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Jurassic World, billion-dollar franchises and the suspension of disbelief

The third instalment of the Jurassic World trilogy and the sixth instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise has been universally panned 

  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 07.26 PM, Jun 15, 2022

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Jurassic World, billion-dollar franchises and the suspension of disbelief

Modern cinema is largely dictated by the feasibility of whether a film can be expanded into a larger franchise, or if it can be part of an already successful franchise. Stand-alone films with self-contained arcs are becoming relatively scarce, and even if they have been produced, not many have even made it into global theatres. The Northmen and Everything Everywhere All At Once are the most recent examples of critically acclaimed films that received limited theatrical releases. Whereas the never-ending barrage of Fast and Furious films and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films are released on screens across the globe, and the masses flock in numbers to see if Dominic Toretto has flown a car in space or if Thor can blurt out three cheesy one-liners in a single minute.

Regardless of how one would analyse these films, they bring in massive numbers for the studios in terms of revenue, and ultimately that’s all that matters. And in the case of the MCU, they have created a robust business model that keeps delivering superhero films that appease a wider demographic, keep the critics happy, and collect millions at the box office. While the Fast and Furious films may not enjoy the same fanfare and success as the MCU, they somehow manage to bring people back into movie theatres, despite each film becoming more absurd than its predecessor.

The Jurassic Park franchise has followed a similar business model — bigger, louder, funnier. Early reports indicate that Jurassic World: Dominion is set for a massive opening weekend collection. And quite understandably the heads of Universal Studios would be thrilled, considering how they have marketed the franchise through toys, games, cereals, and other media products. But unlike the Marvel films, the latest ‘dino’ blockbuster has not received the same adoration from the critics. By no means is Jurassic World: Dominion a ‘misunderstood masterpiece’, but it is certainly more watchable than films such as Black Widow or Ant-Man and the Wasp — two very ordinary productions with several noticeable issues in storytelling and the technical aspects, but loved by the critics.

However, both franchises, despite their enormous success fail to, or rather, refuse to, address significant issues with two of their biggest narrative threads. For the MCU it is the infamous ‘Thanos snap’ or the ‘blip’ when exactly half of all living beings from the universe were wiped out of existence for five years. And for the Jurassic Park franchise, it is the ending of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom where dinosaurs are set out free into the world. Two very significant events in their respective storylines, but with very poorly written resolution. Of course, the partisan Marvel fandom have already brushed it aside or willfully ignored it, as long as they get to watch their heroes in all their glory on the screens. Jurassic World: Dominion might not enjoy the same privileges.

When Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half of the living beings from the universe with the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, one would imagine that after a period of five years the world would resemble a post-apocalyptic nightmare. If half of all flora and fauna are wiped out from existence in a second, the entire ecosystem would change, then civilisation would fall, and the world would resemble something close to the Mad Max franchise, with millions more dead across the globe. This is without taking into account the collateral damage from the snap. People driving cars, planes, and trucks, being snapped out of existence would create chaos across the globe, planes going down with people on board, and high-speed crashes on motorways in every country. These would certainly add significantly more numbers to the casualty count. So, by the end of the fifth year, the global climate would’ve drastically been altered, there would hardly be any functional governments remaining worldwide, and there could also be severe logistical challenges to access basic resources, causing famine. It would simply mean that the people who died from because of the snap will remain dead, while those snapped out of existence would be able to return. This is something that is never addressed in any of the films or TV shows released after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

Marvel Studios decided not to paint such a grim picture and decided to just bring back everyone and everything snapped out of existence after a five-year gap. And everything went back to the way it was. The only thing the writers decided to acknowledge was the fact that people are shown to be depressed because they believed that their loved ones were dead for five years, and also the fact that the people who returned did not age. But other than that, things went exactly the way they were. It stretches the boundaries of ‘suspension of disbelief’. But Marvel has released up to 10 films and TV shows after the ‘Thanos snap’ in 2019, and their success has proven that they could get away with just about anything.

Jurassic World: Dominion on the other hand will not be afforded the same courtesy. Partly because it does not have a vocal fandom, akin to Marvel’s, on social media. The film’s problems are also far more straightforward and far too painfully obvious. For starters, it contradicts many of the established ‘fictional scientific facts’ about the ecology of the dinosaurs’ habitat, and then it contradicts the idea that the dinosaurs were creating chaos in human settlements — both aspects which were established in previous films. But the film’s biggest flaw is how it shows dinosaurs seamlessly adapting and co-existing with the existing ecology of Earth. This is an absurd notion for several different reasons.

The scientist and historical inconsistencies can be overlooked to a certain extent, owing to the fact that these dinosaurs have DNA from modern animals spliced with their own. In other words, sci-fi jargon to meet the plot’s requirements. Which is perfectly understandable as long it’s grounded in some form of logic. But Jurassic World: Dominion defies more logic than any other film in the franchise. The ending of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom implied that the world turn into a post-apocalyptic wasteland where dinosaurs have begun to overrun towns and cities. While it is debatable as to whether such a scenario would indeed unfold, considering the military might of most countries, it certainly would not have turned out the way in which the film tries to establish. For instance, pterosaurs peacefully nesting on skyscrapers, raptors near the human population, giant carnivores in underground cage fights in Europe, while everything else is seemingly normal. This goes against every basic biological, ecological, and evolutionary science is known to mankind today. As history has proven, an invasive species in a new ecosystem has always led to ecological changes and extinction events.

The film instead concludes with a montage of modern-day animals and dinosaurs coexisting peacefully with one another — triceratops and elephants walking side-by-side in the African savanna, and a Mosasaurus and a whale interacting somewhere in the depths of the pacific. This scene is tastefully done but the film would’ve been far more compelling if it had shown human beings and their dominance at the top of the food chain being threatened by prehistoric beings that roamed the Earth far longer than the humans have. Human beings trying to fight the large ecological changes caused by the dinosaurs and their bid to save themselves from extinction would’ve made for a far more thought-provoking narrative. Instead, in their desperate attempts to appeal to several demographics, Universal has created a nostalgia-driven film with a few memorable set-pieces. To their credit, however, the filmmakers have certainly added a few fresh concepts in each film. The Lost World featured a T-Rex running amok in San Diego, Jurassic Park III featured a terrifying spinosaurus, whereas the first two films of the new trilogy featured hybrid-killers such as the Indominous Rex and the Indominus Raptor. However, Jurassic World: Dominion features the largest carnivore ever to walk on land, the Giganotosaurus, and more updated representations of dinos with more accurate looks with bright feathers, sharing resemblances with their descendants, the birds.

The film’s CGI, visuals, and the return of the original cast should have made Jurassic World: Dominion a far greater film than what was finally released in theatres. It is a shame considering, that Michael Crichton, the author of the original books, has often used sci-fi stories to open discourses on science and philosophy. If Jurassic World: Dominion is in fact a metaphor for preservation and peaceful co-existence between species, it is poorly executed. It ultimately boils down to the fact that the studios are reluctant to take risks by adding complex storylines to films that they hope can sell toys and video games for children. One can only hope that the franchise is rebooted entirely at some point to bring the awe and wonder like when the T-Rex burst onto the screen all the way back in 1993 under the guidance of the legendary Steven Spielberg.

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