Jurassic World was a terrible film yet broke box office records. Its sequel, even worse than its predecessor, enjoyed similar success. Together they’ve spawned a third entry which will enter cinemas in 2021. The cash cow is on the charge. But how is the franchise doing it? What is the appeal?
The simply answer is: Chris Pratt. He is a bona fide star boasting huge box office appeal. His stock continues to rise and with the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy films giving him a platform to showcase that easy-on-the eye charisma, the Hollywood hero is a favourite of men, women and children.
And that’s the other reason why Jurassic World and its sequel have taken a massive chunk of commercial revenue in cinemas: availability. These action films might feature dinosaurs ripping people apart but it’s “family-friendly” stuff didn’t you know. Mum, dad and the kids can head off to their local multiplex, buy a bunch of tickets and add a handful of sales to the franchise’s takings in a single trip.
Wired.com, which asked the same question about the franchise’s popularity, came to the conclusion it’s because of a sort of inherent fascination with dinosaurs. There’s also the premium price paid by many for 3D exhibition.
The BBC felt its commercial explosion was partly nostalgia (as older audiences remembered what it was like seeing Jurassic Park back in the mid 1990s) as well as opening in China, one of the biggest markets but one which has a strict quota on the number of foreign films screened, at the same time as its debut in the United States.
Its success has transcended the big screen – much like Steven Spielberg’s original – by becoming a part of pop culture. There was the Waterloo Station takeover in London, a popular hardback book with the bells and whistles of augmented reality, the Jurassic Wold Evolution video game, and a bunch of official merchandise including toys, clothes and even a drone. And unsurprisingly, the blockbuster action-adventure has become one of The Pogg’s top ten movie slots games.
Does it matter if the films themselves are rather hollow and uninspired? Not really if they’re built around Pratt’s quirky machismo, dashing good looks and one-liners and, when things begin to get dull, the introduction of lots of things that go crash, bang, wallop.
Even the positive reviews of Jurassic World like Christopher Orr’s in The Atlantic spoke about limiting your expectations while Joey Keogh, writing for Wicked Horror, praised it for being dumb. Conversely, J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader found little to compliment, saying “The characters are all paper-thin, but that doesn’t matter because their sole purpose is to get chomped.”
But like Anthony Lane wrote in the New Yorker, there’s “plenty here to divert”. These films move at such a rate of knots there’s no time to think about how cumbersome it all is. Sadly, Jurassic World and its follow-up are examples of how canny modern Hollywood is at playing the commercial game with substandard product and winning.