It Might Not Be Right Up Your Alley: Managing Expectations for Jurassic World 2

Cameras have officially begun rolling on Jurassic World 2. Exciting! And terrifying, too...

‘HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY HAVE THE SLIGHTEST IDEA… WHAT TO EXPECT?’

At eight o’clock this morning (Friday, February 24, 2017), in a previously inconspicuous business centre in Slough, England, cameras finally started rolling on Jurassic World 2. I am tremendously excited. Problem is: I don’t want to be — at least, not as much as I am, anyway.

I can’t help but feel, now, as I did throughout the build-up to Jurassic World: giddy, hugely optimistic. It wouldn’t take much, in fact, to have me bouncing off the walls — figuratively, and, quite possibly, literally. And that, friends, is a recipe for disaster. Having felt that way no doubt played into how crushed I was by Jurassic World. If you’re familiar with my ramblings musings on the subject, you’ll know that ‘crushed’ is in no way hyperbole.

Having spoken about it ad nauseam, I won’t belabour the point too much, but I really don’t like Jurassic World.

Tough — painful — though it still is to admit, I do. Any attempts to say otherwise, or to sugarcoat the issue, stem from self-doubt, hesitation to speak ill of people I whose work I respect. Having had such lofty expectations for it is by no means the sole reason why I don’t like it, though. If it were, I would’ve come away from the cinema disappointed, but accepting that it just wasn’t for me. Instead, I walked out of that first screening on June 11, 2015 feeling numb, in shock — because Jurassic World is, I believe, a fundamentally poor film.

Which is why I plan to do my utmost to take a step back with the sequel, to approach it with a more level head — and why I wanted to sit down and write this article, to break down those things that give me hope for what we’ll see in 2018, and those that, quite honestly, terrify me.

First up, though, we’ll go for some hope.

HOPE: J.A. BAYONA

When he was first announced to direct Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow was, largely, an unknown quantity. I had a pleasant enough time with his breakout film, Safety Not Guaranteed, but still wasn’t sure what to expect from his stab at Jurassic. At the time, I found this exciting — word was, Trevorrow had been hired for his ability to deliver compelling characters, and that was fine by me. As time went on, my optimism only grew: Colin was — and still is, I might add — a pleasure to listen to. He says all the right things, and his passion for Jurassic is clear. For me, though, very little of that passion made it to the screen. I could listen to him talk about it all day, but his vision of Jurassic World just didn’t resonate with me.

J.A. Bayona, on the other hand, is a known quantity. Even before I knew who he was, I liked his work — but I’ve written about this before, back when Bayona was first announced, so I won’t bore you with the details again. Instead, I’ll drop a link back to the writing in question, and simply say that I’m incredibly excited to see what Bayona delivers.

TERROR: THE CONNOLLY/TREVORROW TREATMENT

Though Trevorrow may, this time, have vacated the director’s chair, both he and longtime writing partner Derek Connolly returned to pen Jurassic World 2’s story and script. For me, this is serious cause for concern. By no means its only issue, but by far the worst of them, Jurassic World’s lacklustre screenplay was a fatal blow from which the film would’ve been hard-pressed to recover with even the most visionary of directors at the helm.

Two-dimensional characters. Two-dimensional dialogue. Incorrect details, and important points outright ignored. Even the positives of that script — Masrani, the confrontation between he and Wu… — couldn’t save it. Without all the facts, I refuse to outright point fingers, but I will point out a simple truth that, I feel, had a lot to do with this. Colin Trevorrow might have snuck out to see Jurassic Park when he was a kid, but Derek Connolly hadn’t seen any of the films before being hired to write one.

I’m not sure if I should reveal this, but I had never seen a Jurassic Park film until the day Colin called me. I watched all three that afternoon for the first time in my life. The first one is amazing: It’s funny and the characters are great. The sequels, not so much.

I’m not stating it as fact, but I can’t help but think that this lack of familiarity with the films might have something to do with the the distinctly un-Jurassic feel of Jurassic World — to say nothing of those incredible final sentences. Loathe though I am to criticise other writers, I have to call things as I see them, and would advise Connolly to look to his own attempt at a sequel before casting aspersions on the others.

And then there’s a statement Trevorrow made when speaking to Jurassic Outpost back in September. On the subject of the script, he mentioned that dialogue from Crichton’s Jurassic Park will be heard in Jurassic World 2. ‘It makes me feel like such a good writer,’ he said. ‘Look at me, that’s a hell of a sentence!’

While, on the one hand, it’s definitely encouraging to know that inspiration is being taken from Crichton, I sure as hell hope that some of Trevorrow’s own writing makes him feel the same way. Jurassic World was at its best when referencing the original novel — but I don’t think Jurassic World 2 can afford to be. It’ll probably make a fortune either way, but another two or so hours of mediocrity peppered with the odd moment of inspiration would be a serious disappointment.

Speaking with JurassicCast back in 2015, John Schwartzman — director of photography for Jurassic World — stated the following:

Every time a scene gets rewritten… you get what’s called a Coloured Page… your first rewrite are yellow pages. Then there are blue pages… pink pages. Jurassic World is one colour… it is white… we shot Colin’s script and we didn’t change a thing… 

To me, having found that script decidedly lacklustre, that’s incredibly surprising — shocking, even. There is, of course, every chance that Trevorrow and Connolly could well and truly have pulled it out of the bag with the sequel, but I have to hope a slightly more critical approach was taken when reviewing their work this time around.

Misgivings aside, though, there is a potential bright side, here.

HOPE: JURASSIC WORLD WAS A JOINT EFFORT, THE SEQUEL LESS SO

Famously underscored by the writing credit controversy just before the film’s release — not forgetting the interminable years of ‘development hell’ — Jurassic World was the result of a number of takes on its basic story concept. When Trevorrow and Connolly were brought on board, there was already a framework in place. Trevorrow might have felt that he couldn’t film the Jaffa/Silver version of the script, but the broad-strokes of his story remained the same.

This is not the case for Jurassic World 2, and I have to hope that this relative freedom will lead to a better story, supported by a stronger script. I’m by no means convinced by Trevorrow and Connolly, but I’m more than willing to give them a shot, the benefit of the doubt.

TERROR: ‘HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY HAVE THE SLIGHTEST IDEA… WHAT TO EXPECT?’

There has been much ado about the fact that, according to TrevorrowJurassic World 2 will be based on a line spoken by Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. ‘Dinosaurs and man: two species separated by sixty-five million years of evolution. How can we possibly have the slightest idea… what to expect?’

I won’t pretend that, when I first heard it, I wasn’t filled with excitement — but that excitement has lessened somewhat as time’s gone on.

There are a few reasons for this, the first being that, unlike Ian Malcolm’s inspiration for Jurassic World (which was bang on the money, I might add), it tells us absolutely nothing about the film — other than reminding us that, as we’re all painfully aware, we don’t have a clear idea of what to expect.

The second reason, though, is that we are, most of us — and I’m sure anyone reading this can be counted in this — die-hard Jurassic fans. We spend an inordinate amount of time speculating on what’s to come, analysing what already has, and reading up on things that almost came to pass, but didn’t.

As more and more of the people involved start to talk about Jurassic World 2, we’re being all but beaten over the head with the opinion that the story is fresh, unexpected. While this may be true to a casual audience — and, indeed, to some of those involved, for whom the sequel is just another job, albeit a very cool one — I can’t help but suspect that the most invested of fans might not be surprised at all when we finally lay eyes on that coveted synopsis.

It’s going to take a lot to surprise us, and though I hope with all my heart that Trevorrow has pulled it off, I have a niggling feeling that what’s coming will be all too familiar — and possibly for the wrong reasons.

HOPE: THE CAST

Something I plan to mention when I finally sit down to write about Jurassic Park itself — which is coming, but which I plan to take the time to get right — is that I never see the actors when I watch it. Born of having been introduced to the film when I was a kid, and had no real exposure to any of their other work, I see the characters themselves, as though they’re real people, and I’m intruding upon a real situation that they happen to be caught up in.

Having watched it in my twenties, after seeing the vast majority of its cast in other roles, this wasn’t the case with Jurassic World.

By no means am I saying it’s because they’re poor actors, but I saw Chris Pratt trying to tame the Velociraptors, not Owen Grady; Bryce Dallas Howard trying to navigate a jungle in high-heels, not Claire Dearing — and so on. This fundamental inability to believe what I was seeing — to keep that disbelief well and truly suspended — no doubt influenced how I feel about the film.

Over the past few months, we’ve slowly been learning who will bring 2018’s sequel to life, and while I’ve absolutely — and recently, too — seen some of the actors in other roles, their faces are not ones you’d immediately recognise. Couple this with the fact that a few of them are irrefutably great actors, and you have, I think, a more potent recipe for success than was brought to the table with Jurassic World.

HOPE/TERROR: THE RETURN OF GIACCHINO

As with my dislike of Jurassic World, I’ve written extensively about this one, so I’ll keep it brief.

On the whole, I was as underwhelmed by Jurassic World’s soundtrack as I was the film. Being a fan of Giacchino’s work, I was completely taken aback by this. In amongst the stuff I don’t like, though, there’s quite a bit I do — and I discovered even more when I was lucky enough to listen to a more complete version of the soundtrack last month.

To be completely honest, I was hoping someone else would score the sequel. I was interested in hearing what frequent Bayona collaborator Fernando Velázquez might have brought to the table, and — be sure to thank Captain Obvious for this one — I obviously wanted John Williams to take up the conductor’s baton once again. But I’m not too concerned to have Giacchino back — when he delivers, he’s fantastic.

Though I personally don’t think he entirely delivered with Jurassic World, I’m nonetheless looking forward to hearing what he’ll do with the sequel. If it proves to be anything like the evolution John Williams wrought between Jurassic Park and The Lost World, it could be something very special indeed.

I hope it will be.

CONCLUSION: ON CRITICISM

It’s an unfortunate truth, given the opinion-based nature of my work here on The JHN Files, but I don’t like criticising people. It makes me feel like a massive tool, in fact — sitting here at my desk casting judgement on those out in the world doing their thing — and that I’ve been so relentlessly critical of Jurassic World (and, by extension, the creative minds behind it) makes me feel sick.

That I have been is out of love for Jurassic, and the sincere hope that it will be as great as it has the potential to be. Though the written word will, ultimately, be taken how the reader chooses to interpret it, none of what I’ve written is intended to be a personal attack. In the incredibly unlikely event that I ever to came face-to-face with any of the parties involved in Jurassic World, I would be completely honest with them, but never anything less than civil. What I’ve written above, and in other posts, is my opinion — in no way am I saying that it’s fact, or that it should be yours, too.

We’re likely on the verge of a veritable monsoon of Jurassic World 2 information, and there’s no way we’re all going to agree on everything. It’s a complete impossibility, and, to quote Dr. Grant, ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ Disagree though we might, however, I hope we can at least be civil to one and other, and enjoy the ride.

Whatever’s on the cards, it’s bound to be an interesting one.

FOR THE ATTENTION OF VIDEO GAME DEVELOPERS EVERYWHERE
jurassic-1

2011. Yes, you read that right: 2011. That’s the last time there was a Jurassic game of any real significance. Whilst an enjoyable treat, LEGO Jurassic World wasn’t at all what the majority of fans have been waiting for, and with the commercial success of Jurassic World, it should have been but an appetiser for bigger, better things to come. Well… fire the waiter, and send some raptors into the kitchen to see what’s up, because we’re still waiting for the main course.

Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there’s certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. Yes, there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let’s be honest: it’s going to happen.

Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?


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