3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Thrusting Jeff Goldblum into the leading role of The Lost World: Jurassic Park after a film-stealing performance in the original film seemed about as logical of a move as the character would have made himself, but tacking on familial interests and a strange romantic angle seemed to remove the mystery surrounding him, watering down his cool-factor in the process. In revisiting his role within the universe as the prophet of doom, The Lost World: Jurassic Park also became eternally bonded to the character’s cynicism through focusing so much of its narrative on his journey, the movie losing touch of the awe and majesty of the 1993 original as seen through Sam Neill’s much more pure and (reluctantly) kind-hearted Dr. Alan Grant. Not only was The Lost World: Jurassic Park missing that cool character we’d all come to love as a part of the original’s ensemble of strong, instantly recognisable characters, but that character was now a father having an existential crisis about his girlfriend going missing while navigating issues of divorce – The Lost World was simply more cynical.
In the decades since the release of this Jurassic Park sequel, many have placed The Lost World in the lower echelons of Steven Spielberg’s own directorial career, the film marking a point at the height of his fame in which the director seemed much less interested in money-making ventures and instead had his head turned by passion projects such as Amistad (released the same year – 1997) and Saving Private Ryan (released in 1998) – perhaps indicating why The Lost World had many more on the nose messages about wildlife conservation, DNA tampering, cloning and environmentalism than a lot of the franchise’s other (already message-heavy) outings.
While Spielberg’s legendary blockbuster-leading trademarks are still all over The Lost World, lifting a relatively mediocre script into a place way beyond what other filmmakers might have been able to (as evidenced by its position on this list), and while his casting of the likes of Pete Postlethwaite as the villainous Roland Tempo and Vince Vaughn (hot off his breakout indie debut Swingers) as the typical “hot-guy” replacement proved to be inspired, the bedrock of The Lost World simply wasn’t good enough for a less-than fully motivated director (even one as great as Spielberg) to lift into the realm of the franchise’s original outing, sitting it at the middle point of this list.
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2. Jurassic World (2015)
Arguably the most Spielberg of all the non-original Jurassic Park/World movies (including the director’s own The Lost World: Jurassic Park) owing to its remarkable consistency with the original film’s presentation of dinosaurs as objects of awe and majesty, Jurassic World was a trusty reboot to the franchise that, despite copying a lot of Jurassic Park’s story beats, was a welcomed reintroduction into the canon of the Jurassic universe.
Though notably an action film rather than a film with action (as was the case with the original), which does disappointingly reduce a lot of the franchise’s deeper themes into throwaway lines of dialogue at worst and strands of narrative at best, Jurassic World made seeing dinosaurs feel special again. And, after The Lost World and Jurassic Park III had done so much to make us cynical of the franchise’s universe, reintroducing the joy and awe of dinosaurs come to life was a masterstroke that fundamentally grounded Jurassic World in the same stuff that brought the entire franchise to the dance.
While Jurassic World undoubtedly captured the wonder of resurrected dinosaurs better than all franchise entries but our number one, the film did feel like much more of a product than Jurassic Park (1993), its seemingly never-ending product placement making parts of the film feel like average car commercials more than the box office breaking blockbuster we all know it as today. To this point, World never seemed to tackle the deeper issues and themes available in the rest of franchise (including its own sequel), substituting politics for throwaway lines and utter cheese in a way that reintroduced fun into the universe but left World feeling a little more hollow than some of its contemporaries.
Needless to say that Jurassic World was a popular though critically divisive Jurassic movie. Colin Trevorrow, making his blockbuster debut, did a fine if unremarkable job visually, but importantly brought the off-beat sensibilities he illustrated in his feature debut Safety Not Guaranteed to the big-money table, acting under the guidance of Steven Spielberg (who acted as executive producer) to create something in Spielberg’s image we can all recognise isn’t the work of the great man, but at least captures some of his essence.
Jurassic World is by no means a perfect movie, but it does feature some sensational moments and does its very best to play on nostalgia towards the original film as well as the collective mythos of dinosaurs to create something as close to extraordinary as a dinosaur-action movie can be in the current profits-above-all world of studio filmmaking.
It will never be considered in the same echelon as Jurassic Park, but then again what will?
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1. Jurassic Park (1993)
If ever there was a perfect blockbuster, it was Jurassic Park.
Released in 1993 and still looking every bit as convincing as it ever did, this revolutionary cinematic take on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name revolutionised cinema arguably as much as Steven Spielberg’s breakout hit Jaws did when it re-wrote the rules of distribution and created what we now understand to be the modern blockbuster.
Using state of the art, industry-changing special effects that would famously cause lead animatronics and practical effects supervisor Phil Tippett to claim “I think I’m extinct”, director Spielberg’s superb eye for tension, drama and spectacle was pushed to its limits in what would become a staple not only of the great director’s career but of the 1990s, nay a generation.
Featuring dinosaurs for just 14 minutes of the 2-hours-plus run-time, Jurassic Park was illustrative of the same techniques Spielberg had employed on Jaws – that less is sometimes more. Knowing the limitations of the technology at hand (at this time in its infancy), Spielberg crafted scene after scene around the unseeable, ensuring each of us were on the very edge of our seats before we ever even got a glimpse of one of the ginormous prehistoric creatures. Who could forget that first Dinosaur reveal when Spielberg closed in on the shock and awe of Sam Neill and Laura Dern before presenting the Brachiosaurus in all its glory, inspiring and era-defining John Williams score and all?
Importantly, Jurassic Park also had a genuinely eclectic and relateable cast of characters, each of whom offered their own bit of magic to the film overall. Richard Attenborough as the park’s founder John Hammond was perfectly cast given that his brother David was (and continues to be) a world-renowned wildlife conservationist and documentarian, not to mention that Richard himself was the very best at being an endearing old fellow at the time, while the casting of Jeff Goldblum as the enigmatic and charismatic Dr. Ian Malcolm proved to be one of the most inspired casting choices of all time. With the likes of Dern and Neill acting as audience surrogates – the eyes through which we could each see this remarkable new park for ourselves – and some of the best child-acting anywhere, Jurassic Park had it all.
Perfectly cast, perfectly directed, inspirationally photographed and constructed, very well written, endlessly quotable, endlessly watchable and totally enjoyable, Jurassic Park is a high benchmark for the blockbuster film industry as a whole and by far the very best film in the Jurassic Park/World franchise – a true classic the likes of which we’ll be lucky to ever get again.
All in all, the Jurassic franchise is one of the most remarkable in all of cinema. Other franchises, whether they be the superhero likes of Spider-Man or Batman, sci-fi staples like Terminator or other predominantly 90s fare like Men In Black and Die Hard, each suffer from containing at least one widely acknowledged bottom of the barrel entry, whereas every entry into the Jurassic franchise feels at least somewhat inspired, at least something that someone somewhere can enjoy.
While there are no comparisons in quality between Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, the franchise is overall a strong and satisfying collection of films; a series beloved and importantly respected by audiences and critics alike.
But what do you think? What would your order have been? Make sure to let us know in the comments, and feel free to tweet us about it too!