To: Steven Spielberg
From: Brian Switek
Dear Steven Spielberg,
Eighteen years ago, shortly after my graduation from 5th grade, I sat in a Florida movie theater anxiously waiting for the lights to go down. I couldn’t wait for Jurassic Park to start. The reviews, the toys, the various and sundry tie-ins—all had me in a dinosaur-fueled frenzy, and I couldn’t wait to see my favorite prehistoric monsters come to life.
You didn’t disappoint. Yeah, Stephen Jay Gould was right that the plotline was dumbed down to the classic “mess with Nature (or ‘God’s domain’, or whatever you like) at your own peril” trope, but my 10-year-old self didn’t care. Jurassic Park was the closest I had ever come to seeing real, live dinosaurs. (Well, before the fact that birds are living dinosaurs really took off and made its way into the public consciousness, which, to your credit, you nodded to at the beginning of the movie.) Heck, the movie still looks good. Dinosaurs have regularly stampeded across the screen since 1993, but few look as good as the ones Stan Winston and company created for you way back when.
But something has been troubling me, Steve. I love dinosaurs—when someone says the word “dinosaur” my immediate reaction is “WHERE?!”—but I don’t quite know what to make of the news that plans to make Jurassic Park 4 are now underway. I trust this isn’t another fake-out, and that it doesn’t involve the development of a script featuring super-intelligent mercenary raptors. The less said about that, the better. I believe that things really, truly are moving forward this time, but I worry about what that might mean for us dinosaur fans.
We’ve had three Jurassic Park films so far, all anchored to the same group of characters. The franchise is getting something of a Jaws feeling to it—how many more films before hints start popping up that these characters are all spiritually or mystically drawn back to the same islands, just as the magical great white shark of Jaws IV was implied to be carrying out a revenge plot on the beleaguered Brody family? We’ve also been back to the same island twice, and I don’t really relish another trip to the original sites with the same characters.
I think you hit on something better with the last act of The Lost World. Yeah, a Tyrannosaurus rampaging through the streets of San Diego is Godzilla, American style, but what is more terrifying than a monster showing up at your door? If you’re searching for monsters and find them in the wild, that’s one thing, but it’s entirely different when you inexplicably feel like you’re being stalked in a place where you have always felt safe. The “raptors” are ideal antagonists here—imagine stealthy, feathered Velociraptor sneaking around the city, surreptitiously devouring anyone unfortunate to wander the night alone. Scary stuff.
(Which reminds me; there had better be feathers on the new raptors. Not just a few silly quills like in Jurassic Park 3. The scientific evidence is unambiguous on this point, and a feather-covered Velociraptor would be a wonderful culmination of Alan Grant’s little soliloquy at the start of the first film. The time has come for feathered dinosaurs. Don’t let us down.)
Or why not release the dinosaurs in the classic setting of the American West? Think of places like Dinosaur National Monument and Arches National Park—they look as if dinosaurs should still be roaming the hills. (Though maybe I think so because similar settings formed the backdrop for films like When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and One Million Years B.C.) Even Yellowstone could make for a fun setting—who wouldn’t be thrilled to see an Allosaurus run down a bison? Instead of taking a small cadre of experts out to a remote island yet again, why not bring the dinosaurs to us?
Of course, you may have something entirely different in mind. I’m just throwing out a few thoughts here. I would just hate to see the franchise devolve into self-parody through repetition. Living dinosaurs—it’s an enthralling concept that so many of us have dreamed about, and we’re due for another great dinosaur film. If not for us, Steven, do it for the dinosaurs.
All the best,