Everyone got out of the way of the rampaging dinosaurs, as Jurassic World is the sole wide release this weekend. And its opening gross is probably going to be huge; I tried to go to an early showing last night and everything was sold out up until 11:00. I didn’t even run into that with Age of Ultron. BoxOffice.com is projecting a $130 million bow, which is a testament both to how well Universal marketed this thing (the website has been fantastic) and to how much people just flat-out love the franchise. When your third installment can come out four years after the second and still score a $81 million 5-day opening weekend in late July, that tells you something.
Of course, it could be argued that the quality of the films has not endured along with the enthusiasm. I even think the first film comes to a bit of a thudding halt after the T-Rex rescue, while the second feels like two entirely different movies (the island and San Diego) smashed together, with a much more interesting movie about Pete Postlethwaite’s character trying to break free of the mess. As for the third, I tend to give it a pass because it was largely made up as they went along, and expectations were pretty low. None of the sequels embarrass themselves, although they can’t touch the original (which is the early word I hear on Jurassic World).
Which, in a lot of ways, makes the Jurassic Park franchise the American Godzilla.
You’ve got a first film that is widely regarded as a classic (although Jurassic Park has nowhere near the symbolism of the original Godzilla). Then a bunch of sequels that take the most basic element of their predecessor and run out every variant possible. Whereas Godzilla fought a seemingly endless string of other giant monsters, the Jurassic films keep trotting out more and bigger dinosaurs run amok thanks to more and bigger mistakes. Any message has long since been forgotten; the audience is just there for the monsters doing their thing. And if the film delivers on that promise, an enormous amount of slack is delivered to other areas. Now, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do if we want to match the longevity of the Godzilla franchise, and I don’t think Jurassic has anywhere near the pop culture cache, but it really feels like it’s entered its Monster Zero phase, where you can pretty much autopilot your way to at the very least an entertaining dino romp, provided you’re not expecting Shakespeare.
In other words, the perfect summer movie. And it’s placed in a perfect spot. There really aren’t any big spectacle films coming until Terminator: Genisys in July, and not everyone is 100% sold on that one. Inside Out comes out next week, and Pixar is always a threat, but the two films seem to be operating in different spheres. And the overseas on Jurassic World is going to be ridiculous; this kind of film translates well for foreign audiences, and they’re about ready for something new now that Furious 7 and Age of Ultron have cleared the decks. I really think $1 billion worldwide is in play, and there’s a good chance Universal could have the #2 and #3 films of the year — at least until Star Wars comes along.
That success will undoubtedly spark talk of a Jurassic World 2 or Jurassic Park 5 or whatever they decide to call it. And we’ll likely all line up once again to see dinosaurs rule the earth. Because no matter the quality, there’s something about hearing those first few notes of John Williams’ “adventure” theme that gets the blood going and makes us want to go back to the island one more time.