You Saw It Coming

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When you walk into a blockbuster movie in the present day, I think it is fair to say, we are not going in waiting to be as shocked and surprised like we used to. Most of the time a film’s trailers will give away large amounts of information, sometimes to the extent where the entire plot is revealed. From there each frame from trailers and sneak peaks are speculated about on message boards, blogs and social media until, if we wanted, we could all have a good idea of where the movie is going in a narrative and character sense. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, in fact, sometimes the anticipation and speculation outweighs the excitement derived from the actual film. What I am saying, that in this day and age the movie has to understand that a large chunk of its audience will have been exposed to its money shots and best lines of dialogue already, so instead of insulting their intelligence it’s all about embracing the predictability.

Predictability is not a bad thing, some would say it is connected with a film being boring. However, the ubiquity of a massive summer blockbuster and the marketing associated with it will not change. Jurassic World has handled this fantastically and is a great example of producing a film with the knowledge that everyone is going to have a good guess at the storyline and will have watched the trailers quite a few times.

In the last month, the marketing team behind Jurassic World has been hitting us hard. Trailers, TV Spots, merchandise, magazine covers and not to mention the app where you can build your own Jurassic World (if you have the money to buy the £40 packs of cards to play the game via in store purchasing) my point is, you know there’s a new Jurassic Park film coming out and you know the basis for the plot and have already seen the dinosaurs. Add this to the fact that a lot of people going to see this film have seen Jurassic Park I-III or at least the first one which Jurassic World mainly derives it ideas from. It all looked set up for a potential disappointment where we’ve seen it all before. But director Colin Trevorrow was probably aware that this would happen which is why he just went all out.

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The best case and point would be that of the new park attraction, the hybrid dinosaur Indominus Rex. The early trailers tried to mask the appearance of this creature but with the merchandise coming out many months before in Lego form and as its design was starting to be shown online and on magazines, the cat was out the bag and from that stage you might as well show it as much as you can in the film. The Indominus is shown very early in the movie, unlike Jaws which this movie borrows from in some respects. Trevorrow mentioned in an interview these days you don’t get the luxury of just one trailer like Jaws had 40 years ago so you can keep your best secrets hidden, so, to his credit, he just went all guns blazing and it worked wonderfully. Also, the main reason the suspense was so great in Jaws was down to the mechanical shark not working and so Spielberg had no choice but to keep the shark hidden for the majority of the film.

In Jurassic World we knew the raptors we’re going to be smart and Chris Pratt was going to be their trainer, also the Mosasaur was going to play some part, as we also knew that Bryce Dallas Howard holding a flare in in front of an opening of a door can only mean one thing is coming up. The plot was massively derivative of the first film where two children, who are related to somebody very important in the running of the park are left to alone with carnivorous dinosaurs. However, it does it in a way that is still entertaining and because there isn’t the element of surprise that Jaws or the original Jurassic Park had in 1993, Jurrasic World presents us with huge amounts of action and a well written script from Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.

This isn’t the only franchise in which the movies must up their game to survive at the box office. Although studios know that lots of people like the same thing presented, there has to be some difference, something new to keep us coming back to the cinema. Studios that have become complacent and have churned out the same rubbish all the time have suffered bad financial returns. People are not that easily fooled and many franchises have needed a reboot to survive or been destroyed completely (Terminator Salvation, Speed 2, Batman and Robin, Spiderman 3, etc.)

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A studio like Marvel has to keep upping its game to create a sense of something you haven’t seen before with the huge amount of films they have produced in such a short space of time. When we had Phase One with Iron Man, 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America, that all culminated in The Avengers which was ground breaking because of the build-up and the sheer scale of the movie. Now, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, new characters are being established to give the audience something new but through marketing and the previous films we have already seen so much in the last few years. That’s why Guardians of the Galaxy was so great, because it was such an original choice of comic to adapt compared to the normal Marvel universe. Age of Ultron was a well made film but it lacked surprises and didn’t do anything special, besides establishing the vision, to remedy the overused formula.

Jurassic World is a great movie though, whether my opinions are deep seated in nostalgia is one for everyone else to determine but it was so great to go into a movie in which I had seen the trailer to death and not be disappointed with the end product. I can only hope that it is the same with The Force Awakens. Although J.J Abrams does like to keep a lid on his films and not give too much away it’ll be a big ask in the world we live in now. At this moment, we’ll just have to speculate.

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A Tale of Two Trailers

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This is the kind of week we wait for in film. We were treated to not just one, but two of the most anticipated trailers in the history of the Blockbuster. Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens may have only given us a few teasing moments to whet the appetite but they were enough to fuel anticipation levels and get everyone intensely talking and speculating.

 

The Jurassic World trailer came earlier in the week and because it’s due for a release on 12th June more post production has been completed so we got to see quite a bit of footage. In terms of plot there is a base to work upon here. 22 years after John Hammond’s initial attempt to bring dinosaurs back to life in Jurassic Park and create a park that would showcase these marvels it would seem someone has made this idea into a fully operational and popular attraction. Meanwhile, scientists (including the returning BD Wong as Henry Wu) are treading new genetic ground by creating the first hybrid dinosaur. The exact nature of this super dinosaur are very much under wraps and all we know are that it’s highly intelligent and kills at will, which suggests a velociraptor merged with something bigger, but that still remains a secret.

Being an obsessive follower of the Jurassic Park series it’s so great to actually see this trailer, just because it’s finally come to fruition. After years in development hell with massing uncertainty over who will direct or star or what story will be used it’s finally only six months away. Not only that but it looks great, it’s impossible to judge an entire film from a trailer but Jurassic World really does look the part and director Colin Trevorrow looks to have kept the essence of the original while adding his own style. There are only snippets of the various dinosaurs but there are plenty of them. Introducing new dinosaurs, including the massive sea dwelling Mosasaurus, and adding new dimensions to the old ones including the raptors, who are said to be working with staff member Owen played by Chris Pratt, both the human and dinosaur performances look a lot more layered than the one dimensional Jurassic Park III.

An issue with a lot of the trailers these days is they give away entire plotlines or all the best jokes in an attempt to sell the movie but there is still so much of Jurassic World which is shrouded in mystery. Does the T-Rex, the poster dinosaur for the franchise, return with a bigger role than that of the previous film? Will the raptors work with the humans or will they merely betray them? And what are the intentions of the owners of Jurassic World? Both Vincent D’Onofrio and Irrfan Khan are executives of the Masrani Corporation which own the theme park. Two big actors who we did not see in the trailer suggests that something more is afoot and I really cannot wait to see it on the big screen in a mix of excitement and pure unmitigated nostalgia.

Talking about nostalgia, whilst still getting over the trailer for Jurassic World only a few days later we had out first glimpse at The Force Awakens. I say a glimpse being it was only a minute and a half long. J.J Abrams and co have only just completed principal photography a few weeks ago and there will be still a huge amount to add in post production. Being only 88 seconds long and with a year left to complete, it lacked the flow of a theatrical trailer, but as random assortments of images go it was truly the pinnacle. Never before has an ominous voice over (Is it Serkis, Driver or Cumberbatch?) and a few out of context shots amassed so much excitement from so many.

It doesn’t answer a whole host of questions as to what’s in The Force Awakens except that it has The Millennium Falcon in all its glory, a Sith with a red lightsaber that, when ignited, becomes a crucifix shape and the X-Wings are back with Oscar Isaac at the helm of one. John Boyega’s role is uncertain, is he a Stormtrooper, or like Luke in a New Hope is he just donning the uniform and all we know about Daisy Ridley is she’s on Tatooine at some point of the film. So, lots still to speculate about. It’s been a real enjoyment in itself reading all of the various interpretations of what the various images mean. We still have a long way to go until December but from these few images it look promising.

One thing both Jurassic World and The Force Awakens are that John Williams was the composer for the original films and it is that music that really gives the trailer the extra edge over those of other movies. Interestingly, the same composer was look set to take over him for both movies, however, although Michael Giacchino is doing the score for Jurassic World, Williams is returning to the Star Wars universe once again. One thing that will be certain in both movies is the music will be spectacular.

We have been truly spoiled this week, even though the extent of that spoiling was a cumulative four minutes. At least we know that the films are on there way next year and we can go on speculating about plots and characters until they do.

The Extinction of Jurassic Park?

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Several months ago I wrote an article asking ‘Where is Jurassic Park IV’. Suddenly, everything started to happen. Producer Kathleen Kennedy stated the forth film in the dinosaur franchise was hitting cinemas in Summer 2014. Then, Universal announced its director for the prestigious job, Colin Trevorrow, director of Safety Not Guaranteed. And, just a week ago the aforementioned director tweeted the first location shot of JP4, simply entitling the shot Nublar.

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This was enough to get any fan of the franchise tingle with anticipation. It was going to happen. On the 20th anniversary of Spielberg’s original everything looked like it was finally coming together after so long a wait.

But then, disaster. Yesterday, Universal revealed that the release date for JP4 would be delayed. We weren’t given any specifics, just the statement that the studio wanted “to bring audiences the best possible version” of the film. With everything on hiatus the sequel now enters a stage of purgatory where many movies have struggled to find their way out.

There are a number of theories about why JP4’s release date was delayed. The simple one being nothing has been done yet, (no cast for one) and the release date was simply too ambitious. Universal underestimated how much time and effort it takes to make a film, of this magnitude.

Another theory surrounds the script. Now, there has been so much said about the potential JP4 scripts. The most infamous containing the dinosaurs armed with guns, trained to fight the first set of Ingen dinosaurs. However, some whispers have suggested that whatever this new script is about, it was far too ambitious to film. All we know is that the characters, whoever they may be go back to Isla Nublar, the island in the original Jurassic Park. So, Trevorrow went on location, ready to film and Universal pulled the plug because they were simply overwhelmed with how much it might cost and what resources they would need.

At the moment, these are all just theories. I haven’t sat in any of the Universal meetings and am still on hold at Kathleen Kennedy’s office. It’s just frustrating, because I know that at the end of all this there is a great film. There is defiantly room in the market for more T-Rex and Velociraptor action and so much potential for more dinosaurs and plots to grace our cinemas. I was confident they had it right this time.

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Even through all the speculation and feeling the inevitability of JP4 never happening, when the news broke of Trevorrow’s directing duties and Spielberg stating that the script was going to be great at Comic-Con, it was possible again. But, now, I feel JP4 might just stay in this purgatory and we will just have 3D and special edition re-releases of the three original films.

The question of what the future release date is now will be a problem. They had a great slot in Summer 2014. So far, not too much has been pencilled in for that period. Except Universal’s 21 Jump Street 2 which replaces JP4. Universal can’t move it to the middle of 2015 because that Summer belongs to Disney and Star Wars, Avengers 2 and Pirates 5. So, where next? I await with anticipation the next press conference regarding the future of one of my most anticipated films. However, I don’t hold too much hope.

Where is Jurassic Park IV?

When Jurassic Park, based on the book by Michael Crichton, was released in 1993 it was immediately hailed as one of the most popular and innovative blockbusters of the modern age. Its epoch defining special effects juxtaposed with a very human story combining to create one of the highest grossing films to this day. Overnight, Steven Spielberg had created a whole new generation of aspiring palaeontologists whilst simultaneously ingraining the T-Rex and Velociraptor into popular culture.

Naturally, sequels emerged with The Lost World appearing five years later to monumental anticipation and Jurassic Park III in 2001. The movies progressively became more underwhelming, possibly because of the lack of the initial wow factor that shocked audiences in 1993, or perhaps due to weaker scripts and more emphasis on showing as many dinosaurs eating as many people as possible. Both films still have their merits and are still very enjoyable action romps that enjoyed a successful time at the box office. It was inevitable that JPIV would be just around the corner to provide audiences with another look at the wonders of the CGI dinosaurs and bring back some favourite characters. However, this has not come to pass.

It was been eleven years since the last instalment of Jurassic Park. There have been press releases, small articles and enough rumours to fill a T-Rex paddock as to what’s happening with JPIV. It has very much found its way into the briny depths of development hell in which only through constant speculation can it see the light. Now planned for a prospective 2014 release, according to Frank Marshall, it has been astonishing to see the ups and downs of a film stuck in the pre-production phase. Here is a brief assessment of where JPIV has been for the past decade.

A couple of years after JPIII, Spielberg wanted to do another sequel in which he produced and its director Joe Johnson directed. This all seemed fine, but it was the film’s script which held up proceedings, none of which satisfied Spielberg. Unlike JPI and II there was no source material to draw upon and therefore the story would come from scratch. Over the years everyone from William Monahan, John Sayles and currently Rick Jaffa has been linked with writing or re-writing the script. Sayles’ script infamously being released online showing his intentions to have dinosaurs mixed with the DNA of dogs to create a breed of gun carrying mercenaries, trained to fight Jurassic Park’s original Dinosaurs that have been wreaking havoc in America.

The internet rumours have also sprung up from actors starring or returning (Sam Neill, Keira Knightly, Richard Attenborough) to  potential plotlines (Dinosaurs in space) as well as some truly awful fake YouTube trailers, so bad, that I avoid giving you a link to them for your own protection.

With the release date getting pushed back further and further due to lack of a good script and Spielberg being very busy, out of the blue within an old Total Film magazine in 2008 came the revelation that the new Jurassic Park will be the beginning of a new trilogy. This was very intriguing but that prospect disappeared quite quickly. Probably because where would a trilogy of scripts come from if you can’t find one.

2008 was a decisive year for JPIV. First of all Spielberg’s, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull happened to the dismay of many fans of the original trilogy. With this and the recent Star Wars prequels leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many audience members, people began to question bringing back a franchise that should have been left. If that wasn’t enough two factors against production would come in quick succession in the guise of tragedy. First, the most famous visual effects and makeup artist, Stan Winston, who had worked on the first three films providing the design and effects of the dinosaurs, sadly passed away. Then, a few months later Jurassic Park’s creator Michael Crichton also died. At this point many thought the franchise should be put to bed including producer Kathleen Kennedy who said “I really think that with Michael Crichton’s passing, that’ll be it for the series.” It seemed, that was it for Jurassic Park.

A year later however, saw Joe Johnson speaking about the possibility of a new story that goes off in a “completely different direction”. He had a great story which didn’t consist of people going back on the island. There was utter confusion due to as many people saying it was happening as it wasn’t. Finally, at Comic Con 2011 Spielberg confirmed they have this story and JPIV is going to happen “in all our foreseeable futures”. There is very little confirmed, so could this be another case of teasing the audience with prospects and not delivering? Producer Frank Marshall disagrees, stating that the film will have its Summer 2014 release.

Personally, I hope this is the case. Jurassic Park has always been one of my favourite movies and is loved by so many people. Surely Spielberg wouldn’t lie about there being a great story, and with the writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I’m brimming with anticipation to see the franchise back. As long as the dinosaurs aren’t carrying guns…