Special Features

Jurassic World and Jurassic Park Don’t Have to Be Wrapped Up In Nostalgia to Seem Awesome

Should I get the box set or just an individual Blu-Ray?

That’s the question I pondered while standing at Best Buy last Friday. Earlier in the day, an email advertising a sale on all existing Jurassic Park movies triggered an overwhelming surge of Jurassic nostalgia. Just a couple of months ago, I was fairly cynical about the new Jurassic Park movie, Jurassic World. Come on! It more or less looks like what would have happened if Deep Blue Sea took itself too seriously. However, as World’s release approached I got swept up in the hype. Now, I could buy Blu-Rays for each installment in the trilogy AND they each come with a special $7.50 discount on the price of admission to see Jurassic World. Sure, I didn’t necessarily need three free tickets to World, but, still, think of the value!

I, stupidly, opted against online shopping and ventured out to my local big box retailers in search of Jurassic Park, hitting up three stores before finally finding one that hadn’t already sold out its inventory (guess I wasn’t the only one feeling nostalgic). So, there I was in the back corner of a Best Buy, staring at a row including a special new Jurassic trilogy Blu-Ray box-set with extra space to add Jurassic World later.

As my hand reached toward the box set, which was priced cheaper than the combined cost of buying each movie individually, I suddenly snapped out of it and remembered: I don’t actually like The Lost World (‘97) and Jurassic Park III (‘01).  There have been three of these movies, only one of which I love. So, wait, why was I so excited about Jurassic World?

I had fallen prey to what Vulture called “The Summer of Tentpole Amnesia,” a phrase they coined to summarize Hollywood’s current trend of making sequels to movies they want us to forget. As they put it, several of this year’s movies as well as others in the coming years “want to pretend — and, moreover, want you to pretend — that one or more of those previous franchise installments never happened. They aren’t sequels, exactly, or even reboots — they’re movie mulligans. They’re a chance for producers to shout, ‘Do-over!’ after some particularly egregious past creative misstep.” For example, Jurassic World is a direct sequel to the original Jurassic Park with little to nothing to do with either The Lost World or Jurassic Park III.

Jurassic Park

If you don’t remember, first there was a park where shit went down (Jurassic Park), Newman got acid in the face, Samuel L. Jackson lost an arm (and his life), Jeff Goldblum kind of stole the movie from leading man Sam Neill and rained down classic one-liners (e.g., “Must go faster,” “Will there be any dinosaurs on the dinosaur tour?”). Plus, the velociraptors scared the living hell out of us.

The Lost World

Then there was (in The Lost World) a “Site B” island where dinosaurs had been roaming free ever since the first movie, and Jeff Goldblum, his black daughter, Julianne Moore, and Vince Vaughn really sucked at stopping military guys from pissing off those dinosaurs. By the end, a T-Rex did a decent Godzilla impression during a nighttime stroll through San Diego. Lots of people died.

Jurassic Park III

Then (in Jurassic Park 3) William H. Macy and Tea Leoni tricked Sam Neill into helping them rescue their young son who was trapped on the dinosaur-infested “Site B” island due to some paragliding accident. Also, we found out Laura Dern and Sam Neill didn’t end up together despite their happy ending in the first movie.

Jurassic_World_71934Jurassic World goes back to the “Site A” of the first movie, and the only returning character is a geneticist played by B.D. Wong, who’s only prior appearance was in the first movie. So, as far as they’re concerned The Lost World and Jurassic Park III never happened.

We all liked the first one, but since history hasn’t been kind to the reputations of the sequels why not re-launch the franchise with a sequel which ignores the prior sequels? Other examples of this trend include Terminator: Genisys (which actively ignores Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation) as well as forthcoming films like the Sony/Marvel Studios Spider-Man reboot (moving on from the much-maligned The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and Neil Blomkamp’s weird collaboration with Sigourney Weaver which will update the Alien franchise by ignoring most everything beyond Aliens (Blomkamp has given some contradictory statements about that).

Fox took the notion of pretending like prior franchise installments don’t exist one further with its forthcoming Fantastic Four reboot – they pulled copies of the original two Fantastic Four movies from digital stores! So, while Universal clearly has no problem with someone buying a copy of Jurassic Park III while gearing up to see Jurassic World Fox is so embarrassed of its Fantastic Four movies it doesn’t even want people to buy them anymore.

She’s as invisible as her movies are now

In the case of Jurassic World, this all worked on me. You played that John Williams score over the trailer, showed me some CGI dinosaurs, let it be known from early screenings that fans in attendance loved it. I’m suddenly in a Best Buy contemplating a Blu-Ray purchase for a franchise that’s only 1/3 good. I now nod in complete understanding when I see Williams’ “Jurassic Park Theme” has just become a top 10 hit on Billboard’s chart of Classic Digital Songs. Pop culture is clearly in a Jurassic Park/World phase right now.

However, I am reminded of a scathing essay Devin Faraci wrote on BirthMoviesDeath last year:

We are drowning in nostalgia today, and every time I think it can’t get any worse the movie geek internet convulses with oral histories and lists to commemorate the anniversary of yet another mediocre film from 10, 15, 20 years ago. And through it all the same properties keep rearing their ugly, boring heads, properties that weren’t good in the first place and whose continued popularity seems to be largely due to audiences having a Pavlovian reaction to what they used to like.

Hey, I actually wrote an oral history of Independence Day (which you can read here), and that’s certainly not some mediocre….oh, um, I see your point. Faraci was writing this in response to then-building nostalgia for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the 1989 Batman (which he regards as being “pretty mediocre”).

Nostalgia, when over-indulged, really sucks, but it sucks these days in two very particular ways. First, nostalgia is a conversation killer. When you like a work of art for nostalgic reasons – you saw it as a kid, your sick dad showed it to you before he died, it evokes memories of a magical time in your life – you’re not actually talking about that art anymore.

The nostalgia I feel for Jurassic Park is pretty much reduced to memories of seeing it as a kid, even if the film nerd, adult version of me can make a more coherent argument for its worth as a movie beyond a simple, “I loved it when I was 8.”

A second, and more insidious, way that nostalgia sucks is a very modern way of sucking, and it’s a kind of sucking that the internet has perfected – overkill. The sheer amount of nostalgia in which we traffic has absolutely devalued nostalgia in general. Nostalgia works best when it’s a rare, when the feeling is bringing back memories and emotions that aren’t always at the forefront. A guy who never moves out of his childhood home has a very different response to walking in that front door than a guy who left home at 18 and hasn’t been back in 20 years […] So many of the things we celebrate in this geek culture we celebrate constantly; I don’t understand how someone can be nostalgic for Star Wars if Star Wars never goes away.

It’s Jurassic Park now, but in a couple of weeks we’ll feel nostalgic for Terminator and this time next year we’ll be nostalgic for Ghostbusters when the reboot comes out. Or at least that’s what Hollywood is banking on.

Eh, it is what it is. On some level, I just want to see Jurassic World to see a fun monster movie with dinosaurs, but I wouldn’t care nearly as much if it was just some random movie which wasn’t begging me to remember how much I loved Jurassic Park. However,  I can’t assume everyone rushing out to buy the Jurassic trilogy Blu-Rays in my town did so for nostalgic purposes. Maybe some people are new converts to the franchise looking to catch up on the prior installments prior to seeing Jurassic World.

I showed my niece the Jurassic World trailer last night and her eyes lit up, declining the option to watch an episode of The Simpsons because she’d rather, as she put it, “watch the dinosaurs get the people.” Even she knew what these movies are really about – dinosaurs being dinosaurs, and people running away screaming.  My 7-year-old nephew seemed similarly in awe of the mere idea of dinosaurs being brought back to life.  That doesn’t have to be wrapped up in nostalgia to seem awesome.

I ultimately walked away from Best Buy with a single copy of the first Jurassic Park, and subsequently learned the $7.50 discount on a Jurassic World ticket only applies to theaters which sell tickets through Fandango and none of my local theaters do. So, that happened.  It’ll be a full price ticket to see Jurassic World, and I don’t mind.

Sources: BirthMoviesDeath, Vulture

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