A common misconception in discussing any form of art or entertainment is: if it garners a pleasurable experience it can then be considered Good. This is a flawed way to approach such a discussion.
I tend to break the things I like down into two categories: Awesome or Good.
If something is Awesome, it is heavy on the entertainment and often light on well-done content.
If something is Good, it has managed to balance entertainment and content in a masterful way.
Can something Awesome also be Good? Certainly.
Can something Good also be Awesome? Absolutely.
I simply take a bit of umbrage when spectacle and panache become synonymous with quality.
I bring this up after a Twitter debate I had with a friend over the upcoming film, Jurassic World, in which I raised a question based on the trailer. In one scene we see a great white shark dangling over a body of water as bait for a massive underwater dinosaur—the display akin to a SeaWorld attraction in which a dolphin is coaxed into flinging itself from the water to nab a fish.
It’s a breathtaking scene. It’ll get people’s butts in the seats.
But my fear is that story-logic will not be applied to the scene. If the park is feeding a previously extinct creature with a nearly endangered present-day beast of the sea, the rest of the film could merely be a series of exploitative spectacles for an audience to Ooh and Ahh over.
The film is being marketed through the evocation of the original, Jurassic Park. We’re back on Isla Nublar—the island on which the Dino-theme-park-experiment failed most egregiously twenty years ago. But we’re told the park is now open as the massive iconic gates invite us inside. We become immersed in wonders nearly identical to those seen in the original. Then there’s a montage of the shit we expect to go down in a film such as this. And, to top it off? Whispers of John Williams’ fantastic score sneak in.
But what made Jurassic Park so effective was the pseudo-use of scientific facts. The portrayal of the possible pratfalls of wielding such technologies. The wonders that become the stuff of nightmares. Quality and thorough storytelling tethered to a wildly entertaining romp through the jungle with dinosaurs nipping at the characters’ heels. It was smart, fun, elegant, and impressive.
The next two films, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, can roughly be described as, “Holy shit we’re being chased by dinosaurs!” The magic that made Jurassic Park Good was skipped in order to make its sequels Awesome—unfortunately they even fell short of that label.
And therein lies my concern. If the marketing of Jurassic World relies on both spectacle and the nostalgia of the original, it had better damn well produce.
While the shark scene more than likely has very little to do with the plot, if anything at all, if that is to be included in the film (among other Awesome looking scenes), it best have some logic applied to it.
Maybe, since they’re so good at cloning stuff, a throw-away line mentioning that they grow all their own food could be included? If that’s the case, done, I’m in.
But if the assumption is that great whites are as naturally bountiful as the ill-fated goats in the original—which would be horrifying, by the way—then that simply sucks. I would have to then assume that the filmmakers were more concerned with Awesome spectacles more so than Good content.
My friend told me I should just try to enjoy the film when I see it. It’s likely I will. I’m an easy sell. Fun is fun, right? Awesome and Good both have their merits.
But reinvigorating a franchise and restoring its good name after it was destroyed by two worthless sequels will take more than Jaws being eaten whole by Dino-Jaws. Or a hybrid-dinosaur bent on blood and death. Or a pack of trained raptors (yeah, I know.)
The original film deserves better. The novel it was based on deserves better. And we do too, don’t we?