We compare Colin Trevorrow’s ‘Jurassic World 2’ talking points to… whatever it was we all watched yesterday.
Hey, did you catch that first Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer last night? Pretty bad, right? For years, fans have anxiously anticipated the second installment in the Jurassic World franchise; the first was an unexpected box office super-smash, and the combination of heightened expectations and a contentious figure like Colin Trevorrow holding the reins ensured that Jurassic World 2 would never be far from the production spotlight. That whole hype machine took a huge step back with yesterday’s trailer, as the months of promises – more emotions! more animatronics! more storytelling! – were cast aside in favor of a bug-eyed Chris Pratt running away from pixels as more pixels explode in the background.
Think I’m being unfair? Look, I understand the fact that a first trailer is only a limited glimpse at the final product, but few films could afford to get off to a rough start quite like Jurassic World 2. For years now, Trevorrow has been telling anyone who would listen about the new and improved direction for his collaboration with director J.A. Bayona, and speaking strictly from a marketing perspective, 2+ minutes of footage undid months of carefully planned spin on how Jurassic World 2 would build on its predecessor’s weaknesses without downplaying any of its strengths. Here are just a few of Trevorrow’s interview excerpts from the past two years and how quickly those talking points were put to rest by the trailer:
“[It will not be] just a bunch of dinosaurs chasing people on an island. That’ll get old real fast.” (Wired, 7/24/2015)
- The first trailer for Jurassic World 2 suggests a film that has evolved far beyond the need for dinosaurs to chase people on an island; now it is the island that is chasing dinosaurs, with people running both towards and away from the dinosaurs depending on their penchant for veggies. This culminates in one of my least-favorite Hollywood trailer tropes: the trailer turns and winks once at its audience in acknowledgment of its ridiculous premise – “Save the dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode? What could go wrong?” – and then executes on that premise in the least imaginative way possible. “Yeah, we know, we’re back on the island,” the trailer seems to say, “but who really gives a shit?” Trevorrow was right: that got old pretty fast.
“I think the way these characters are connected to these circumstances of what’s happening, it’s different than previous films. It’s not ‘let’s manufacture a way to get them somewhere’, they’re embedded into it now in a way that us storytellers are able to keep them involved without it feeling contrived.” (Jurassic Cast Podcast, 9/21/2015)
- They go back to the island because the island is about to blow up. There may be more overt ways to manufacture a return to Jurassic World for the sequel, but for the life of me, I cannot think of any off the top of my head.
“We’ve written some opportunities for animatronics into [Jurassic World 2] — because it has to start at the script level — and I can definitely tell you that Bayona has the same priorities, he is all about going practical whenever possible.” (Jurassic Outpost, 9/30/2016)
- Fine, this one’s a little easy to dunk on, but I’ll tell you what: the thought of watching someone have to defend each of those CGI shots from the trailer as absolutely essential – thereby making it ‘impossible’ to shoot alternative scenes with practical effects – is going to keep me very warm on some cold nights this December.
“The dinosaurs will be a parable of the treatment animals receive today: the abuse, medical experimentation, pets, having wild animals in zoos like prisons, the use the military has made of them, animals as weapons.” (El Mundo, 8/10/2016)
- The problem here is one that was pointed out by ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer after the Jurassic World 2 synopsis started making the rounds: why save the dinosaurs when you can just make more dinosaurs? To posit Jurassic World as an animal rights allegory fundamentally misunderstands the point of the entire franchise. Jurassic Park isn’t a blockbuster adaptation of Charlotte’s Web, it’s an ecological spin on Frankenstein, with Man’s place as creator amplified on a global level. Perhaps the least interesting spin anyone could’ve taken on Jurassic World 2 is “Won’t somebody please think of the dinosaurs?!” but throw a little Jeff Goldblum on there and we’re not supposed to notice? Goddamn.
“The thing I love the most about what [Crichton] introduced is this idea that I think is so prevalent in our world today that a mistake made a long time ago just can’t be undone.” (HitFix, 10/3/2016)
- … but it can be undone. You just let the volcano explode.
Look, at the end of the day, there are plenty of ways that Universal Pictures could rationalize the absolute terrible spectacle of this first trailer. Maybe other countries develop the ability to create their own dinosaurs, and America needs to save the inhabitants of Isla Nublar to ensure that no country achieves a dino-military advantage in the coming dino-wars. Maybe the entirety of this trailer’s footage is part of the movie’s cold open, and Jurassic World 2 will really be a courtroom thriller arguing about the international sanctions that need to be in place to allow dinosaurs to survive. Maybe the dinosaurs take over the world and Jurassic World 3 will be a blockbuster-sized adaptation of It Comes At Night. These are all distinct possibilities, and I want to repeat for the second time that this is just the first of a handful of trailers. We’re still more than six months out from the film’s release.
But even if any of those theories turn out to be true, it still doesn’t explain how an entire marketing department could put its ear to the ground, listen to what audiences have asked for in 2017, and decide that the best way to advertise their oft-criticized blockbuster was to release a trailer with CGI and explosions and CGI explosions. The Jurassic World movies make a ton of money, but their reputation is a dicey affair at best – they lack the passionate and mobilized core audience of the Warner Bros. DC films, for example – and releasing a trailer that recycles plot points, emphasizes spectacle, and engages in blatant fan-baiting puts your movie one strike in the hole before it even hits theaters. So many movies at least deliver a smart package of marketing materials before they succumb to mediocrity. With a terrible first trailer and two years’ worth of ambitious posturing by Trevorrow, Universal Pictures has given audiences all the rope they need to hang themselves.