Why I’m Quitting Dinosaurs

It happened with Terminator: Genisys, it happened with Godzilla vs. Kong. I will eventually see Jurassic World: Dominion and anything that comes after it, but I wish I had the inner strength to resist. The self-respect, really. Some of my favorite movies are American blockbusters, but the “artform” is in a valley phase. They’re now produced with a TV model, where every film is an episode. This works on TV where the budgets are low enough to keep the moneymen off the lot. The proud catchphrase from the golden era was “On TV, the writer is king,” though that was before we learned that a lot of those guys were mad kings. To be honest, the role of a good director in television is underrated, and the problem is that our modern blockbusters make no room for directors. Jurassic Park was directed. And given that these legacy franchises are all about worshiping older work, I can’t escape this thought even if I wanted to. “Look at how much better this earlier movie was!” the movie is saying.

The problem for the Jurassic World trilogy begins with Jurassic World, and brace yourself, because it’s a “fan complaint,” which is: why did they destroy Jurassic World at the end of the first movie? The poster for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom bore this tagline: “The park is gone.” Do you want to play this out for a second? That’s like if the sequel to The Avengers was all “What will we do in a world without the Avengers?” It’s the same problem that The Lost World and Jurassic Park III had, and why the first 95% of Jurassic World was so brilliant: the park is the thing. The park. Jurassic Park. Without it, storytellers clearly have no idea what to do because they’ve tried at least four times and come up with nonsense every time! Yes, dinosaurs, but the setting is so important. The setting informs the verbs, though I’m sure we’ve talked about how dinosaur setpieces are more difficult to conceive than those of its genre cousins.

Westworld premiered a year after the release of Jurassic World, and while I know that they, too, abandoned the park, I’m certain it was the setting for at least two seasons. I saw the first season, and there were plenty of intriguing storylines and possibilities when a park is fully operational like in Jurassic World. Don’t you remember the drama of playing Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis? The quintessential Jurassic Park setpieces in the original are when the dinosaurs are breaking out of containment and into the human, resort spaces: T-rex and the fence, raptors in the kitchen, raptors everywhere. The ending of Fallen Kingdom suggests that the follow-up will be this dino breakout writ large, also known as the movie of my dreams as an eight year old. Also a 28 year old. But even at eight, I knew enough about movies that it would be impossibly expensive to see every dinosaur running around a city. I’ve read the reviews of Dominion, and I guess I’ll keep dreaming?

Next time, the time-traveling post about Terminator!

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