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Universal dropped a 155-second featurette for Jurassic World Dominion this morning, along with a new poster that highlights the Jurassic World characters intermingling with the original Jurassic Park trio. The featurette is pretty cut-and-cry, with lots of “oohs and ahhs” as our five main performers (Chris Pratt, Sam Neill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum) talk about the first Jurassic Park, either as participants or as audience members. I saw the film with my dad at a Thursday night advance screening on June 10, during a time when most print reviews didn’t drop until Friday morning. Steven Spielberg was coming off Hook, which (childhood nostalgia aside) was seen as an artistic disappointment.
He was also seen to be in a commercial slump (save for the Indiana Jones sequels) since E.T. Thanks to a cryptic marketing campaign, no early reviews and lowered expectations, none of us had any idea how much ass was about to be kicked. The film played like gangbusters in our packed audience (as did, by the way, the year-in-advance teaser for John Goodman’s The Flintstones), becoming the first film to crack $50 million on opening weekend and eventually becoming A) the biggest grossing movie ever in North America sans reissues ($359 million) and B) the biggest grossing movie ever period worldwide ($925 million). Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero never had a chance.
This featurette is pushing the notion that Jurassic World Dominion will be the series finale of the Jurassic franchise. While all parties will surely find a way to make more movies if the need arises, I’ll take them at their word that this closes the book on this current trilogy and, relatively speaking, the six-part saga. There is obvious marketing value in selling a given film as “the final chapter,” promising closer and a satisfying conclusion to fans who otherwise might see it as “just another one of these.” See also: Logan, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and this year’s Halloween Ends.
To be fair, I’d argue it’s an unnecessary hook this time around. Jurassic World grossed $1.671 billion worldwide in 2015 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom earned $1.308 billion in 2018. The extent to which the perpetually online wonder why Universal keeps making these films is a testament to how online fandom isn’t the same as general audience interest. One reason everyone acts like comic book superhero movies dominates theaters is that those films dominate the SEO-driven media coverage. Fallen Kingdom and Despicable Me 3 get far less media ink than Ant-Man and the Wasp or Wonder Woman. The five Jurassic movies have earned an *average* of $1.001 billion worldwide each on an average budget of $123 million.
For that matter, the notion of bringing back the core trio from the first three films is also “unnecessary.” This isn’t a struggling franchise (The Fast Saga, X-Men) following up an underperforming installment (Toyko Drift, First Class) reviving their fortunes by bringing back the old gang and getting letting them rub shoulders with the newbies (Fast & Furious, Days of Future Past). Yes, the nostalgia sell is a good one and I imagine it’ll make more because older audiences will want to see how Alan, Ellie and Ian ended up, but it’s a matter of “because we want to, not because we have to.” Ditto the whole “It all leads to this!” hook.
Considering Colin Trevorrow’s (alleged) script for Star Wars IX did *not* have the franchise vets pushing the newbies to the side, I’m guessing Dominion won’t forget that Jurassic World’s success is built upon new/non-n0stalgic fans who like Pratt’s Owen, Howard’s Claire and BD Wong’s diabolical Dr. Henry Wu (promoted from Jurassic Park cameo player to Jurassic World mad scientist puppet master). That’s the risk of these combo sequels, forgetting that the theatrical audience for Alien Covenant and Glass cares more about Prometheus and Split than Alien and Unbreakable. Nonetheless, Jurassic World Dominion could be as bad as Carnosaur 3: Primal Species or The Land Before Time part CDLXXI and still be a massive global hit.
I’m guessing we’ll get another trailer either the week of Cinemacon (late April) or in the week leading up to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (early May), but otherwise, I’m still betting that Jurassic World 3 will be this summer’s biggest global grosser. After all, Fallen Kingdom grossed only a little less globally than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($1.342 billion), Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($1.333 billion) and Black Panther ($1.346 million) with a fraction of the online discourse. The fans may not obsess upon these movies or bring them to the front of the pop culture zeitgeist wars, but they damn sure show up in theaters.