With reports in that Jurassic World has just become the fastest film in history to gross $1bn worldwide, should we celebrate or cry?
The answer is neither. Instead, you should be afraid. Very afraid.
Movie franchises are not a new thing, and neither is the fact that mediocre and bad movies can dominate box offices. After all, Transformers: Age of Extinction was the biggest film of 2014 despite approval ratings of only 18 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Granted, the Jurassic Park series is nothing like the Transformers movies. The former sprung from a thought-provoking novel where the latter was made, quite literally, to sell more Transformers toys.
But the problem nearly all franchises share is a studio-led design to produce quantity over quality, mindlessness over intellect. In short, franchises are purposefully made to be simple, popcorn entertainment.
Imagine you’re on the board of a film studio choosing which film to fund. One has no artistic integrity, but is part of a franchise and could make you a lot of money. The other is a smaller movie that won’t do as well, but might one day be a classic. Who’s your daddy?
Anytime a prequel, sequel or inbetweenquel makes a lot of money, an original film dies. Instead of hiring writers and directors to produce original ideas, Disney are producing live action remakes of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh and Pinocchio.
Many would no doubt argue: “It’s only movies, who cares?” The problem is that billions of dollars are spent on productions every year in Hollywood, with many more billions of dollars made in ticket sales. And unoriginal content should enrage us as consumers, if nothing else. After all, would we really accept Coke 2 or a new not-as-good-as-the-original Mars bar?
In the first Jurassic Park film, Jeff Goldblum’s character (Ian Malcolm) gives a warning to the owners of the park that I wish an executive at Universal had been reminded of:
I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: It didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it – you wanna sell it!
Colin Trevorrow himself, who directed Jurassic World, has indicated that he wasn’t happy with Universal execs. In an interview with Italy’s Bad Taste, Trevorrow revealed that he disagreed with Universal over footage they had used to market the film. He also ruled himself out of directing the sequel – a pretty clear indication that he was unhappy with the franchising of a film he was passionate about.
In and of itself, Jurassic World is not a bad thing. But it is a bad omen, a symptom of many, many more years of remakes and reboots and unoriginal films to come. What can you do? Know your consumer rights: Reject sub-standard products.