We nearly didn’t get Jurassic World. It took over a decade of things going incredibly, wildly wrong (or right) for us to end up here on the eve of Colin Trevorrow’s re-opening of the park. As franchise guru Sean Fallon has already attested to in his “How To” installments on sequels and threequels, creating a series is hard to do. It’s made all the more difficult when the original film is so beloved and proved so monumental to the filmmaking medium. We were foolish to think we could ever be swept up again in the cinematic fever that was Jurassic Park, once the highest grossing film in the world until James Cameron got prestigious. I mean, we’re talking about a movie where not even the master Steven Spielberg could make an entirely worthy sequel to his own work, a franchise with a third film so poorly received that I still don’t think Sam Neill has fully recovered. So who the hell would want to see a Jurassic Park IV? Worse yet, who the hell would want to make it? I’ve long been interested in stories from development hell, those great or terrible movies we’ll never see, and there are few celluloid hells as deep as the one containing the pitches for Jurassic Park IV. Even if Jurassic World doesn’t come close to Jurassic Park we should remember that in the decade plus it took to bring what seems to be the best possible version of the film to screens, Universal Pictures spared no expense.
How do you take an aging franchise and make it relevant to the millennial age? In the case of Universal their answer was to either hold on to the past or throw out better judgment and turn the franchise into something that bares no resemblance to its forbearer. In terms of sticking to the past, most of the ideas tossed around over the years involved removing the film from Isle Nublar—likely exploring the ramifications of dinosaurs entering our world and the havoc that would wreak on, well, everything. Truth be told, this wasn’t a terrible idea. Taking Dr. Malcom’s mantra of “life finds a way” off the island could have reintroduced the science component to the franchise, or y’know it could have turned into a Roland Emmerich movie with dinosaurs. The film’s producer’s tried to get Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, or Richard Attenborough back to give the film credibility. Only Attenborough seemed genuinely interested in revisiting the series, but none of the scripts gained any traction. So it seemed if the past wasn’t going to work, pushing Jurassic Park further into the future was the only sensible option.
Enter William Monahan John Sayles’ infamous script that featured dinosaur, dog, and human hybrids referred to a “di-hu-ogs.” If you’ve yet to throw up in your mouth a little, just wait, there’s more. These “di-hu-ogs” would be trained to carry guns and act as mercenaries. AICN published a full script review some years back, which you can read in its entirety here. And because there seemed to be no good reason not to capitalize on the War on Terror, some rumors even stated that these hybrids would be sent to the Middle East to take out terrorist cells (Jurassic War?). Other rumors suggested that cyborg dinosaurs were also under consideration at one point. But so far, only the “di-hu-ogs” script was able to be substantiated. Thankfully Spielberg vetoed the idea, but the fact that it was even a possibility for as long as it was is a frightening look behind studio doors.
But let’s get real for a moment. Somewhere out there is a great story that could make use of dino-human mercenaries. Really, it’s no more absurd than the dozens of superhero movies we see. The problem isn’t necessarily the concept, rather it’s trying to attach that concept to a preexisting franchise just because of marketability and the weight of the original. At its heart, the franchise should always feel like the product of Spielberg and the novel’s author Michael Crichton—an adventure film that may lean a bit too heavily on exposition and fallible scientific theories but balances out any flaws with compelling characters, humor, and a measured amount of horror. A film that sounds at worse like a Syfy original, and at best something that would star 1/3 of the cast of The Expendables, simply doesn’t fit in with the world established in the first film. Even if installments were to take a page from the Alien franchise and make use of what our resident blockbuster analyst Diego Crespo has described as an anthology format, those sequels need to feel like organic next steps. Despite the flaws in the latter two Alien films, they feel like natural progressions of the world that was set up in the previous two. But to make a jump from cloning dinosaurs to being able to make human and animal hybrids that exist in a world where the government would use them to take out drug cartels is a massive, unconvincing leap. Not to mention that it completely sweeps all the discussion of scientific morality from the first film into the trash bin. Ultimately, the reason why Jurassic Park IV languished so long is because most of the ideas forgot why audiences loved the original in the first place. It was never the unbelievability of it, but the opposite—the notion that Isle Nublar wasn’t so far away from our reality.
So after all that, who would be crazy enough to step on board to reconceive the franchise? Colin Trevorrow. Only his crazy didn’t come in the form of reimagining the idea but sticking to what worked in the first film. Instead of leaving the island he decided to stay, and instead of destroying what had come before he decided to expand. Plus, the fact that he hired two charismatic leads in the form of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard made it easy not to rely on actors from the previous film. I, like most of us, have yet to see Jurassic World, so there’s no praising Trevorrow yet. But if the promotional materials and interviews has convinced me of anything, it’s that he understands why the first one worked so well and why the subsequent ones didn’t. So while Gyrospheres, trained raptors, and a genetically engineered dinosaur may seem like somewhat silly elements, they also seem in-line with Spielberg’s brand of movie magic. What’s more is that they all feel like natural progressions of the world established in the first film, just different enough to be exciting but not far-flung enough to be absurd.
Of course there’s already talk of a sequel, one Trevorrow will not return for, likely having learned his lesson from Spielberg’s Lost World. So once again Universal Studio heads, screenwriters, and filmmakers will find themselves asking ‘where do we go from here?’ All I know is, no matter how Jurassic World ends, human-dino hybrids are not the answer.