchises, by their very nature, are all about nostalgia. True, a movie franchise’s primary concern is to get a loyal audiences greenbacks. However, I’m a firm believer in the fact that sequels, prequels, universes, and everything in between are depending on nostalgia to get our butts back in the seats for another round. It’s quite simple really, without those memories and goodwill toward the first movie in a series, there could be no further installments related to it. Well, it just so happens that the nostalgia machine has been in full-swing in the film industry over the past few years. Put this particular trend in tandem with a reboot, and you have a formula that could conceivably make for a perpetual franchise.
Unless you’ve been living like a mosquito trapped in amber; you’re probably familiar with the concept of a movie series rebooting. Reboots simply take characters we know and are familiar with from a previous franchise and put them in new stories; played by fresh faces and are propelled by new creators. In the scheme of things, reboots are still a relatively new concept; having taken hold in the late 2000s. However, there was one reboot in the form of Batman Forever (1995). (Go ahead and take a shot if you’ve followed my work and have kept on with my mentions of Forever.)

Sure, it was just considered a sequel at the time. The fact of the matter is though that Batman Forever did everything a reboot does from re-casting to re-setting the franchise’s tone. In our modern parlance, this movie would be referred to as “A soft reboot,” since it did acknowledge its predecessors. Since then a multitude of comic book franchises have been rebooted; which makes sense as comic book series are published in runs. Once a title has run its course, it begins anew with a fresh story and a different creative team. Therefore, it makes sense that movies based on comic books would do the same.
Bats received the reboot again with Batman Begins in 2005.  After that so did Spider-Man, The Punisher, X-Men, and seemingly every four-color character out there. What was interesting though is when the trend of rebooting went beyond the subgenre we cherish so. Movie franchises such as Planet of the Apes, Bond, Bourne, and Star Trek have been given the proverbial reboot, to name a few.  Some were given a soft kick, while others received a hard reset. The Jurassic franchise is among those series that received a soft-reboot.

After Jurassic Park III (2001) many ideas were bandied about to keep the Park open. The most notable of which was to weaponize the dinosaurs for use in war. Another idea was to cross-breed human and dino DNA. Thankfully, those particular ideas and many others were mostly scrapped. It took many years to finally come to the idea of giving the franchise a soft-reboot. As such, the installment in review features new characters and acknowledges the movies that came before. Most importantly though, this fourth entry was to serve as both a sequel and a reboot. The ultimate goal of which is to attract the broadest audience possible in both new and old viewers. Moreover, hopefully, new life will be breathed into the series.
Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One) and screenwriter  Mark Protosevich (Thor) privately discussed doing a fourth Jurassic installment. (Which at one point was rumored to be Jurassic Park: Extinction.) But it wasn’t until  Colin Trevorrow (of the upcoming Star Wars, Episode IX), came to Spielberg pitching his directorial services as well as an extensive story treatment. Said treatment co-scripted with his writing partner Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed). Impressed with the pitch, Spielberg proceeded with Trevorrow as director and co-writer. By the time the proposed story made its way to the screen, we the audience would find that:

22 years after the fateful events at Jurassic Park, John Hammond’s dreams of having a fully functioning theme parked filled dinosaurs has finally come true. The newly branded Jurassic World has operated successfully as one of the world’s most popular theme parks for a few years under the management of a young, ambitious woman named Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). The park manager is getting ready unveil a genetic hybrid dino who’s bigger, badder and scarier than anything else in Jurassic World. Yes, even more so than the raptors; which have now been trained to take human commands from their handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Owen has his own work issues to worry about as he’s feeling pressure from inGen higher-up, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) to help weaponize the raptors for military application. However, all these matters seem insignificant once Jurassic World’s newest attraction escapes and unleashes chaos. Now, Owen and Claire must find a way to stop the dinosaurs before they eat all the customers!

After reading that synopsis, you can understand how this film functions as a soft-reboot. Jurassic World hits all the nostalgia marks as it’s narrative structure and tone are similar to Jurassic Park (1993). In doing so, this fourth installment once again possesses that magical and fun spirit featured that original JP. In that same spirit, the movie remembers to point out the issues of toying with nature; which is more dangerous than ever this time around. Of course, it helps that this installment has characters that are likable, have arcs, and are well-cast. Moreover, the dinosaurs look fantastic; which is more than I can say for the previous two sequels. Also unlike the other follow-ups, Jurassic World is well-made. It is clear that Trevorrow and crew understand what Spielberg did the first time around. Meaning, they also understand what this series should be: smart, escapist fun!
While this movie is largely an homage to the original Jurassic, it does bring enough new content to the table. The best new aspect the film offers is its meta tone. Not only is the film in review know that it’s a sequel to a beloved movie that spawned a flawed franchise. Jurassic World also knows that it’s a Summer blockbuster and as such comments on all of that in an intelligent and fun fashion.

Two of my favorite albeit, blatant examples of this meta tone include the following. Firstly, the new attraction is a metaphor for the expectations of a Summer tentpole in our modern movie age. Other than that, there’s the fact that Jurassic World functions like any major theme park in the real world. As such, everything in the park has some real corporate tie-in. To me, this makes the picture more realistic, all while commenting on mass entertainment and consumerism.

As much I enjoy Jurassic World and its ability to make me feel like a kid again; this movie is not perfect. The film has to use nostalgia as fuel. Therefore, as much I enjoy World, the movie itself continually reminds me that Jurassic Park is a superior movie. That constant reminder is, of course, a result of this film not being original enough. Beyond that, the character of Claire is severely underserved for a significant portion of the movie. And the reason for such is simple: Because Claire’s ambitious and career-focused; the movie villainizes her somewhat. In doing that, I feel the writers are giving some backward, antiquated commentary on independent career women. C’mon guys, it’s the 21st-century.

Outside of those problems though, this movie is highly enjoyable! It’s precisely what it should be, as I stated earlier. More than though, Jurassic World is a perfect and logical sequel to Jurassic Park. In my humble estimation, this flick is what JP2 should have been in the first place. This film functions as a sequel and a soft-reboot and revitalizes the franchise. Thus, Jurassic World is a prime example of Franchise Expansion! Now, the question is, can this refreshed go anywhere worthwhile from here?

Find out when I review JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, Coming Soon!

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