Thursday, September 28, 2023

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Jurassic Park Movies: Are the Sequels Better Than the Originals?

In June 2022, the Jurassic World trilogy ended and effectively ended the franchise started by Steven Spielberg in 1993. The first film, based on the book by Michael Crichton, redefined what a big-budget blockbuster meant. The highly successful Jurassic Park changed the way movies were made and launched a colossal franchise. The first film spawned two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. Most fans agree each sequel was worse than its predecessor, with the third being nothing more than a cash grab. The franchise went extinct for 14 years. Then, in 2015, the park reopened. Jurassic World carried the legacy torch from the original film.

The second film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, flew closer to legacy sequel territory with the brief inclusion of Jeff Goldblum. And then Jurassic World: Dominion also added Sam Neil and Laura Dern returning in major roles. Like the original series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom wasn’t nearly as well-received as the last film. The third film was quickly forgotten due to poor reviews and terrible direction. It looks like history repeating itself, but this raises the question: which era of the series is better? It almost isn’t fair to look at the films on a movie-to-movie basis. The original film was a game changer the likes few films have been able to replicate. The best way to go about this is to look at each era as a whole rather than by their films.

Update August 28, 2023: In honor of Jurassic Park‘s 30th Anniversary and its re-release in theaters, this article has been updated with even more information about the franchise.

Welcome To Jurassic Park

Universal Pictures

As unfair as it may seem to the sequels, the cultural impact the original series had can not be ignored. Dinosaurs as a whole received a giant boost in popularity during the original’s run. As monumental as the series became, most of this was evident in spinoff merchandise. Toys, clothing, and various other apparel are where the success is mainly seen.

The second and third movies were nowhere near as successful financially or critically as the original Jurassic Park. These sequels did heavily fuel the merchandise, but the movies themselves fell on deaf ears. The second movie did seem to naturally continue the story, albeit in a much weaker fashion. As stated before, Jurassic Park III did little to nothing to further the story. Dinosaur mania was slowly slipping away in the new millennium, and the third movie was a last-ditch effort for Universal to earn some dino dollars.

RELATED: Why the Jurassic World Series Should End with Dominion

When looking at the original three movies, the storyline closely resembles story scoliosis, as the linear nature disappears as the series went on. This weakened the overall effect of the series, with degrading character development being felt throughout the sequels. Even the return of Sam Neil in Jurassic Park III seemed to only exist to reel original fans back in (again, history repeats itself). While neither sequel is terrible by any means, they came nowhere near the feel of the groundbreaking original.

When most fans think of how much they love Jurassic Park, they think just that. They think of Jurassic Park, not the Jurassic Park series. Maybe it was fatigue from dinosaur oversaturation in the ’90s, but fans drifted away from the series for years. Even today, a lot of those who were around at the time don’t fondly look at the series, but rather the first movie alone. At the end of the day, the original series as a whole doesn’t hold up all that well. In 2015, enough time had passed for the gates to be reopened, but did these new movies fare any better?

A Sequel 65 Million (Or 14) Years In The Making

Ian Alan and Ellie return in Jurassic World Dominion
Universal Pictures

It is no secret that Jurassic World was bred from pure nostalgia. Fans longed to hear that legendary John Williams score on the big screen once again and see some new dino adventures for old-time’s sake. Jurassic World could have just referenced the original a few times, played the theme, and called it a day. However, what fans got was a love letter to the film they had loved for so long.

For the first time, it seemed like Jurassic Park received a true, linear sequel. Having the new park exist where the original was was the perfect way to bridge the generations. Suddenly, the Jurassic series was a heavy hitter once again. The massive success meant an obvious sequel. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom received a mixed reception, though.

Fans can say what they want about the sequel as a film, but the fact remains it is an actual linear sequel. In order to understand what happens in Fallen Kingdom, one needs to see Jurassic World. This creates a perfect, straight line between films. Jurassic World: Dominion follows the formula again and shows dumb humans trying to capitalize on breeding dinosaurs. This may not be easy for lifelong fans to hear, and it certainly isn’t easy to write, but the sequel series, as a whole, may be better in this regard. Again, the series, and not exactly the movies.

The Interesting Pattern Of History

T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park
Universal Pictures 

History does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes. That is very much the case with the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchise. Both the original Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films were massive blockbusters that took the world by storm, breaking every box office expectation and becoming some of the highest-grossing films in the years they were released.

Related: How the Jurassic World Trilogy Failed the Series

Their direct sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, both see the main characters return to the park and bring Dinosaurs to the mainland. Both were hits at the box office but received less than stellar reviews from critics and audiences and did see a drop off from their predecessors. Both Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom came out four years after the second film and were seen as massive dissapointments by audiences and critics alike.

In this manner, both franchises are very similar. The first entry in each trilogy is regarded as the best, the second a disappointment but has some worthy elements, and the third is the worst of the bunch. Really, then, it is a showdown of which one has the better first installment, and it is safe to say most, if not everyone, would say Jurassic Park easily trumps Jurassic World.

Jurassic Legacy

Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-2018 (1)
Amblin Entertainment

The truth is, there is no correct answer as to which is better. Those of us who grew up during the original era will prefer the Jurassic Park movies, while new fans will likely prefer the Jurassic World movies. There may even be some who simply prefer one series over the other. Getting technical, all six movies are part of the same continuity, but each era is vastly different.

The legacy that has spawned from the original movie is still being felt today. That is what the fandom should truly appreciate. The Jurassic World series may be better from a linear standpoint, but when it is all said and done, every movie in the series is a Jurassic Park movie, and there is plenty for fans to latch onto. Whatever the future holds for the franchise remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: audiences will always want to see dinosaurs rule the Earth.

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