Is Jurassic Park Extinct?

Sam Gillson
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This week I was dealt a crippling blow. Nope, I still have my health, a job and a home. The reason is a lot sadder than that: production on the recently announced and long awaited Jurassic Park 4 was put on hold.

Yeah, I know, right, get over it and all that. But I can’t that easily. JP was, like every other person my age, my childhood. I had the VCR (a collective, “The what now?”, from younger readers) and it was virtually run down from all the times I ever fast forwarded to the final T-Rex scene. I would watch it every weekend. I also had all the toys and books. I still, even now, have the bed sheets which make for some interesting conversation when I bring someone back. I even loved the sequels when they were released. I watch them all now for pure escapism and nostalgia’s sake, to remind me of a simpler, job-free and recessionless time. The prospect of another film and reliving those glory days of when I was six had me unashamedly giddy as a schoolgirl. I could have also finally introduced younger members of my family to the awesome world of dinosaurs.

The official announcement states that the release date was pushed back in order to give “the studio and filmmakers adequate time to bring audiences the best possible version”. This may sound like non-news; big films are often delayed due to script re-writes or issues with the location, and the fact that they want us to have the “best possible version” is a good omen, right? I hope so. But JP4 has a long and chequered history which means this may be a warning sign of bad things to come, like rippling water in a glass…

The original JP was released back in 1993 (how old do you feel now?), directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a book of the same name by Michael Crichton. It was a gargantuan hit due to its spectacular effects which brought dinosaurs back to life after being MIA for 65 million years. It soon became the biggest grossing film of all time (until a pesky film called Titanic came along four years later). The original was quickly followed by Spielberg’s The Lost World in 1997 which, whilst a solid follow-on, couldn’t quite capture the magic of the first. And, ever since JP3 was released back in 2001, there were rumours of another film.

Sure the third lacked Spielberg’s direction and the quality and box-office numbers of the previous two, but it was still massively entertaining and a monster hit. Original plans were to have a sequel in theatres by summer 2005 and rumours were abound that it would star (the then huge) Keira Knightley and focus on the dinosaurs escaping from their island to the mainland. However, studio faith had waned somewhat. The CGI dinosaurs no longer had the pulling power that made the original so ground-breaking (seriously, still holds up 20 years later) and it seemed as if maybe the large reptiles had had their day, again. Something new and as original as the first was needed and so, like a massive meteorite, Universal Studios and producer Spielberg ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

In 2004 it was announced that writer John Sayles had been hired to produce a screenplay and this story would focus on human-dinosaur mutant soldiers. I shit you, not. This idea got alarmingly far into production (if you Google it, you can see the production designs) before again, thankfully, Spielberg nipped it in the bud. Subsequent writers were hired in the following years until in 2008, after the death of Michael Crichton, when producers said the franchise couldn’t carry on. The series was now extinct. Fans had had a roller coaster ride but were thrown off at the last corner.

And so it remained for four years until 2012 when rumblings were heard that something had survived. JP is, after all, Universal’s highest grossing films series and has recently had a US theatrical 3D re-release. It was announced that the writing team behind the successful Rise of The Planet Of The Apes reboot were hired and not long after, a director in the form of little-known Colin Trevorrow was also attached. Trevorrow has only one previous release to his name, the low budget, character-driven comedy/sci-fi, Safety Not Guaranteed, and bagged the job by convincing the studio and producers what a massive fan of the series he was. Fans were naturally over the moon that someone who cares about the legacy was at the helm.

So, it was all in place. A solid writing team had breathed fresh life into a flagging film series, and an eager director, once a childhood fan, was on board, keen to prove his mettle in the world of big summer blockbusters. All was going swimmingly. We’d recently had updates from Trevorrow’s Twitter as to the filming locations and rumours of new dinosaurs, until all of a sudden the rug was pulled from under our feet and the recent announcement stamped on us like a Spinosaur. Since then, crew have been let go and the release pushed back indefinitely.

So what does the future hold for JP4? Studio, producer and director have confirmed it will happen; but this has all been promised before. So, I guess we’ll just have to watch this space. What’s for certain is it needs to happen. Wizards, vampires and werewolves have had their day and superheroes can only stay super for so long. It’s time for the dinosaurs to return once again. That, and we need some classic, old-school summer blockbusters back on the big screen, ones that can thrill and entertain the whole family. But most important of all, above all else, I want new Jurassic Park bed sheets.

About Sam Gillson

Hydrogeologist by day, my work funds my addiction to films, food and holidays. In my free time I also read and think about joining a gym. Whilst not in the least bit creative myself, I narcissistically feel in a position to brutally judge the work of others, with cliché dreams of reviewing for a living.