Essential Guide to the Jurassic Sequels
By Amanda Rossenrode
Netflix recently announced that they are pairing up with Disney and will be acquiring a good portion of their catalogue. That’s all well and good, but did you hear the full Jurassic Park trilogy is available on Netflix starting this month?
I have always been a supporter of dinosaurs and when Jurassic Park finally came to the dollar theater, it blew my mind. That was some new technology, folks. For years a dinosaur, if filmed at all, looked like a dude in a Reptar costume. The movie had already been out for some months and when we got home, my friend’s mother informed me a sequel was already in the works! Holy triceratops!
Several years later, my heart stopped when I saw the first trailer for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg was literally doubling down on his thunder-lizard opus with not one but two friggin T-Rexes.
And then I saw it.
In the eighties and nineties, there were approximately 200 sequels to beloved horror franchises such as Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street. It came to be expected that they would be comically bad until the franchises ultimately died and suffered bad reboots in recent years. We know not to be excited about the latest direct-to-DVD Friday the 13th. What we can’t accept is that Jurassic Park sequels are equal garbage and get more and more ridiculous every installment. In the same way you can’t fathom why people would annually return to Camp Crystal Lake, below is the drooling insanity that got people back on to that prehistoric hellscape of the coast of Costa Rica three times after we knew it was a terrible idea. In honor of the original trilogy’s arrival on Netflix, I’ve reviewed the sequels, not the original Jurassic Park; we’ve all seen it, we all know it’s awesome. For your enjoyment, I’ve ranked them from “This is a Bad Idea” to “Seriously Dude?”
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
This flick is pretty bad, but it’s a pretty bad flick directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a kid at heart and this movie felt like his one chance to basically do Sharknado before Sharknado was a thing. It was one of his last light movies before he decided he was going to fight Scorsese for all of the Oscars till one of them dies. The movie set up the premise that everyone thinks Jeff Goldblum is a loon, what with his crazy Dinosaur Island tale. This in itself is pretty ludicrous, because literally hundreds of people with families worked on that damn island and I count at least four who died during that tour. Not to mention all the outside contractors that would have been involved in the design and construction and merchandising. What about the film crew and animators who did the tour video with the creepy DNA guy? Thousands of people are fully aware of the existence of this island, this presumably billion-dollar failed experiment, but John Hammond has enough money off that flea circus to keep the hush money flowing like wine. Like any horror sequel, we need a flimsy reason to get a veteran character back to a place that no sane person would ever return to… his girlfriend is lost on the island! And for some reason Jeff Goldblum is the only one that could save her!
Let’s be very clear that Jeff Goldblum is a mathematician that broke his leg within the first forty seconds of seeing a T-Rex. He antagonizes predators and can’t follow simple directions like: DON’T MOVE. In fact, now that I think about it, pretty much everything that went wrong in the T-Rex situation was clearly his fault. If not for his bumbling attempts at heroism, that Rex would have stomped after the flare Grant threw and not eaten that poor lawyer, tried to eat the kids, and separated the group. He clearly is not a guy you want in a rescue party unless you need help with your algebra homework or tips on looking sexy in a bunker. But apparently, Sam Neill and Laura Dern thought they were going to have careers outside of this franchise and declined to return.
You can’t have a disaster/action movie without a dumb kid along for the ride, constantly putting the group in danger with their precociousness (the Rule of Dakota Fanning), so tagging along is Goldblum’s daughter who, in a startlingly obvious use of Chekhov’s Gun, is a gymnast, which will be used against frigging raptors in a face-palming ridiculous way. Let’s get to the island though. Julianne Moore is a Jane Goodall type who has a symbiont relationship with the dinosaurs. She strictly admonishes the newly arrived crew of soon-to-be dino-bites on the rules of the island--no perfume, no interfering with their natural habitat--and promptly moves on to petting a baby stegosaurus like it's someone’s Bichon Frise tied up in front of the local Starbucks. Later, she throws her hat into the race for “Stupidest Person of the Millennium” by stealing an injured baby T-Rex from its parents. They’re not Pokémon, Julianne! You can’t collect them all!
On the other side of the race for “Stupidest Person of the Millennium” is the money-grubbing folks at InGen who figure if a secluded island of Thunder Beasts didn’t exactly work out, bringing the most vicious of them to the mainland is a capitol idea. In a clear homage to Jason Takes Manhattan, the T-Rex rampages through the streets of San Diego, an incredible event that no one remembers ten years later. I feel like there’s a Men in Black tie-in in here somewhere.
Universal gave us fifteen years to forget how tired and implausible Jurassic Park III was. In fact, the movie pretty much ignores the events of the sequels all-together. They have to, because how in the name of sanity’s sake could they ever get Jurassic World established if A) a similar attempt had a dinosaur charging around San Diego like a gigantic ferret let out of its cage and B) anytime anyone goes near those islands at least a dozen people are turned into human Hot Pockets. Jurassic World ups the ante, saying that this park is so well-established and booming, people are actually bored by dinosaurs. This in itself is a little far-fetched. I’m thirty years old and saw a seal last weekend and was as delighted as if I had witnessed a leprechaun riding a unicorn.
The movie also presents an odd sexism that wasn’t really present in the original trilogy. J-III’s Tea Leoni wasn’t exactly an action star by any means (more on that coming up), but she knew better than to wear stilettos in the jungle. Laura Dern kicked a raptor in the face. Bryce Dallas Howard is a career woman who has no time for family, dating sexy Chris Pratts, or having common sense. She approves creating a super-engineered straight-up monster that is far more intelligent than most TLC viewers. She also lets Vincent D’Onofrio onto her island, which is always bad news. Most cities won’t let him on the local bus. He’s involved in some weird side plot about weaponizing raptors to use in battle, which makes less sense than any scheme Dr. Evil put on the table. Why not just throw rabid lions into a gun fight and trust they know not to eat the wrong people? But I get it, lions, even rabid ones, are pretty lazy. They’d probably just lay down and take a nap. Cats are so damn lazy.
This movie has more throwbacks to the original than a Thursday Facebook feed, so it’s pretty dumb of them not to remember the very first scene of the original where they tried to move raptors from one cage to another, causing the death of a worker. What I’m getting at is that they built a pen with a gate big enough for the Indominus Rex to get out of. Why??? Why not put her in an enclosure as a baby? How did they think they would ever successfully transport an enormous, mentally deranged dinosaur with cloaking devices?
The Internet has already given Howard enough grief for not swapping those heels for some flip flops at some point (there’s a gift shop on every corner), and the inadvisability of having hamster ball rovers that can’t be overridden by security. So I will instead harp on the stunning lack of sense of not only the park, but the U.N. for not being more concerned about the flying and sea creatures. Animals at zoos get out of their cages all the time! In recent news, a little boy managed to get into a gorilla cage and further investigation revealed that the same zoo had two “curious” polar bears get into “an unauthorized area.” And those are just curious bears, not screaming death from above. You would think local government would be a little more interested in their contingencies in any breach, especially since it totally happened before. Obviously, they do get out, because the designers of the park didn’t watch the first movie and built the aviary out of sugar-glass.
This movie isn’t too fond of women, especially career women and punishes the barely named assistant with the most graphic and gratuitous death of the entire franchise. The dinos fight over her body like the last Totino's pizza roll at a slumber party. Anyway, much like any curse, true love’s kiss stops the pterodactyls from further attacks, because after Pratt and Howard make out amid dying tourists, the animals are never heard from again. The remainder of the movie devolves into a reptilian Transformers battle, with everyone standing there haplessly as we watch a three-way battle between the raptors, the Big Bad, and T-Rex. Eventually that big water dinosaur pops out of the water and eats Big Bad, which means at any time he could have done the exact same thing to a family visiting from Tulsa. It’s also important to note, that unlike the sabotage and electrical failure that downed the fences in the original, every single dinosaur released in this film was done either purposely, or through plain old human incompetence.
Jurassic Park III
This movie comes in last because it somehow managed to make a movie about dinosaurs more boring than a documentary on the rich history of socks. Dr. Alan Grant is clearly depressed and suffering from PTSD at the beginning of this movie, which is a great way to start any summer blockbuster aimed at selling toys. His solid relationship with Ellie has crumbled and died and she is married to another man and has children. Remember how he didn’t want kids in the first one, but the ending implied he would get over it? He didn’t and now he is going to die alone and penniless because now that dinosaurs exist, being a paleontologist is about as lucrative as being a photo album salesman today.
There has to be some dumb reason to get him back to that island, so he accepts a job as a guide on an aerial tour for a rich couple. I get it. Kroger Macaroni and Cheez Product doesn’t buy itself. In a surprise to not a single person with eyes and/or ears, the Dakota Fanning Rule presents itself and some wise beyond his years kid got stuck on the island during a parasailing accident. This is exactly what happens when you have too much money. You send your kids on ill-supervised parasailing expeditions over Monster Island rather than just giving them some rocks and a bat and seeing what comes of it. This is why I remain poor. I may die of scurvy from subsisting on nothing but Mac and Cheez, but at least I’ll never have to fight a dilophosaurus after a wrong turn on a vacation.
This kid has been living in an abandoned trailer for the last two months, surviving on candy and protecting himself with T-Rex urine. When Dr. Grant asks how he came across a Costco mayo jar full of dinosaur pee, the kid mugs to the camera and says, “You don’t want to know.” Wait, what? There is one explanation: you found a puddle of pee and scooped up a jar. If you did anything else, that we wouldn’t want to know about, you’re suicidal, unpractical, and pretty messed up, kid.
The movie was striving to be different than its predecessors by not including the iconic T-Rex we all wanted and insulting the intelligence of the audience by introducing the pterodactyls. In the previous installment, John Hammond stated he wanted to leave the creatures there as some sort of nature preserve. Fine. But should you have really abandoned a bunch of flying monsters there like an old sandwich left in the breakroom fridge? What’s keeping them there, the honor system?
Every tense moment and jump-scare was shown in the trailers, so on first view of the movie, I saw every tired scare from a mile away, as though I had already seen the film several times. In the end, the army shows up and wonders aloud why they haven’t fire bombed these islands that the same handful of idiots keep returning to.
The satellite phone bit is pretty cool, though.
Which do you think was the best/worst sequel? Are you excited for the newest Jurassic sequel in the works? Are you excited for the sequel I’m currently pitching, Titanic 2: This Seems Like a Good Idea?