Jurassic World and Soft-Canon: a Counteractive and Convoluted Conundrum

This article is a guest contribution by Thomas Fishenden.

When it comes to the Jurassic Park franchise, it is safe to say that there has been a lot of world building over the duration of the five installments which Universal Studios have produced. It is certainly safe to say that a lot has been added to the franchise over the years. The films have added new locations and new animals and characters, whilst the secondary materials – such as the viral marketing – have aimed to add in more continuity between the sequel installments. Canon, however, has not always been maintained – and there have always been issues which have plagued the Jurassic franchise and the continuity it shares between its various outings. We have seen Universal and Colin Trevorrow take steps towards addressing these issues in recent years – but unfortunately, a recent announcement during the press for Jurassic World: The Live Tour has us concerned about the future canonical consistencies within the franchise.

In the past, Colin Trevorrow has stated that he is the overseer of the franchise – and would oversee issues, such as Canon, moving forwards to ensure better continuity and cohesion across the property in the future. This had many of us excited, as it seemed to indicate that both Colin and the studio behind him were willing to take meaningful steps towards building a much more coherent cinematic universe. Indeed, it appeared that the Jurassic franchise would take a similar approach to other great franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, building outwards with meaningful connections to the very core pillars which first established the franchise. For a while, this seemed to hold true – with inconsistencies around the geography of the Isla Nublar report in both Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom openly addressed by the director, who proceeded to work with the team behind the viral marketing and surrounding canonical materials (Chaos Theorem) to build a meaningful explanation which alleviated the canon-breaking implications that the change in island geography had. Furthermore, the team working behind the scenes had the opportunity to build upon the background of the franchise – adding in new implications for the canon which alleviated some of the strained connections that the narratives of the more recent films had. It is safe to say that the Dinosaur Protection Group website, and other subsequent ventures, did a lot to build upon the canon in meaningful ways – addressing the concerns of long term fans and creating much more of a cinematic ‘universe’ than we had ever seen for the franchise before.

Whilst the Dinosaur Protection Group faded into obscurity after the cinematic debut of Fallen Kingdom, it appeared canon would continue to grow and expand within the franchise. This brings us to Jurassic World: The Live Tour. Press Events for the tour (see Chris’s coverage from an event in April of this year) got fans excited – with a clear focus on developing a story which could fit within the confines of a pre-established Jurassic World narrative. Indeed, whilst some of the live show would build upon the back of the blockbuster film, showcasing the Indominus rampage on Isla Nublar, the clear majority was stated to be a brand-new story exploring a top-secret InGen Facility in Chile. The story follows Doctor Kate Walker, who was working with dinosaurs in a similar behavioral capacity to Owen Grady, and has essentially been pitched as the other half of the IBRIS project which we see on screen within Jurassic World. This, again, is a project which has always been relatively secretive on-screen, so fans were excited to be able to learn even more about this new piece of lore which was sure to build upon the fundamental ideals explored within the first Jurassic World film. Anticipation was high – and this was only exasperated further by the debut of Battle at Big Rock, which explored more new characters within the same universe, after the events of Fallen Kingdom.

Unfortunately, however, it seems that the story continuity will not last.

Fast forward to the start of November, when the Live Tour is kicking off with its worldwide premiere. Colin was interviewed by the Social Media team working on behalf of Feld Entertainment., and in an Instagram story on the official tour account, Colin was asked where the events of the show fit within the timeline of Jurassic World. His response was as follows:

“We have something we call soft canon – which is that it happens, but it also exists within its own space. You know, Feld’s writers and creators made a new and original story which exists within the context of Jurassic World and I think people are really going to love it.”

This statement is great when we consider how passionate Colin is for the franchise, and it is nice to see how excited he is about the live show – but it also poses a very real problem for the franchise moving forwards. That statement of ‘soft-canon’, and the careful phrasing of this show ‘existing within the context of Jurassic World’, has set alarm bells ringing for many fans – suggesting that the show may not be a meaningful fit within the pre-determined canon of the franchise, as was previously implied. Soft-canon itself is an alarming phrase, considering its what ‘Jurassic World Evolution’ is described as — something that is not canon at all, but adheres to the rules of the universal while carving out its alternate reality.

This becomes problematic as a universe which is built without canon in mind can very quickly crumble and implode if not handle with a degree of oversight and brand management. Disney know this all too well – and it is the reason why the Star Wars Expanded Universe is now referred to as ‘Legends’. Here, Disney told too many stories which conflicted with one another and posed potential problems for the canons of the franchise so they had to restart this from the ground up and discount any of their old stories as being non-canon unless reintroduced into modern films or properties. Whilst this soured many Star Wars fans, Disney could get away with this because of the sheer scale and scope of Star Wars and its fan-base, with many more pre-established stories already under the franchise’s belt. Jurassic, in contrast, is a relatively new and expanding franchise with a smaller fan base, and so the movements made to grow the brand really need to be considered and thoughtful to connect with audiences and build a meaningful and consistent fan base. Therefore, the term ‘soft canon’ being thrown out so early in the growth of the franchise has both I and many other Jurassic fans concerned about the future direction of the franchise.

It should also be noted that Star War’s non-canon ‘legends’ media only consists of expanded fiction that came out prior to The Force Awakens. Everything since then has been carefully cultivated to fit within the ever expanding galaxy, working with their brand team, writers, and directors as to not contradict the films, but add to them all while telling their own stories. Why Jurassic cannot do this, especially given their stable creative team, and smaller universe size, is a frustrating mystery.

Whilst I appreciate that it is hard to canonise a Live Tour (other properties like ‘Marvel Universe Live’ opted to tell entirely separate stories), I think straddling the line between canon and ‘soft canon’ is an attempt for Jurassic to have its cake and eat it too. Whilst it’s a humble attempt at developing upon the IP, I feel that it misses the mark and misses what fans have truly been clamoring for – which are stories which will have larger impacts on the overall franchise whilst enabling them to connect with these characters and these stories in much more meaningful ways. The attitude of utilizing ‘soft canon’ poses a worry for fans, as it brings into question upcoming properties like Camp Cretaceous, and where they will stand in terms of both canon and impact on the other properties within the franchise. Whilst there is certainly an argument for these being more children’s tailored properties, it is important to note that even in that regard a canonical middle ground is achievable. Take, for example, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This property found a way to tell stories within a pre-existing universe whilst not damaging canon. In fact, Clone Wars could build upon the pre-established in interesting and meaningful ways – connecting with both older and younger fans alike. This was due not only to the creative vision of Dave Filoni, but also due to the creative oversight and brand consistency which Disney and the Star Wars team had in place – and something which Jurassic seems to be sorely missing at this moment in time.

For the Jurassic World Live Tour, the format itself doesn’t entirely mesh with real world antics – so we understand that the action and context that which the story plays out may not be 1:1 to canon. But there is no reasons the overarching story itself of Dr. Kate Walker, InGens facility in Chile, and the events that subsequently played out cannot be canon. A simple “The story is canon, the action within and execution of it is soft canon” would be far more understandable. It was stated numerous times that Colin Trevorrow was involved from the start to make sure the story is hard canon. So what happened?

Make no mistake – I, and many others, are excited for new stories to be explored within the Jurassic universe. Many of us have clamoured for more from this brand for years, so the fact that we are finally getting this is exciting, and is a true testament to the creative passion of individuals like Colin Trevorrow. But, with that said, oversight is important too – and it’s important that this is built into a brand with solid foundations so that these stories can continue to be told for years to come. With that in mind, an organisation like Chaos Theorem or someone else altogether really need to be empowered to get more involved in the day-to-day canon of this universe, so that we can finally have something which feels cohesive. Continuity has always been a matter of discussion for Jurassic – and in some ways, poor continuity adds to the charm of these films. But, if Jurassic is to ever grow into a franchise with the power to do more than beat back other big names at the box office, then it is crucial that canon is considered, and that the time is taken to build a rich universe for these stories to take place within.

What do you all think? Where do you stand on canon in cinema, and is it important to you that these side projects tie in? Sound of in the comments below!


Uniting the Franchise: How Jurassic World 3 Should Incorporate Dinosaur Designs from ‘Park’ Films

Art by Neemz.

2021 is swiftly approaching. Jurassic World 3 is already shaping up to be an event unlike anything we have seen since the original Jurassic Park. With Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum all returning for major roles in the upcoming film, it is easy to see that we are in store for a movie with some serious callbacks to the film that started it all. With the return of old human characters, Jurassic World 3 is posed in the perfect position to be a film that showcases the original aspects of Jurassic Park side by side with the new ideas put forth in the Jurassic World movies. We can talk about the human characters until the sun goes down, but at the end of the day, the highlight of Jurassic has always been the dinosaurs.

One complaint that we see time and time again is how different some of the dinosaurs look in the newer films. While some fans view these differences as a major drawback, it’s time to take a hard look at how these perceived differences actually present a unique opportunity to showcase exactly what these dinosaurs are: genetically engineered, theme park…creatures. In other words, these dinosaurs are simply lab-created animals melding natural science and science fiction.

So today, let’s take a look at some specific examples of these differences. Let’s start with a classic: the mighty Stegosaurus. We first got a glimpse at the creature on Isla Sorna in The Lost World Jurassic Park. This Jurassic Park era Stego was on the more athletic side. As you can see below, it featured a straight tail and narrow head, which featured a beak of some sort. Its athleticism was put on full display when it sensed a threat in Sarah Harding approaching its infant.

Now, let us compare that to the Jurassic World era Stegosaurus. The new creation featured a heavier retro build, with a drooping tail and a wider head (with lips instead of a beak). Their coloration is slightly different, and their skin texture is entirely different than their park counterparts. We’re first introduced to them roaming Nublar’s Gyrosphere Valley in Jurassic World, presumably engineered under Masrani’s supervision to achieve certain goals.

In a universe where scientists have been cloning and creating new dinosaurs for over twenty five years, these differences can be explained by genetic manipulation. Perhaps the old Stegosauruses were just too agile and destructive with their more athletic build and size. Maybe the Jurassic World scientists realized a beefier build appealed to the parks older demographs who imagine dinosaurs with more outdated views. Questions like these are exactly the kind of lore I believe are ripe for answering in Jurassic World 3. Before we move on to how exactly the movie can present those answers in a natural way, let’s take a look at another dinosaur example.

The Ankylosaurus is well-known for the armor plating all along its back, but the different eras of Jurassic took the animal in otherwise different directions. We first see the Jurassic Park era Anyklosaur in Jurassic Park 3 as it lumbers underneath the tree some of our characters are hiding out in. It touts rougher scale-based armor with a smaller, colorful head. It has a narrow and angular build overall and is not overtly large.

Once again, let’s look at the Jurassic World edition Ankylosaurus that we see duke it out with the Indominous Rex. Not only is the Jurassic World era animal bigger, it has defined armor plating and a larger, uniform-color head. Just like the Stegosaurus, it sports a bulkier, stockier build overall. It’s been theorized that ‘World’s’ Anylosaurs are female counterparts to ‘Park’s’ males.

Ankylosaurs and Stegosaurs are only scratching the surface. Numerous other species have distinct sub-species within the Jurassic films, with 3 different Pteranodon breeds, over 3 different breeds of Velociraptors, plus a variety of sexual dimorphism seen within Parasaurs, Brachiosaurs, and more.

The best step for Jurassic to take is to embrace the differences and use them as a tool to enrich the deep mythology the universe has already given to us. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see the Jurassic Park 3 raptors running around Blue? That sort of variety in appearance is a treasure trove of rich story that has largely only been explored by the DPG marketing campaign for Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. It’s important to not stifle that variety, but embrace it fully, and bring all these elements from various films together.

However, not every difference is a canonical variation – the T. rex of Jurassic World being a prime example. Many fans have complained she looks off from her Jurassic Park appearance – and it’s true – the design has changed in more ways than just aging. This love for Jurassic Park’s iconic designs is another prime reason to bring them back. Not just nostalgia – they’re some of the most iconic creature designs in cinema. Embrace the masterclass work of Stan Winston Studios, Crash McCreery and ILM that laid the foundation for Jurassic World.

We know that Jurassic World 3 director Colin Trevorrow plans to expand the universe even more and deal with these creatures on a much larger scale now that they’re part of our world. One of the best ways to explore this evolution naturally, while keeping it tied to the past films is to simply go back to the older, forgotten dinosaurs. Likewise, we can finally explore how these various subspecies may interact – what would a crossbreed of a Jurassic Park female raptor and JP3 male raptor look like? Or would they never have the chance, fighting for territory instead?

What makes the Jurassic Park novel so great is that it tackles the science aspect of the story head on – the novel version of Wu has candid conversations with Hammond about manipulating the DNA of the dinosaurs to alter their physical characteristics and change the way they behave. If we’re trying to find inspiration, that’s where to start the search. Having a character in the movie, like Wu, explain the differences between all the animals on screen only serves to deepen the canon in a positive way. Not only that, it serves as a natural explanation for why Project IBRIS with the raptors at Jurassic World was (eventually) successful compared to the more aggressive raptors from the previous movies.

What are your thoughts on the dinosaur differences? Is this a purposeful creation from Jurassic Park scientists, or do you think the filmmakers were just looking to switch up the styles? If you believe the science backs it up, would you like to see it explained on screen? Sound off in the comments below and tell us how you would explain the uniqueness of the dinosaurs!

Opinion: It’s Time We Get Some Answers About Jurassic World’s ‘Battle at Big Rock’ Short Film

This article is a guest contribution by Thomas Fishenden.

February has come to be an exciting time for Jurassic World fans – with New York Toy Fair usually leading to the reveal of a plethora of Jurassic merchandise which fans of the franchise will have the opportunity to sink their teeth into over the coming year. This year’s Toy Fair brought more with it than usual, however, with Mattel’s sales reps giving us a tantalization tease in the form of a secret which they weren’t meant to let slip on the show floor. According to them, fans of their toyline could look forward to both a Nasutoceratops and a brand-new Allosaurus joining their line, modeled on an upcoming live action short film which was set to debut before Universal’s ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ – the next instalment in their popular Fast and Furious franchise.

During May, two brand-new dual attack figures from Mattel hit store shelves, featuring new branding which called out this short in the form of a small graphics stating that these characters were ‘As seen in Battle at Big Rock’. But, more than two weeks after the release of Hobbs & Shaw, this highly anticipated short film is still nowhere to be seen.

The absence didn’t come as a massive surprise to Outpost. It was already heard that there had been a little bit of trouble over the experimental films budget, which had reportedly exceeded the ten-million-dollar threshold. With such a high-cost for what was to be a smaller story, it appears the studio decided late in the game that they had wanted a more traditional content delivery method. This is most likely a step to try and turn a profit on the project, given the large cost which ended up being attached to it.

However, all this silence and behind the scenes uncertainty has led to a growth of pessimism within the online community. Rather than build excitement and anticipation, many Jurassic fans are now worried whether this project will ever see the light of day.

Despite several toys with ‘Battle at Big Rock’ branding already being available for several months now, Universal Pictures have still yet to acknowledge that this short film even exists. This radio silence from the studio has, understandably, got many members of the fan base worried about the direction this project may take. You may remember that, recently, we debuted some storyboards from a scrapped Jurassic Park: The Lost World animated show, which never saw the light of day. It is safe to say that cancelled projects like this, combined with a track record of production troubles for the Jurassic franchise have led to many fans becoming used to exciting new projects suddenly disappearing from the Universal release calendar. Even more troubling than this is the fact that Walmart (who have had a solid track-record with carrying Mattel products) have now decided to drop the ‘Dual Attack’ line altogether – suggesting that this may be a move to remove the Allosaurus and Nasutoceratops from shelves altogether. It strikes us as bizarre that, even before the project’s release, Universal seem to be taking steps to kill the tie-in synergy which they pushed for the short.

Whether Big Rock was intended to debut as a secret project or not, it is safe to say that Jurassic fans now know this project exists. Continuing to maintain a degree of secrecy when products from the short are already available seems to be a gross misjudgement of the community, and one which we hoped is rectified sooner rather than later. We’re hopeful that the powers that be will hear the concerns of the fanbase, and will let us know that this Battle is far from over. There are still many more adventures to explore in a Jurassic World.

Update


The Dinosaurs of Jurassic World Are Both Male and Female, and They’re Breeding

When John Hammond dreamed up the idea of Jurassic Park in the later years of the 20th century, he thought he had control of the future. “We control their chromosomes, it’s really not that difficult,” Dr. Henry Wu (Hammond’s ‘Chief Geneticist’), proudly proclaimed, going on to mock Dr. Malcolm “You’re implying that a group comprised entirely of females will…breed?” Little did he or John Hammond know what lack of control they truly had on this expansive and ultimately impossible idea. Sure, Jurassic World boasted roughly 10 years of control over these animals – but – “You never had control. That’s the illusion.”

In the beginning of the franchise, we’re told that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are female. This is because, as Wu says, “all vertebrate embryos are inherently female, anyway. They just require an extra hormone given at the right developmental stage to make them male. We simply deny them that.”, ultimately displaying the ignorance and arrogance Jurassic Park is showcasing. Hammond and his team of scientists were trying to force nature into what would end up being a very unnatural state. “Life finds a way,” as Dr. Malcolm puts it, nature fights back, and he is proven correct.

As you know, later in the film, Dr. Grant and the kids come across velociraptor eggs. Eggs mean reproduction. In vertebrate species, reproduction typically means males and females (though in certain scenarios with some vertebrates asexual reproduction is possible). However, as we discovered that from the very start, there always have been both males and females in Jurassic Park, though they’re not always distinguishable via sexual dimorphism. The Lost World confirms the dinosaurs are reproducing sexually, distinguishing the sexes of the animals with the Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptors. We’re introduced to the fact that male Tyrannosaurs are green, while the females are brown – further, male Velociraptors are brighter orange with distinct tiger-like stripes. Later, in Jurassic Park III we’re introduced to new raptors, where the males have a stripe running down the sides of their back (a feature later reflected in Velociraptor Blue) and feather-like quills. The females are more white in appearance. (This makes sense because – no offense ladies – in nature, males are usually more vibrant, like cardinals for example. This is because the females are usually the ones doing the hunting and protection of their young, and so for these reasons, they need to be more dull in color and blend in better to their surroundings.)

So what’s the deal with the dinos in Jurassic World? While Jurassic World established that the Raptors, Mosasaur and Indominus are female, we do know that there were also males, and controlled breeding, like in today’s zoos. This tweet from writer/director Colin Trevorrow himself spells it out:

This information from Colin Trevorrow confirms that between Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the animals were breeding on Isla Nublar. In Fallen Kingdom, there’s an Allosaurus that is literally called a “juvenile” Allosaurus, and you can also see various baby Triceratops several times. If you’re reading this and thinking you were the only one who thought that the animals were all female, don’t worry, you are not alone. Strangely, numerous instances of licensed material for the franchise have stated that all Jurassic World dinosaurs are female. Mattel has referred to the male “buck” rex as female, for instance, while ‘Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire’ has also claimed all animals to be female. (Side bar: I’d love to see male and female distinction in the games, and even a “controlled breeding” element. This could be risky territory – I just want to see baby dinos, can you blame me!?)

This makes the ending of Fallen Kingdom all the more significant: now that the animals are on the mainland, they will continue to breed. There obviously aren’t multiple rexes or raptors released from Lockwoods estate, so their reproductive options are limited. However, there were multiple ankylosaurs, ceratopsians, theropods, sauropods, and others released into North America that will certainly have the chance to reproduce naturally.

I am interested to see how the animals will repopulate in the Americas as invasive species, if that is something that Colin Trevorrow decides to explore. The key for combatting this invasive species threat will be response time to their capture. Compies would likely be impossible to locate and capture – there could be thousands running around after a few years. Conversely, some of the larger animals will be easier to isolate and capture with the help of the technological forces of the 21st century. With the amount of animals that were released from Lockwood’s estate, there certainly had to be a few males and females of most of the species and they will have the ability, if given the opportunity, to breed. After all, they’ve always been male and female, and breeding – ever since 1993.

If you ever forget that, just remember the words from Owen. “They’re thinkin’ I gotta eat…I gotta hunt…I gotta…”

Mattel Jurassic World Destroy ‘N Devour Indominus Rex Review

Hold on to your butts – we have an asset out of containment! Courtesy of our friends at Entertainment Earth, we have the brand new 2019 Mattel Dino Rivals Destroy N Devour Indominus Rex in hand for an unboxing and review! This all new action figure lives up to its name, and is one of the coolest dinosaur toys out there.

Check out the video below:

Relive the terror! Be a part of the Jurassic World adventure with the ultimate in dinosaur battle action! An abomination hybrid of the Velociraptor,Giganotosaurus, Rugops, Majungasaurus, and Carnotaurus, the Indominus Rex is one of the most terrifying and deadliest dinosaur ever masterminded. Inspired by the film, this larger-sized dinosaur wreaks havoc and fear everywhere! Ominous features include realistic scales, longer arms with dagger-like claws, and push button activation. To activate, move the back button to operate the mouth and activate sound effects;also use the button to make Indominus bend down, pick up and swallow human figures. The mouth opens wide to swallow 3-inch figures in its throat. An LED light in the throat lights up to show the human figure! WOW! Now get the slashing action going by pushing the front button for arm strikes and slashing sound effects. Act out ferocious battle scenes with Indominus and relive all the exciting adventure and terror of the movie! Requires batteries: 3x “AG13” (included).

Mattel has truly knocked it out of the park with the Destroy N Devour Indomoninus Rex, far surpassing the 2015 release by Hasbro, and it stands tall with the Jurassic Park Kenner classics. Every scale, quill, and tooth is beautifully sculpted, making this one of the most detailed dinosaur toys out there. Whether it’s kids for playing, or collectors for displaying, everyone will be thrilled by this terrifyingly fun and large toy.

Huge thanks to Entertainment Earth for sending this toy along so quickly so we could feature a review! The Mattel Indominus Rex is expected to ship this month from Entertainment Earth, which means they will be one of the first places you can pick up the toy – before brick and mortar stores carry it. If you’re new to Entertainment Earth, they have a mint condition guarantee, a low price guarantee, and hassle free 90-day returns. You can still Pre-order the Destroy N Devour Indominus Rex here!

Entertainment Earths entire Jurassic collection of toys and other items can also be found here.

Even more new toys from Mattel will be shipping soon, including toys such as the Mega Dual Attack Quetzalcoatlus and Amargasaurus – so stay tuned! This line of toys continues to evolve and explore more exotic species and play patterns, truly living up to the Jurassic name. Toys find a way.

Sound off in the comments below, and let us know if you will be picking up the Destroy N Devour Indominus Rex, and tell us what toys you would like to see from Mattel in the future! Also, be sure to like the video, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more content!


Opinion: “Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” – The Neo-Jurassic Generation

“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?”

There is a photograph of me, at the young age of three years old, with my older sister in the back garden of the home I grew up in. We are surrounded by pulled up weeds standing in for tiny trees, dishes full of water in place of vast lakes, and between them, herds upon herds of plastic dinosaurs. I may not remember the moment, but this is a snapshot of the first time I saw a dinosaur.

We all have our own stories on how it first happened: some earlier in life, some not till later. But all equally important. There’s a reason you’re on this site, reading this piece right now. I saw the first Jurassic Park a couple years later on VHS, a birthday present from my father. I’m sure most of you reading understand what happened next. Life-changing moment leading to a lifelong obsession, so on, so on.

Michael Crichton mused on what it is that makes dinosaurs so fascinating to children. They are the legends of the modern age. They have the fantasy appeal of classical mythology, but they were real. Dinosaurs were scary: scarier than adults, scarier than school. But they can be controlled – by learning their names, what they ate, when and where they lived, children have power over them, and also power over their parents. Generally speaking, dinosaurs are one of the few subjects children are experts on, and can trump their parents’ knowledge hands down.

We’re all introduced to these myths at different ages, through different mediums. I’m sure many of us have fond memories similar to that I described above. These could be reading books, playing with toys, or more pertinent to this community, watching films. In our modern world, the Jurassic series has served as either an entry point to or a celebration of our favourite prehistoric reptiles for over two decades now.

As we grow older, some of us leave these legends behind, some of us treasure them for years to come, and some of us will defend the originals, what we hold dear. We all want whatever comes next to be as special  and fantastical as it was, and still is in our minds. Unfortunately, this can’t always be true for everyone. We all have our own desires and wishes for the future for the Jurassic franchise, and with each new installment, there is more chance of opinion between us to become fractured and divided. It all comes from a place of passion and love, wishing the best for our own personal favourite legend.

In the 1990s, public interest in dinosaurs and palaeontology was at an all-time high. This was in no little thanks due to Jurassic Park. It bled into other widespread media globally, reaching across generations. This ranged from a slew of animated dinosaur features coming off the tails of the 1993 blockbuster to the largest sitcom ever at the time featuring a palaeontologist as one of its lead characters. But the following decades saw a slump. Many museums even moved away from the display of prehistoric creatures to represent other aspects of the natural world. Dinosaurs just weren’t as fashionable anymore.

I am very honoured to work in a profession that allows me to directly engage with the public, discussing scientific topics such as natural history and dinosaurs. I grew up for the most part in the post-Jurassic Park III slump. When I was a kid, at least in my school and area, it wasn’t trendy to like dinosaurs. And due to having grown up in that period, I am consistently astounded by the renewed interest and knowledge that kids have these days. They come from all over and in droves, ready to share their knowledge and find out even more. Liking dinosaurs isn’t a fringe interest anymore. Dinosaurs are cool.

We have entered the Neo-Jurassic age. And that is thanks to Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom.

No matter our opinions on these latest entries in the series as veteran Jurassic fans, the gates have opened to the next generation. These children are just discovering their legends, myths and stories for the first time, just as we did years ago. And most importantly, it’s getting them engaged in science at a rate unprecedented in recent years. I am consistently astounded by what children are coming out with now. They tell me where obscure creatures like Sinoceratops were discovered. What a strange little pterosaur called Dimophodon was speculated to eat. It’s not just the T. Rex anymore, they’re discovering all these weird and wonderful prehistoric species that were unknown to me as a kid. They’re even bringing in toys of real paleontological deep-dive species such as Metriacanthosaurus and Minmi, thanks to the fabulous prehistoric range of the Mattel toyline.

As it was for many of us, the Jurassic series serves as a gateway to further knowledge. It can lead to palaeontology, genetics, biology, ecology, chaos theory, or even tourism and theme parks. The list goes on and on. Even if they come in with misconceptions, such as believing a Mosasaurus was larger than a blue whale, or that many dinosaurs that we no know to be covered in feathers were completely scaly, they are engaging. This is the jumping-off point into real science, and they are looking for answers. It is this insatiable desire for knowledge that is what I believe makes dinosaurs so appealing to children. There’s always more to learn, always new discoveries to be made, mysteries to be solved. A new generation has been inspired by their own stories and legends.

And that is something worth treasuring.

Jurassic World Toys Are Outperforming Star Wars – but How Can They Keep the Momentum? We Have Some Ideas!

Star Wars has long been the gold standard for licensed media in the toy aisle, with a multitude of products, quality items, and strong sales. While the craftsmanship on the toys from Hasbro has seen a recent downward trend, causing their 2015 Jurassic World line to be met with much ire, Star Wars continues to perform successfully. It’s an evergreen property, with numerous movies, comics, books and cartoons to support interest and awareness with fans of all ages, driving toy sales forward.

In 2016, it was announced Mattel had won the bid for the Jurassic World / Park toy master license, taking it from Hasbro who had held since 1993 (if you count that they owned Kenner). Mattel spared no expense, and hit the ground running with their Jurassic toy line which made its debut in Spring of 2018 to coincide with the latest sequel, Fallen Kingdom. With Mattel in charge of the license, they reaffirmed Jurassic as a quality industry leading brand, ripe with innovative and diverse play patterns, quality film accurate toys, topped off with incredible competitive pricing models not seen in current competition. These choices, along with the Jurassic presence in theaters now has led to kids, parents, and collectors all being enticed to purchase and play.

With the latest waves of Mattel Jurassic World toys hitting shelves now, the dinosaurs are on a rampage of fun – according to the NPD Group, Jurassic is currently outselling Star Wars action figures in the US. Jurassic and Marvel led action figures sales to grow by 16%, which is no small feat given the closing of Toys R Us. While internationally, Star Wars is the number 3 overall brand (this encompasses more than action figures), and Jurassic has not broken top 10, this performance shows great opportunity for momentum moving forward – especially as dinosaur toys have grown in popularity by 77% year to date.

Personally, I see incredible potential for Jurassic World moving forward – but it will take some work. As such, I’ve lightly outlined some of my proposed transmedia expansion concepts below.

Room for Growth

Universal Pictures in conjunction with Mattel and other brand partners are in the unique position to build upon this momentum to further strengthen brand awareness, diversity, and demand. Jurassic, regardless of a film in theaters, can and should become synonymous with dinosaur toys and products for fans of all ages. Dinosaurs have an everlasting appeal, and populate toy and product shelves even without expanded marketing. With Jurassic’s unique hold on pop culture, it can take hold of the forefront of dinosaur media and hardline sales, expanding it into new territory, just as Star Wars has become a prime staple of merchandise aisles.

To fully leverage this opportunity, the brand itself need to expand its transmedia thumbprint and target as many different age groups and demographics as possible. While the films target a slightly older audience (around 7 and up) with a PG-13 rating, there is plenty of room for growth in the pre-school sector. To drive that brand awareness and acceptance amongst parents, something like a educational and friendly ‘Jurassic World Rangers’ animated series could do wonders – let it take place when the park was open, and follow the paths of vets and trainers working with the animals as they become sick or distressed. Let it be about aiding the animals, and let it teach young audiences all about the dinosaurs and characters jobs in exciting and positive scenarios. With the kids and parents on board, they’ll surely be fans for life as they grow into the core media and product offerings.

To better sustain the core Jurassic brand, the possibilities and perhaps need for expanded media sustain programs are endless. This could range from toys backed by animated content targeting the appropriate age range and tone, animated series, books, comics, video games, and live action “spin-off” stories (be it film, TV, or shorts). Most importantly, this content must be high quality, representing the brands film legacy and reputation, delivering top of the line content no matter the outlet. In the age of social media, pop culture awareness and discussion is a self-running machine, but the more parts added into the mix, the more diverse, and prolific it becomes.

Perhaps most unique to Jurassic, is the outlet for creative growth in the education sector. While the dinosaurs of Jurassic World are different from their real world namesakes, these differences can be fully embraced while collaborating with STEM partners to expand dinosaur knowledge. If Jurassic began partnering with the science community to expand real world dinosaur information in ways they cannot typically achieve alone, paleontologists, schools, museums, and other similar outlets will embrace the brand with open arms. Be it reinstating a website like Jurassic Park Institute, sharing news from Paleontological discoveries, or even sponsoring or curating dino-education TV or web programs such as documentaries, Jurassic would only further strengthen brand awareness while achieving a genuinely positive impact.

The future for our very own Jurassic World is a vast expanse of endless opportunity of innovation and entertainment, fueling engagement across multiple platforms. My hope is new programs are continuously implemented to keep this momentum moving forward – spare no expense, and let dinosaurs rule the earth.

Source: NPD Group (via Jedi Temple Archives)


OPINION: “So, how do you know the Kirbys?” – Jurassic Park III Revisited

Allow me to share a memory with you.

It is just after 7:00 PM on a weekday. Huddled behind a computer screen in my parental home’s small study, I’m listening to the clicking and humming sounds of the desktop computer dialing up.

The internet comes to life and I frantically get to work: My parents have allotted me thirty minutes of internet time each night, no more, as dialing up makes it impossible to receive or make phone calls.

These are exciting times: production of the third Jurassic Park film is in full swing, images taken at the set and published to promote the film find their way online. As it is early 2000, the Internet is not yet mainstream, but it is getting a foothold in most households and schools, enabling users to communicate more easily with people all over the planet.

My number one, and only, priority online at this time is Jurassic Park III. For these thirty minutes I am sitting behind the computer with my fingers crossed, hoping the images and discussions on fan forums will load as quickly as possible, saving as much material as I can. Once offline again, I can write down my own thoughts and share them the following night. It is the first time I am able to follow a film’s production in real-time.

As with the original Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), most of the cast and crew attached to the film are unknown to me. But it is now possible to read up on their bodies of work, to find out about the films they have acted in, or produced, or scored the music for.

Details of the third film’s story itself are scarce: there will be redesigned Velociraptors (at one point they are presented as “feathered”), and a new threat, the Spinosaurus. A highlight; pictures of the absolutely massive Pteranodon aviary’s river and ravine set find their way online. While there is no sign of the winged beasts themselves, it’s safe to say I am impressed and most excited for all that is to grace the silver screen a few months on.

Jurassic Park III

Those days of having to dial-up feel as if a lifetime ago.

We now know how the story ended. Jurassic Park III was met with mixed reviews, both professionally and by fans. Seventeen years on, bitter battles are still being fought about that greatest point of contention – the Spinosaurus killing the Tyrannosaurus rex.

In the weeks, months and years following Jurassic Park III’s release, stories about a troubled production surfaced, revealing the filmmakers dealt with far larger problems than two fictionalized, beefed up top-predators duking it out.

The biggest issue the film’s production ran into was the original script being thrown out weeks before filming would commence, forcing the writers to quickly come up with the current story – going as far as whole pages being written on the spot.

This might have been a nightmare for the cast and crew, at times not knowing in the morning what they would be filming that very afternoon; in retrospect it may have been a blessing in disguise for fans. One version of the script saw Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler (Sam Neill and Laura Dern) in the process of separation.

Keeping a notorious scene from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) in mind, one has to ask: do these writers and filmmakers derive a devilish delight from upsetting fans? Will they stop at nothing to shock devoted audiences?

Luckily, director Joe Johnston felt the story they originally had in mind did not work, thus sparing us from having to actually witness the first film’s most beloved characters going through a divorce. Now, we just get a glimpse of what could have been before all hopes and dreams about seeing Alan and Ellie together are crushed by the revelation Ellie (now Degler – Sattler) has a new man in her life.

It is here the story picks up and continues Alan Grant’s arch, which started eight years before in Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park III’s story does seem deceivingly simple on the surface. Struggling to generate funds for his research, Dr. Grant is invited by wealthy couple Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) to serve as a guide for their flight over Isla Sorna. Partially pressured into joining them by his assistant Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) he reluctantly agrees; believing the money the Kirbys offer to compensate his efforts can keep his dig site open and counting on the promise it is only a fly-over, Alan and Billy accompany the Kirbys and the small crew hired by them.

Once the group reaches Isla Sorna, it turns out the Kirbys have an ulterior motive and do intend to land on the island. They are looking for their missing son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), and Amanda’s missing boyfriend Ben Hildebrand (Mark Harelik). As with every Jurassic Park film, it does not take long for events to take a nasty turn and disaster to strike. The plane is destroyed and the survivors get split up, forced to not just fight for survival; they must attempt to find one another again as well. And, hopefully, Eric.

It comes as no surprise the film has a happy ending, seeing the Kirbys reunited with their son, and a rescue mission, orchestrated by Ellie’s husband Mark (Taylor Nichols), on its way to pick up the survivors.

Jurassic Park III revisited

I must confess I’ve never been the third film’s greatest champion myself. Though I’ve always found it an enjoyable film to pass a bit of time with and appreciated what it has to offer, it never felt as adequately made as The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It did not seem to add much to the larger Jurassic Park story, feeling more as if a spin-off rather than a true sequel.

Recently, I stumbled upon the satirical trailer Screen Junkies created for Jurassic Park III. I deeply enjoy the spoof material the crew at Screen Junkies creates for the blockbuster films we all cherish. They unashamedly make fun of the more ridiculous aspects of these films, but they do so in good spirits and with a proportionate dose of healthy humor.

I laughed at everything their Honest Trailer presented; after all, doesn’t Jurassic Park III deserve a bit of a verbal beating every now and then?

Seeing that parody trailer, I felt the urge to give Jurassic Park III a new chance. At first, my idea was to go through it scene by scene and write a funny, but a little scathing, review. Instead, I ended up watching it four times in a single week, falling in love: despite its obvious shortcomings and the troubled production process that could have resulted in a disastrous film, it is charming. It has a genuine heart and soul, ensuring the film succeeds more than it fails, at times reaching highs rivaling events from the second film. It sports some impressive set pieces and marvelous animatronics.

Watching it those four times, I realized it would be utterly unfair to write another damning review of the third Jurassic Park film. It’s easy to ridicule the film for what it does wrong, or is thought to mess up when it comes to the Jurassic Park mythology.

It’s perhaps harder to see or appreciate everything it does right, being, if nothing else, a solid adventure film. This is testament of the skills of the scriptwriters: Alexander Payne, Peter Buchman, Jim Taylor and, not credited, John August, created a story which is simple but with compelling, even complex characters.

After years of being the underdog of the franchise, it simply doesn’t deserve the treatment I was originally about to give it. After all, isn’t the underdog often a quiet, unknown and unsung hero?

The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III

Paleontologist David Hone wrote the following about the clash of titans in his book The Tyrannosaur Chronicles (2016):

“We know so much about the animals in this group – their anatomy, evolution, behaviour and general biology – but it’s almost impossible to say very much over the chorus of statements about how cool they are or questions as to whether they would win in a fight with Spinosaurus.”

It’s the first that comes to mind when thinking of Jurassic Park III: the infamous fight between a Tyrannosaurus rex and the Spinosaurus. Much to both the bemusement and chagrin of paleontologists, the discussion seems far from over. If the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom concept art is to be believed, we came close to a rematch between the two behemoths – and a revival of the debate. In all fairness, a follow-up battle has been looming from the moment Jurassic Park III roared into movie theatres and on home release.

Personally, the dethroning of the Tyrannosaurus as the largest carnivorous dinosaur in the franchise never bothered me. The Spinosaurus was a welcome change, not in the least because of its unique physical traits; the sail on its back and the crocodilian jaws, the large arms and three-fingered hands make it impossible to confuse the animal with any of the other carnivorous dinosaurs in the franchise.

Being able to swim, the Spinosaurus offered new, exciting possibilities, this new trait fully utilized in one of the most impressive scenes in the history of Jurassic Park films. The Spinosaurus destroying the barge and thrashing through the river is an absolute highlight not just in the film, but technically too – rain, as has been well documented, was always a concern when it came to the animatronic dinosaurs in the first two films. This time, the dinosaur had to be able to withstand much more than just rain, being placed in the studio’s artificial lake for this final confrontation, facing not just water but fire as well.

The outcome is a small miracle; the impressive work of the Stan Winston Studio crew and the finest digital effects created by the ILM team combined created a heart-stopping sequence.

When it comes to the (re-)design of the dinosaurs, the new “V.2” Velociraptors are an absolute highlight. More intelligent than we’ve experienced them before, the animals interact and socialize with one another, consciously plotting against the humans. There are distinct differences between the males and females – and a matriarch clearly in charge of the pack. The animals are not just portrayed as murderous beasts; they seem to be thoughtful, considerate and even capable of compassion towards their own kind.

The Pteranodons were given an overhaul too. Largely scrapped from The Lost World: Jurassic Park in favor of the San Diego climax, the flying reptiles only featured in the closing scene of that film, reigning the skies above Isla Sorna with an almost regal appearance.

The rulers of the sky were given quite a different look for Jurassic Park III; a little smaller, more vicious and, ironically, with teeth. (Pteranodon means “winged and toothless”.)

That’s not to say they are less impressive. The aviary scenes in which they appear are some of the most thrilling in the film, creating a clear and unique identity that sets Jurassic Park III apart from the other films in the franchise.

Other dinosaurs fulfilled less prominent parts. The Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Compsognathus make brief returns, appearing in the fly-over scene, on the riverbank and, in the case of Compsognathus, not just around the overturned water truck Eric hides in, but during the fight between the Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus as well. Keen observers can spot a small flock of Compsognathus fleeing the scene as the island’s rulers battle in the jungle.

New dinosaurs making small appearances are the Corythosaurus, living in a herd with its more famous cousin Parasaurolophus, a pair of male Ankylosaurus lumbering through the forests and along the riverbank, and a single Ceratosaurus deciding against eating Grant and the Kirbys after they retrieved the lost satellite phone from the Spinosaur’s excrements.

Even now, seventeen years on, many of the animatronic and visual effects remain at the top of their game, comfortably rivaling more recent work. Naturally some of it has aged, which comes with the territory and ever changing technology; as a whole, and with the practical and CGI effects combined, the visuals are still solid as a rock, immersing us in that strange, resurrected prehistoric world on Isla Sorna.

The characters of Jurassic Park III

The visual effects are only half of the success of these films. As with Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the true secret of Jurassic Park III’s replay value lies with the characters.

That might not be too obvious at first. The characters in Jurassic Park III are some of the heavier criticized elements of the film. As with the other two films though, the success of a Jurassic Park film stems from the fact it is about quite ordinary, relatable people being thrust into extraordinary and unexpected circumstances. In this case, trying to survive amongst cloned dinosaurs living freely on a tropical island.

Much like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III follows a template laid out by the original film. There are elements used in all three films: the main characters are oblivious to or ignorant about the dinosaurs until coming eye to eye with the animals. There is at least one sequence in which a mode of transportation is destroyed by a top predator. And main characters make predictions or observations which come to fruition during the course of the film, for example Alan Grant describing the theorized hunting methods of Velociraptors: Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) is killed verbatim by the end of Jurassic Park.

While Jurassic Park III does roughly follow the story and character templates as presented in the previous two films, it just as easily deviates from it. The destruction of the aircraft happens quite early on. The main characters’ first true encounter with a dinosaur (not counting the fly-by) is with a large predator. The deaths all take place within the first forty minutes of the film. And unlike its predecessors, the end of the third film does not finish with an exciting climax or big battle between two dinosaur species or dinosaurs confronting the arriving marines.

Either by choice or out of necessity, Jurassic Park III dares to be a little different from what came before, just like its characters.

“This was a stupid decision but I did it with the best intentions.”

Well established in the Jurassic Park films are supporting characters possessing a set of skills they can and will use sometime during the film. From Lex’s (Ariana Richards) knowledge of complex computer systems to Kelly’s (Vanessa Lee Chester) gymnastic skills, the supporting characters are given a moment to shine and save other characters with their wit and knowledge.

Billy Brennan is no exception. En route to Isla Sorna, Billy reveals to Grant his old bag’s strap once saved him from a mishap while hang-gliding in New Zealand. “Survival of the most idiotic,” Grant grumpily remarks before closing his eyes for a nap.

The information about Billy’s misadventure proves valuable when the survivors of the plane crash find the parasail Eric and Ben used. Grant asks Billy, half in jest, if he would be able to fly with it, before suggesting taking it with them to draw the attention of planes that might pass over the island.

As expected (and revealed in the trailers), Billy instead uses the parasail to traverse the aviary’s narrow canyon, attempting to rescue Eric from the Pteranodons’ hungry chicks.

Eric is saved, but Billy falls prey to the adult Pteranodons, eventually giving up and sacrificing himself to allow the others a chance of escape.

Here, the script proves unpredictable, diverging one final time from that template we know and have come to expect; Billy has survived and was found by the navy before the Kirby-family and Grant are picked up. Grant and Billy are reunited on the navy’s helicopter.

It is a chance for Grant to make amends after scolding Billy for stealing two Velociraptor eggs from nests they encountered before the group was separated. Through the course of the film we learn Grant and Billy have a mutual respect for one another. As disaster strikes they must try to survive by utilizing all their knowledge and experience, unwillingly becoming the leaders of the small group.

The friendship between the seasoned paleontologist and the boyishly enthusiastic student takes a punch when Grant discovers the theft.

After Billy has disappeared and the remaining survivors are floating down the river on the barge, we find Grant lost in thought, mourning the loss of his apprentice. Billy, young, curious and driven by a hunger to succeed, might have been more than just a student to Grant; he was not only part of the next generation of scientists, but possibly a reflection of Grant in his younger years as well.

During this brief meditative moment we learn Grant truly appreciated Billy’s company and enthusiasm, his student’s love for the animals he studied resurfacing within himself when the barge passes the dinosaurs on the riverbank. A peaceful scene far removed from the carnage the survivors endured.

“You never can tell about people, can you?”

Grief and mourning are not luxuries awarded to mercenaries Cooper (John Diehl) and Nash (Bruce Young). They only play brief parts, and there is hardly anything in it for them that constitutes as “character development”. They truly are along for the ride as dinosaur-fodder.

Despite their modest appearances, there is a significant shift in their characters. As Cooper, Nash and booking agent Udesky (Michael Jeter) set out to secure the area, they do so with great confidence. Believing it will indeed be a walk in the park, as Udesky assured Paul Kirby over the phone earlier in the film, they seem to expect finding Eric and Ben within a few hours.

It is not long after they have entered the jungle surrounding the abandoned airfield the tables are turned; whatever horrors they faced changed them from experienced combatants into terrified, trembling men trying nothing else but to escape. Nash and Udesky reach the plane safely. Cooper is left behind.

It’s most notably Nash who’s clearly shaken. That fine moment of absolute terror comes across best when he says with a trembling voice, “give me a hand here, Udesky,” trying to get his seatbelt on while firing up the aircraft; it’s spoken with the utmost fear of whatever roams the jungle outside, while still composing himself to ensure the plane takes off safely and in the proper manner. But the way he speaks and the look on his face are all telling. He has one objective: to get the aircraft off the ground and away from the dinosaur they encountered, protecting his employers and their guests.

The acting in this scene is, if nothing else, absolutely solid. With the smallest of hand gestures, facial expressions and verbal commands, Nash and Udesky truly set the moment. It is clear they are not equipped to deal with the monster that lies in wait.

Despite Nash’s and Udesky’s best efforts to make an escape, the plane is downed as the Spinosaurus scoops up Cooper from the runway right in front of the aircraft, forcing Nash to pull up too early. With the fuel cut off the plane crashes, ending up in a tree.

It is here Nash perishes in the jaws of the Spinosaurus. The third film doesn’t hold back when it comes to the few death scenes; Nash is being killed in a particularly gruesome fashion, first ripped out of the aircraft’s fuselage, then thrown to the ground and stepped upon. It is all shown in its horrifying glory. The presumed ripping off of his head does happen off-screen, but the suggestion is enough to leave a lasting impression.

With Cooper and Nash gone, only Udesky remains. Having returned to the airplane’s wreck the five survivors try to salvage as much as they can; we are given a brief shot of Udesky amidst the wreckage, holding up a damaged rifle. He throws it aside as it turns out it is beyond repair. It’s a subtle way of letting the audience know why the group doesn’t have any weapons left.

It is Udesky who provides the more natural comic relief. “If we split up, I’m going with you guys,” he tells Billy as Amanda and Paul argue nearby during their trek through the jungle.

Much like Cooper and Nash, Udesky is given little chance to develop beyond being a hired hand. He does get an opportunity to showcase a bit of his talents, succeeding in getting Amanda’s video camera to play the recording made two months before, the footage lending a little more credibility to the idea Ben and Eric might still be alive.

Eventually, Udesky is killed by Velociraptors. Like Nash’s death, his is exceptionally gruesome, a Velociraptor delivering the final blow by planting one of its sickle-claws right into Udesky’s spine.

“Does anyone have a question that does not relate to Jurassic Park?”

As one pair of Velociraptors kills Udesky, Alan Grant, now separated from the rest of the group, studies another. The animals are communicating with each other, snarling and grunting, clearly looking for someone – or something.

Despite his previous experience with the animals on Isla Nublar, Grant can’t help but observe from his vantage point. His curiosity getting the better of him for a moment, he wants to learn more about the creatures that nearly cost him his life years before.

In The Lost World: Jurassic Park John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) tries to sell a journey to Isla Sorna as possible vindication to Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Malcolm flat out refuses, only changing his mind when he learns his girlfriend, paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), has traveled to the island on her own to get a head start.

Grant agreeing to travel to the island after he labeled InGen’s creations “theme park monsters” during his lecture earlier in the film with the only motivator being a financial compensation was met with ridicule by fans, considered a lazy solution to get Alan Grant back into the film.

While I do agree it’s not the most elegant of solutions, it’s not entirely out of bounds either. Paleontology is a branch of science relying heavily on donations. Flying over the island and serving as tour guides is easy money for Grant and Billy, enough to fund their dig site and secure the continuation of their research.

The criticism of the money offered being enough to have Grant change his mind is often accompanied by the complaint Grant doesn’t really have any character development to speak of. We first meet him when he is sitting in the garden with Ellie’s son. He’s still not truly accustomed to being around children, and he again ends up trying to survive on a dinosaur-infested island, including having a kid in tow.

As we are taught early on, Grant publicly expresses nothing but disdain for InGen and their tampering with DNA. But privately, he can’t help passionately discuss the vocal abilities of the Velociraptors with Ellie; she’s one of the few other people having had such a close encounter with the animals, understanding Grant better than most.

Velociraptor vocal abilities become a recurring theme when Grant tries to have Ellie’s pet parrot Jack speak his name. “He used to know me,” he says, pulling away from the bird’s cage slightly disappointed when his attempts prove unsuccessful; the endeavor of trying to make the parrot speak transpires into the nightmare of the Velociraptor saying “Alan” on the empty aircraft.

By the end of the film, Grant uses the cast of the resonating chamber to imitate a Raptor’s cry for help, hoping the familiar sound created by the intruding humans will confuse the Velociraptors enough to prevent them from attacking.

Grant’s character does undergo a change, though it happens quite early on in the film. Once the group reaches the island, an almost lost passion is reignited within Grant while spotting living dinosaurs for the first time in eight years. “My god, I’d forgotten,” he says to Billy as they watch herds of animals pass below them.

The joyful moment is brief: the plane lands on the island. Cooper knocks out Grant as he tries to make his way towards the cockpit, objecting to the aircraft setting down. From that moment on, contempt for his hosts and a fascination with the animals they encounter take tumultuous turns during the journey across the island.

It’s hard to say if, by the end of the film and having survived the dinosaurs once more, Grant has undergone significant, lasting change. An exchange between him and Eric on how both would like to return to the island in years to come was left out of the film. Could it be Grant is never truly able to let go? Would he possibly contemplate one last adventure, properly prepared, to face the animals that are both his livelihood and haunt his dreams?

“I think I can manage the next two minutes without you.”

It’s equally impossible to tell if Eric Kirby would really consider a future return to Isla Sorna after his harrowing misadventure. Having adapted to life on the island and camping out in an old water truck, there is a nice reversal of roles when Eric rescues Grant from the Velociraptors. Much like Grant, the audience is quite astonished the boy has lasted this long. Unfortunately, we learn little about how Eric survived, other than him staying in the vicinity of the old laboratory, hoping a rescue mission would start searching for him in that area.

Neither do we learn how the more unfortunate Ben Hildebrand perished right after ending up on the island, still trapped in the parasail’s harness.

With this, Eric’s story might well be the most intriguing and adventurous, but the film never takes a moment to explore how Eric spent his time collecting the items stocked in the truck, evading dinosaurs and observing them, ironically making him the least interesting character of the entire film, while at the same time being the reason the entire expedition has been mounted in the first place.

Grant does inquire how Eric endured those eight weeks, but Eric remains quite tight-lipped on this; the conversation then shifts to issues Alan Grant and Eric Kirby have in common – being alive on Isla Sorna and a shared aversion for Ian Malcolm and his theories on Chaos.

“Paul Kirby, Kirby Enterprises.”

Surprisingly, Alan Grant and Paul Kirby have something in common as well. Their fragile professional relationship strained once Grant realizes he has been taken to the island under false pretences, it is interesting to see both have former partners who are now in relationships with other, presumably more successful, men.

In a twist of fate, Paul is unable to save Ben Hildebrand for Amanda, while Mark Degler is the one who, informed by Ellie, eventually intervenes and ensures the navy rescues Billy, Grant and the Kirbys.

While they have this in common, Alan Grant and Paul Kirby differ from one another like night from day. Grant is educated, capable and rugged, whereas Paul comes across as not very proactive, clumsy and even incompetent. Having you wonder if you’d trust him installing a bathroom or a kitchen in your home to begin with.

However, Paul Kirby does possess a poker face and guts. He not only manages ensnaring Billy Brennan and Dr. Grant with the promise of financial support for their dig site, he succeeds in enlisting the mercenaries and chartering a private plane to get them to Isla Sorna: Paul improvises his way through the entire ordeal, finding himself capable of much more than just being a dull salesman.

An ordeal not even his fault to begin with. After all, it was his ex-wife’s new boyfriend who took their son to Isla Sorna. Paul has graciously set aside whatever differences he and Amanda have to help her not just finding their son, but rescuing Ben as well – and he is convinced they will bring both back home safely.

He does so selflessly and in the process nearly loses his own life, trying to distract the Spinosaurus by climbing a gigantic construction crane, giving Grant, Eric and Amanda a fighting chance. Paul Kirby becomes the true, unacknowledged hero of Jurassic Park III.

Paul isn’t entirely blameless, having conspired with his ex-wife to bring Dr. Grant with them by carefully hiding the true nature of their trip. Yet, I can’t help feel for the poor guy. It’s not his fault his son was lost. He perseveres and remains endlessly optimistic, believing they will succeed and the outcome of their expedition will be positive.

Once the Kirbys and Grant make it to the barge Paul takes the lead, starting to plan ahead, trying to think of ways to attract the attention of passing planes or ships once they have reached the coast.

By the end of the film, having found their son and having lived through the experience together as a family, we can briefly see Paul and Amanda hold hands as the navy lands on the beach. Is it possible they have truly reconciled and might try to build a life together again?

“Dr. Grant, you have no idea how important it is to us that you come along. It would make all the difference.”

While Paul is the man wielding the pen and checkbook, Amanda’s invitation is heartfelt and sincere. Minutes before, Grant and Billy joining the Kirbys at the diner, she seemed nervous. After her husband explains they love the outdoors, she interjects they have two seats reserved on the first commercial flight to the Moon; the claim comes off as fabricated.

But convincing Dr. Grant to join them she partially speaks the truth; it truly would make a difference. His expertise is needed to survive. It’s hard to say if Amanda’s personal request or Paul’s offer of a sizeable compensation for his trouble is what eventually convinces Grant; it is clear her entire demeanor changes between the two statements, trying to persuade Grant to join their expedition, the true reason for his desired presence kept well hidden.

As one of the less popular characters in the Jurassic Park franchise, Amanda Kirby is the odd one out: the other leading ladies, Ellie Sattler and Sarah Harding, are both scientists, coming with experience, knowledge and predefined skills. In fact, the children aside, all characters in the previous two films were present on the islands in a professional capacity, either invited by Hammond or as employees of InGen. For the first, and so far only, time in the franchise the lead characters truly are civilians who are entirely out of their depth.

On the surface, this may make Amanda seem a little dull and uninteresting; it also makes her slightly unpredictable.

There lays a more complex character beyond the seemingly clueless, bullhorn-carrying woman. Leoni gives one hell of a performance when it comes to playing the guilt-ridden mother. Once the game is up and Grant and Billy know the true story, the mask falls away and she shows great versatility.

From her disbelief when they are ordered back on the plane by Udesky and Nash to evacuate (will they give up the search?), to the moment they find the abandoned camera and she learns Ben has died, leaving Eric stranded entirely on his own – hope, grief and despair take quick turns. Leoni communicates all these emotions through subtle facial expressions and body language.

Amanda Kirby is, if nothing else, a desperate mother trying to save both her son and partner, no matter the cost.

While Amanda and Paul might be underestimating the dangers they face on the island because their focus is on the safe return of Eric and Ben, they both learn quickly.

Locked behind the laboratory’s cage’s gate with Billy, Amanda thinks fast and takes charge, her action temporarily trapping the Velociraptor hunting them and ensuring the group can make a dash for the jungle. She again takes the lead at the end of the film, having Grant hand her the eggs so she can push them towards the anticipating Velociraptors.

It is true she utters quite a few screams and the bullhorn scene draws as many laughs as it does eye rolls; from the character’s perspective she’s doing what seems both reasonable and out of utter despair.

Amanda Kirby not being experienced and unprepared for what they may find makes it a little easier to understand her plight when she, still clinging to the life jacket Eric wore, is confronted with Ben’s remains. While the reveal of the skeleton, practically falling on top of her, is played for audience laughs, it is a deeply traumatizing moment for Amanda.

Even though she witnessed the death of Nash and possibly saw what happened to Cooper as well, this is the first time she is bluntly confronted with the truth: people die on Isla Sorna, no matter hired hands or loved ones. Despite Paul’s assurances and optimism it could very well be Eric did not make it either.

Site… B-movie?

There is a strange duality to the criticism leveled at Jurassic Park III. While it is regularly considered a lesser work than The Lost World: Jurassic Park, you are at the same time often expected to think of Jurassic Park III as a more entertaining and better film than the first sequel.

As film is a form of art and art is usually not easily judged objectively, it is difficult to say where the third film truly should be placed.

Working against Jurassic Park III are the facts The Lost World: Jurassic Park was adapted from the accompanying novel (though the film’s story was radically changed), had Steven Spielberg at its helm and was the first, highly anticipated sequel to hit sensation Jurassic Park.

A second sequel, no matter how good, would most likely never be able to live up to the original, and perhaps not even its more recent predecessor. With Steven Spielberg taking a backseat as executive producer, the absence of Michael Crichton and David Koepp as writers of the script, and John Williams having other engagements preventing him from writing and composing the third film’s score, some of the magic seems at first sight lost.

However, other people taking over did offer a chance of exploring a different side of the franchise and taking risks with it, introducing some elements and scenes more recent blockbusters might not even have dared commit to paper. One of those being the, at first glance, rather underwhelming finale of the film.

The Kirbys reunited, with Grant having found Eric very much alive and the final hurdle overcome by returning the stolen eggs to the Velociraptors, the survivors find themselves on a beach where a mysterious man in a nice looking suit (Frank Clem) stands alone as if he has simply taken a small break during a leisurely stroll.

Raising a bullhorn to call out for Dr. Grant it quickly becomes apparent this man is not alone at all; he is joined by the navy landing on the beach, the armed forces ready to find Dr. Grant and his party.

The brief history of the Jurassic Park films and film logic itself dictate we should be rewarded with a final battle between man and beast. Originally, several confrontations were considered for the end of the film; ranging from Grant luring the Velociraptors to the river to battle the Spinosaurus (with the Velociraptors eventually killing the Spinosaurus), to Pteranodons attacking the navy’s helicopters, the ideas were nothing short of spectacular.

Instead, having Grant and the Kirbys plainly walk up to them, the troops pack up as quickly as they came. While this may be a disappointing end to the film for fans and viewers who had expected an all-out battle between the navy and the local wildlife, the quiet and quick retreat is a rather realistic approach to the situation. With the mission accomplished there is no reason to engage in a conflict with the island’s rulers and risking the lives of the troops sent to retrieve the survivors.

Against all odds, Grant and Billy are reunited. Having been found by the navy just before Grant and the Kirbys arrived at the beach, Billy is wounded but alive. It’s a surprising step off the beaten path for the film, having a character presumed dead return later on, very much alive – rumor has it Alessandro Nivola himself negotiated his character would survive, giving Billy Brennan a chance to return in a sequel.

With the survivors safely on board the helicopter, the troops leave Isla Sorna behind. Both the characters and audiences are given one last good look at some of the Pteranodons, now free and taking to the skies. No longer monstrous and terrifying but majestic and graciously gliding past the helicopters, they are leaving their former home and prison behind. With both Billy’s survival and the Pteranodons’ escape leaving room for a sequel, the animals’ destination remains unknown once the credits roll.

Jurassic Park III leaves quite a few practical questions unresolved. The film doesn’t always adhere to information established by the previous films, actual science or even simple logic.

Though Jurassic Park III does not concern itself too much with scientific explanations or consciously adding much to the mythology, it does take us to some locations not seen before; the laboratory and the aviary. Both locations were first introduced in the novels by Michael Crichton, albeit in slightly different forms.

When it does momentarily explore science, it is well explained within the movies’ universe and serves a purpose. The film continues Grant’s research on Velociraptor behavior and communication. It gives Alan and Ellie a private moment to reminisce on their shared experience, exchanging observations they made back on Isla Nublar and more recently through the study of dinosaur fossils.

What it lacks in science, it compensates for with human drama. While the pace is fast and the film is short, clocking in under just an hour and a half without the credits, the small principal cast allows us to get to know the characters and their motivations a little better than we do in some of the other films.

As a result of that small cast, he film offers its characters moments to reflect on loss, or to express the fear of loss; to grieve and to reconcile. Given the nature of the film, many of the characters’ responses to the situations they find themselves in feel grounded in reality without the actors’ performances being too over the top.

The only film in the franchise not featuring a human antagonist, the tension instead relies on conflict within the group and the characters’ different objectives: Grant refuses to believe Eric could still be alive and wants to push for the coast; the Kirbys don’t want to leave the island without their son; and Billy risks his friendship with Grant by stealing the Velociraptor eggs, endangering everyone as it turns out the Velociraptors are actively hunting them.

All these elements combined create a film that may not be perfect, but make for an adventure film with at its heart two desperate people who will do anything to find their loved ones; and is that not the one element all Jurassic Park films have in common – well written, relatable human characters with a strong desire not just to survive, but to save those they love and care for?

Jurassic Park III’s legacy

Having fully immersed myself in the world of Jurassic Park III for weeks on end, re-watching the film and a plethora of documentaries, making-of material, studying film stills, conceptual artwork, and listening to Don Davis’ soundtrack on repeat, one question remains: what is Jurassic Park III’s true legacy? It seems easy to dismiss Jurassic Park III as just a spin-off, good for a bit of entertainment during a rainy Sunday afternoon, as quickly forgotten as the adventure is enjoyed.

A little uncomfortably wedged between four larger and financially more successful films, the third movie is often blamed for putting the Jurassic Park franchise in the proverbial coma. On the surface it indeed seems to have had little to no influence on what would be to come fourteen years later.

Surprisingly, Jurassic Park III quite literally left a sizeable mark on the films that were to follow: Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Whereas both Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park were mainly dominated by the Velociraptors and, in particular, the Tyrannosaurs, the third film’s creators soon realized the Tyrannosaurs’ reign over the islands and theme park was about to come to an end.

Having been the star dinosaurs of the first two films, the Tyrannosaurs would hardly present an element of surprise in any future films. Despite their historic and contemporary popularity, there were not a whole lot of options left to sweep audiences off of their feet with.

Originally, Baryonyx was considered as the new main threat to both the human characters and Isla Sorna’s wildlife. The filmmakers eventually settled for Spinosaurus aegypticus, a dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex and easily distinguishable from the other predatory dinosaurs seen before in the franchise.

Having done the unfathomable by killing the Tyrannosaurus rex, the act establishing the Spinosaurus as Isla Sorna’s heir to the throne, and the final shot of the Spinosaurus fleeing the river as Grant succeeds in lighting the gasoline floating on the surface of the river, left the possibility of the animal returning in a future sequel wide open.

The return of the Spinosaurus did not become a reality. Jurassic World introduced a new threat that was bigger and more dangerous than both Tyrannosaurus rex and Spinosaurus. This new creature, named Indominus rex, was a fictional animal, made out of the DNA of different dinosaurs. Not only larger than its predecessors, it was capable of camouflaging itself in the jungle, becoming virtually invisible to humans and animals passing by it. This trait certainly gave it an edge over the Tyrannosaurus rex and Spinosaurus.

Jurassic Park III saw the Velociraptors return to their former glory; while an extensive sequence with the animals chasing survivors through the abandoned InGen worker village and laboratory had been planned for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, their screen time was cut considerably in favor of the Tyrannosaurus rex escaping from the cargo ship and terrorizing San Diego.

Looking quite different from their kin in the previous films, the third film’s Velociraptors were given far more time on film, chasing the survivors not just through the old laboratory, but open fields and jungle as well.

It’s this pack of Velociraptors in Jurassic Park III that paved the way for Blue and her siblings; displaying intelligence and highly developed communicative skills, the capability to set traps, the ability to restrain themselves from killing and reconsidering options when Grant tries to distract them with the cast of the resonating chamber opened up new opportunities not yet explored before.

The influence of sequels

Why are the Spinosaurus and Velociraptors from Jurassic Park III of such importance? How did they influence the new films? To answer these questions, we have to take into consideration a rumor that started during Jurassic World’s production.

The rumor was quite simple: Jurassic World was to be the true sequel to Jurassic Park, deleting the other two films from the franchise’s canon.

Director Colin Trevorrow himself quickly dispelled this rumor, assuring worried fans this was never his intention and the first two sequels would remain part of the canon. They simply would have limited influence on the new films.

Had the rumor been true, could Jurassic World directly following Jurassic Park have worked, and would Jurassic World have existed in its current form? I argue it would not have on both counts.

Had Jurassic World truly been the one and only follow-up to Jurassic Park, Indominus rex would most likely not have been brought to life; the jump from an animal that actually lived once, Tyrannosaurus rex, to an entirely fictionalized creature would simply have been too great, especially considering the absolute wealth of real dinosaurs known from the fossil record left unexplored by the films.

As it stands, the Indominus rex is the very product of the previous films going bigger and bolder with each new entry. Spinosaurus truly is the evolutionary step between Jurassic Park’s Tyrannosaurus rex and Jurassic World’s Indominus; the latter animal’s creation catering to a very clear desire of film audiences. They want it bigger, louder, more dangerous and with more teeth.

The same very much goes for the intelligence displayed by the Velociraptors in Jurassic World. Having been raised in captivity by human handlers, the Velociraptors are capable of following verbal and non-verbal commands. They are eventually set free to hunt down the Indominus rex, believed to be under control just enough to do so safely – and out of sheer desperation, every other option exhausted.

Going from Jurassic Park, where the Velociraptors lived in a heavily fortified and well-guarded pen, straight to Jurassic World, in which they interact far more closely with their human caregivers, would have been too large a step to be believable within the films’ universe.

Herein lies Jurassic Park III’s true inheritance the future films are indebted to, the film naturally bridging the two trilogies: introducing a menagerie of more dangerous and more intelligent dinosaurs than we had seen before, Jurassic Park III cleared the path for those far more outrageous avenues explored in both Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

In defense of the underdog

For now leaving Isla Sorna behind with Dr. Grant and his companions having made it safely off the island, how do I feel about the film as it recently celebrated its seventeenth anniversary?

I have certainly found a new appreciation for it. Despite a tumultuous production time and the looming deadline, Joe Johnston and his team delivered a film that’s tight, action packed and entertaining. It doesn’t waste much time on explaining in detail what we are seeing when the unwilling explorers find the laboratory or the giant barrier standing in the way of a true reunion between Eric and his parents; while possibly a missed opportunity to expand the mythology, it retains a slight air of mystery as well – and it’s this mystery that infuses the entire film. Much like the travelers, we see only those parts of the island they explore. None of them have an idea of what they might run into, there is no one telling them beforehand what they should expect or might possibly stumble upon.

In short, the film leaves a lot to the imagination while at the same time rewarding its viewers with some of the finest animatronics, visual effects and set pieces the franchise has to offer.

For a long time, Jurassic Park III was my third favorite film in the franchise, after Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

The second and third film traded places on that personal list recently. The Lost World: Jurassic Park undeniably is the bigger, more ambitious film with higher stakes for its characters and dinosaurs, serving as a renewed warning on the unpredictability of tampering with genetic material and the short-sighted belief nature can be controlled and molded to our own specifications and desires.

Jurassic Park III is a continuation and result of both Dr. Malcolm having breached his NDA by revealing InGen successfully resurrected dinosaurs and the film’s spectacular finale. The secret now out, it shows us how thrill seekers, tourists and adventurers might attempt to get to Isla Sorna to catch a glimpse of the dinosaurs.

As a film it is smaller than its predecessor, at times more claustrophobic and a little simplified. At its core there are big ideas and action sequences the other two films did not get around to incorporating; these are not simply rejected elements not deemed good enough for the original films – at the time those first two films were made some of these scenes, such as the river attack, were technically too challenging to be executed in a believable and satisfying manner.

As such the film should not just be measured by its financial gains or records broken. It should be measured, too, with an understanding of the effort put into the project, the awareness of a difficult job fulfilled under tremendous odds against the endeavor.

To me, the films traded places (not by a large margin, I greatly appreciate both) because, despite all the troubles it faced, it works. It tells the endearing story of two estranged people who try to find their son, willing to do anything to succeed, even if that means inadvertently taking everyone else down with them in their attempt.

It sounds like a dreadful concept for a Jurassic Park movie but the film pulls it off with a fresh spark and flair; while short, it manages to be more than just an endless rollercoaster ride – it gives both its characters and the audience a bit of room to breathe and reflect at various points throughout the movie.

Appealing too is the aforementioned mystery. The characters have no true guide across the island; they are not even in possession of a map. While The Lost World: Jurassic Park gave alcoholic Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) the benefit of the doubt because he had knowledge of the village and operations building (and the way leading to it), the characters in Jurassic Park III are entirely left to their own devices. They truly represent the audience; they are unprepared and inexperienced when it comes to dealing with the new dinosaurs and trying to find their way around and off the island.

It’s this mystery and these new characters that ultimately won me over again. Paul and Amanda Kirby, Udesky, Billy Brennan and, of course, Dr. Alan Grant returning, form an odd bunch to go tramping around Isla Sorna with; the story, the performances, the characters’ different motivations and objectives, the astounding visual effects, locations and sets make for an achievement that is nothing short of sensational, an adventure I now keep returning to – Amanda Kirby’s request having become the invitation I can never decline.

Acknowledgements

There are several people I would like to thank for their help, both directly and indirectly, in the writing of this article. Without them, it would have been a far lesser work.

First of all, Justin. Two years ago, Justin graciously let me publish an article called “From Jurassic Park to Jurassic World: the influence of sequels” on his personal Jurassic Park fan blog. Parts of that article formed the basis for the conclusion of this renewed visit.

You can find Justin’s blog here.

Daniel for his encouragement, offering to proofread and our discussions on The Meg (2018). Entirely unrelated to Jurassic Park, our ongoing conversation on both the book and film about the Megalodon is a joy.

Last, but absolutely not least, John. John’s continuous help and tireless encouragement have proven invaluable; not only did he proofread the entire article several times, he created the new background for the logo accompanying this article and helped find several of the images used.

Our discussions helped me gain a better understanding of the Jurassic Park films in general, and Jurassic Park III in particular.

John passionately writes about Jurassic Park, games, music, books, comics and Tomb Raider on his own personal blog, which can be found here.

As we so often affectionally joke about the Kirbys: “still the best.”

 

Pictures courtesy of Universal Studios, Amblin Entertainment and Ed Verreaux

‘Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire’ Review – the Universe Expands with This Exciting Prequel Novel!

Releasing in stores and online today, the Jurassic World Universe officially expands with ‘The Evolution of Claire’ – a prequel novel following Claire Dearing during her first months on Isla Nublar.

The Evolution of Claire is a Young Adult novel set within the Jurassic universe by author Tess Sharpe (Barbed Wire Heart, Far From You), and is her first foray into licensed fiction. The story is a personal journey for Claire, written in the first person perspective, overflowing with adventure, spunk, and mystery – the content is wholly Jurassic, while the tone and style embraces its young adult audience.

The story opens with Claire Dearing in 2004 at age 19 returning back home after her first year at college. We’re rapidly introduced to a very different Claire from the films, though she is equally motivated with a clear sense of confidence and decisiveness. She’s not eager to spend much time at home, and is driven to strike out her own life, however she is clearly close with her parents, her sister Karen, and nephew Zach.

Her personal motivations contrast to that of her business focused mind in World: her interests are political, with the goal of championing animal rights. She’s not just interested in their rights from afar, but is an animal lover with a pet lizard and dog, and has a history of becoming involved with the welfare of animals around her. She’s an optimist, believing there is always a morally better option, and it should be the one taken.

It’s soon revealed Claire’s animal interests go deeper than just typical extant animals, and she like many others is deeply enamored by dinosaurs. This is only furthered by the infamous San Diego incident, which revealed to her and the world that the prehistoric creatures existed once again. So when she’s offered an internship by the renowned Masrani Global corporation to spend her summer working at the not yet open Jurassic World – a place shrouded in so much mystery furthered by Simon Masrani’s eccentric marketing that Willy Wonka would be jealous – she of course jumps at the chance.

Claire is galvanized. An internship with one of the most influential individuals and corporations in the world is perhaps the window of opportunity to fortify a position of power in a cutthroat world. She knows how important money is in politics, and is eager to make her dreams a reality for the betterment of animals.

As Claire journeys to Isla Nublar alongside numerous interns of similar ages, she is thrust into a personal journey of growth, camaraderie, and independence. Her challenges involve impressing her hosts at the park, making new friends with her peers, dealing with romantic inclinations, and dealing with the occasional condescending bigot who tries to devalue her and her female peers simply due to their sex. Not to mentions dealing with dinosaurs – from distressed young Triceratops, overly playful Brachiosaurs, and of course, it wouldn’t be Jurassic Park without a Velociraptor.

Tess Sharpe introduces Claire and readers to the nuanced inner workings of Jurassic World, made more complex by the fact the park remains under construction. Claire’s intern duties range from shoveling dino-dung, enthusiastically going hands on with the wild dinos, to working in the Hammond Creation Lab itself alongside the one and only Dr. Henry Wu. Dr. Wu is one of the highlights of the novel, a supporting character who is as intriguing as he can be stern. Dr. Wu is not a villain by a long-shot, but rather a complex and intelligent character who helps shape and inspire Claire during her stay on the island. This surprisingly fleshed out development of Wu makes his seemingly one dimensional villain like portrayal in the World films all the more curious – could his motivations in the films be less sinister than we’re led to believe? This book fully cements that there is more to his story, as while his large hubris remains in tact, he also seems to have a strong moral compass.

Further, Simon Masrani himself features in the novel, and takes a personal interest in Claire’s education and career path. While he is his entirely eccentric and optimistic self, we’re also given a closer look at his capitalistic side, and are given glimpses into how far he is willing to go to bring his dinosaur park and John Hammond’s dream to life. With Claire’s noble steerings, she internally finds herself at odds with many of the choices the park management makes on a day to day basis – the very types of choices we see her making in the 2015 film.

Her internship at Jurassic World goes beyond its intended strains, as she becomes fully engrossed in a rumor of conspiracy and cover up which unravels around her the further she digs. In true Jurassic fashion, hardship is bred from greed, moral boundaries are crossed for a multitude of reasons, eventually leading to the inevitable end: chaos.

As the novel often says: Jurassic World is a place of contradictions, and it is perhaps that very concept which makes the more endearing Dr. Wu, colder Simon Masrani, and adventurous Claire Dearing all the more fascinating. These characters are as complex and unpredictable as the quickly evolving world around them. Control vs chaos, nature vs technology, human idealism vs realism all play out in a sandbox of science and occasional teen drama.

While the young adult leanings of the novel may be more prevalent than some older fans would like, the book naturally finds its place in the Jurassic world. Claire is a strong female character and role model for fans of all ages, and this novel is a much needed reminder: dinosaurs aren’t just for boys. It’s rare to find a large licensed property such as Jurassic so ready and willing to embrace a prevalent female perspective, and Tess Sharpe fully utilize this opportunity to create something unique, relevant, and needed.

The book is engrossing, valid and believable – my largest (small) critique being the interns were allowed to video call their families unmonitored – considering no real footage had leaked from the park, and secrecy was an important and required ingredient prior to the parks opening, this stood out to me. Coupled with the fact that the interns were so young, it’s amazing that no footage hit the world during the events of the novel.

The story itself is a complete arc, neatly revolving around a mystery that furthers Claire’s growth. By the end of the novel, which takes place over a few short months, Claire is changed – however she is not yet the Claire from Jurassic World. There are 10 years of stories and growth that lead her there, and this novel fully leaves room for future installments – and leaves some threads open, pointing to another book on the horizon.

For the canon connoisseurs, this novel is an absolute delight. (Mild spoilers ahead:) It digs into the science of Jurassic World, explaining its enhanced flora growth, prehistoric plants, and dinosaurs nutritional science. We learn that much of the technology of the park is proprietary and groundbreaking, and Masrani Global is working closely without outside sources to enable their use in medical and military applications (such as the Gyrospheres unique and nearly indestructible composition, or organically synthesized fusion bandages).

Though Claire never ventures to Site B, Isla Sorna is alive and kicking in the novel, as dinosaurs are occasionally transported from the island to the park on Isla Nublar. During the events of this novel, all dinosaurs in the park are survivors from Hammond’s time, born or created on Nublar or Sorna during the Jurassic Park era. The entirety of Sorna’s fate is left open, and Claire even comments that Masrani Global is more secretive about that island than Nublar (perhaps a hint there is more to Sorna’s story even now). While the lab is hard at work to create new animals, it seems they’re taking their time, in no hurry to introduce animals unfit for the soon to open resort.

This is perhaps influenced by a medical mystery that has begun to effect some of the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, forcing the lab to take precautions to prevent the mystery ailment from spreading. This approach involves injecting medication directly into developing eggs, including strong doses of steroids, and I can’t help but muse if that’s why Jurassic World’s dinosaurs seem stumpier and angrier than their Park and real world counterparts.

There is one inconsistency with the lore: all the dinosaurs in the book are referred to as female, however as we know, life found a way. The Park era dinosaurs were both sexes despite the attempted population control, and were breeding on both islands. Perhaps the female terminology was a liberty taken by World staff, referring to them all as female, or an misnomer cultivated by a simple misunderstanding by the some employees that they were in fact female, despite being both sexes. Colin Trevorrow recently took to Twitter recently to further clarify that the dinosaurs of Jurassic World are both male and female, and other forms of population control were enforced.

Considering the novel never unequivocally states all the dinosaurs are female with evidence, this contradiction can be easily explained away in a multitude of ways, and it never undermines the story at play. The only real hiccup that is objectively wrong is the Velociraptor on the cover, a red eyed male of the second subspecies found on Sorna. The novel definitively states the raptor is a female, and has yellow eyes: this would be the female subspecies introduced in Jurassic Park 3, as the classic female variant has green eyes, its male counterpart yellow. This is not a fault of the novel, but rather a small canonical stumble on the part of the otherwise phenomenal jacket art adorning the book.

At nearly 1500 words I’ve barely scratched the surface of what ‘The Evolution of Claire’ has to offer in its 32 chapters spread over 390 pages. Tess Sharpe has smartly crafted an adventure within the Jurassic universe, brought a new life to Claire Dearing, and reawakened the possibilities held within a page, something we haven’t had since Michael Crichton wrote the original novels from which the first two Park films were created. Stories told in novel form is ingrained into the DNA of Jurassic, and this new chapter brings the story to life in excellent form.

No matter your age or interest, I can happily recommend the book, which is a fun and unique romp within a whole new Jurassic World. I hope to read more from Tess in the future, and fully believe this proves the potential for other stories within the growing expanded universe.

The Evolution of Claire is available in stores now at retailers such as Amazon and Target – be sure to pick up your copy today, and sound off in the comments below with your thoughts! As always, stay tuned for everything Jurassic – including our upcoming deep dive interview with the author herself!

Let’s Talk About That New Hilariously Awkward ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Poster

Sometimes it’s not just the thought that counts, but the Photoshop ability. Sadly, it seems the latter is missing when it comes to Jurassic World.

Hitting a day before the new trailer, the Jurassic World social media accounts shared a explosive new Fallen Kingdom poster with the grim new tagline “The Park is Gone” (though with how small the ‘Fallen Kingdom’ on the logo is, it almost looks like that is the title of the film).

That aside, let’s talk about the composition of the new poster:

The concept of this poster is very solid, and everything including the colors and backdrop are really well done. The Tyrannosaurus looks approriately fearsome, the logo placed strategically with the volcanic explosion. The colors are warm and inviting, but certainly allude to danger (strangely the poster removes the teal color grade from the film many complained about) – that is all aesthetically pleasing.

But then you look to the bottom left, and it all falls apart. The characters are so poorly composited into the shot, you’d be forgiven to think it was a internet meme, placing them in locations they don’t belong. They do not blend with the environment, and the photoshop is clear as day – further, why can you not see what’s behind the glass of the Gyrosphere? Speaking of the Gyrosphere, it’s missing its bottom part, which was to be filled in by CG in the movie, and the glass just blends into the ground.

Also, the eyelines of the characters – where are they even looking? This might seem like nitpicking, but all of these are graphic design staples, and they standout tenfold due to the obvious cut and paste comp.

Of course, it’s not a first for Jurassic – don’t forget the new Blu-ray covers revealed a few months back:

As with the poster, these could have been great, but needed more thought put into the assets used plus better composition.

For a palette cleanse, we’ll leave you with a few fan posters which get the job done:


It’s worth remembering we’re all fans here, and cannot wait for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but sometimes things need a good candid roasting, and it’s usually in good fun!

What are your thoughts on the new poster, and are you a professional graphic designer? If so, you may want to pass your contact information to Universal Pictures, and whip something up with the quality this series deserves.

Source: Jurassic World Offical Twitter