I was not a fan of Jurassic World. Although it was a mildly entertaining monster-romp, it failed to recapture the synergy of terror and wonder so masterfully displayed in the original Jurassic Park. It came off instead as the cynical product of desperate Hollywood executives cashing in on audience loyalty to yet another nostalgic franchise. The lame attempts at “comedy” and the overblown action sequences made it come off as a straight up parody of Jurassic Park rather than a true sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I love action-packed monster movies (I had a blast at the theater watching Kong: Skull Island just last week), but what set JP apart from almost any other creature feature before or since was its vision of dinosaurs not as mindless, bloodthirsty killing machines, but as real animals whose complex behaviors were driven by instinct and shaped by millions of years of evolution. It was a groundbreaking depiction of dinosaurs in cinema, the culmination of the “Dinosaur Renaissance” of the 1970s and ‘80s, and it cemented the modern image of intelligent, active, warm-blooded dinosaurs in the popular consciousness. But Jurassic World blithely threw that all away in favor of fictitious monstrosities like “Indominus rex” and weaponized Velociraptors. JW was better than the infamously bad Jurassic Park III, but that’s not saying much.
The majority of the moviegoing public disagreed, netting Jurassic World $1.6 billion, making it the fourth highest grossing film of all time! Such a staggering box-office performance meant that Universal Studios had no incentive to improve the dinosaurs in any potential sequel. On a scale of 1 to 10, my anticipation level for “Jurassic World 2” was in the negative digits (especially when I heard that the sequel might be doubling down on the silly weaponized raptors concept). To say the least, this movie had to make a strong first impression to even get me moderately interested in seeing it.
And believe it or not, I think they succeeded. On March 8, the film’s director Juan Antonio Bayona revealed the first official photograph from JW2.
And I like this image. A lot. The scene of a young girl standing in awe in front of a massive Triceratops skull in a room full of mounted dinosaur skeletons is poignant and evocative. It really calls back to that sense of wonder we all remember from the original Jurassic Park film. It’s an iconic image, full of thematic potential, both powerful and understated at the same time. Completely the opposite of the campiness of Jurassic World. This one photograph gives me hope that the filmmakers took to heart at least some of the critiques of paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts the world over. But does this promo shot truly signal a radical departure in tone for JW2 from its predecessor? A return to the franchise’s roots? I certainly hope so, but at this point it’s impossible to say for sure.
There’s been some speculation that this photo may be from a scene that takes place in the mansion of John Hammond (the late CEO of the InGen corporation responsible for cloning the dinosaurs) and it certainly looks vaguely similar to other rooms inside Hammond’ home that we saw briefly in the second film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Perhaps after Hammond’s death InGen decided to turn his house in to a museum open to the public? The absence of glass, guardrails, or any sort of barriers around the mounted skeletons (plus the furniture and potted plants in the background) gives me the impression that these mounts are part of someone’s private collection (Hammond’s?) and not displayed in a conventional natural history museum.
Speculation aside, the release of this image was a good first step by the creative team behind “Jurassic World 2” and seems to signal a desire to win back fans disenchanted by the last film. If you had asked me two weeks ago for my thoughts on JW2, I would have said that I wasn’t holding out much hope that it would be any good. Now, I’d say that I’m at least cautiously optimistic. Of course, this is only one image. We won’t get a much clearer idea of the plot and tone of the movie until the first trailer. Hopefully more set photos and promotional stills will be released in the meantime, and I look forward to analyzing those as well. Stay tuned for more coverage of “Jurassic World 2” right here on Deep Time Dispatches!