Friday, February 28, 2020

Green Phoenix - Building Better Backstories IV

Image result for jurassic park 3Last week, I reviewed Jurassic Park III, ultimately giving it a disappointingly low 4.5/10. This hurts because the Jurassic Park franchise has always held a special place in my heart.

My first and oldest passion has always been dinosaurs and paleontology and Jurassic Park did much to foster that affection. Among my earliest memories was watching the original Jurassic Park, so for me to say that the third film in this franchise is a disappointment hurts me a great deal.

I think that's why I needed to do a Building Better Backstories for Jurassic Park III. I thought long and hard about what changes would need to be made and, I hope that you guys enjoy what I came up with.


The Problem with Jurassic Park III

When looking at the first two Jurassic Park films, with respects to Michael Crichton's original novels, its pretty easy to see a particular trajectory for the franchise. That trajectory was hinted at in the climax of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which was originally supposed to be the climax of an alternate Jurassic Park III that Spielberg wanted to create) and fully realized in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the upcoming Jurassic World: Domination.

The integration of dinosaurs into the rest of the world.

In the very first Jurassic Park novel, a key element of the plot was the unregulated breeding of dinosaurs and their escape to the mainland, an element that was largely unexplored in the original film adaptation. The Lost World: Jurassic Park furthered the idea with the idea of the mainland park and bringing dinosaurs from Isla Sorna. And had Spielberg's original plan for Jurassic Park III gone into effect, the San Diego incident that climaxed The Lost World: Jurassic Park would have taken place during Jurassic Park III.
Image result for the lost world san diego
Awesome shot! Shame it messed up JPIII.

But those plans changed with the agreement between Spielberg and Joe Johnston. Spielberg wanted desperately to film the San Diego incident and so changed the finale of The Lost World to include it, fundamentally changing the trajectory of the entire trilogy and, in its place, we received the Jurassic Park III that I reviewed last week.

For all my love of the franchise, Jurassic Park III was, in my mind, a lost opportunity. And much of that lies in the absurdity of the narrative and its decision to focus on characters that just aren't as interesting, leaving the really interesting character as a second act surprise.

So what we are going to do in this edition of Building Better Backstories is rebuild the entire film from the ground-up. Keep some of the best elements and refocus the story around them.

And that starts by changing the focus of the film to the one character from Jurassic Park III that actually had significant growth and a unique experience.

Eric Kirby.


Eric's Story

In the original Jurassic Park III, Eric Kirby ends up surviving two weeks alone on Isla Sorna. He is described by his parents as rambunctious, but seems like he was also slightly coddled by his mother. By the time we see him in Jurassic Park III, Eric is a changed man. He is still excitable, but now he is hardened and expert survivalist in many ways, having numerous tricks up his sleeve to survive.

By all rights, Eric's survival is a much more exciting story than his rescue. Which was, for all intents and purposes, a bumblefuck and accident that he was rescued at all. With the skills we are shown, Eric could've probably escaped the island on his own.

Image result for eric kirby jurassic parkSo that is what we will do with Jurassic Park III. The film will have Eric as the main character and we will begin on the island almost from the very beginning.

Let's keep the opening sequence roughly the same, but maybe crash the boat into the island so we have more bodies to start up the beginning of the film. Have Ben Hildebrandt, Eric's mother's boyfriend, survive for a longer portion or maybe even sacrifice himself to ensure Eric's survival.

Regardless we need to leave Eric alone fairly early on in the film. Because we are going to give Jurassic Park III a completely different tone to the rest of the series up to this point. Where Jurassic Park was a sci-fi adventure and The Lost World: Jurassic Park was adventure horror, our Jurassic Park III will become a survival horror film.

The overall themes of the film will center around Eric coming to terms with his own abilities, turning into a bit of a coming-of-age/trial by fire kind of film. If we want to take advantage of Dr. Grant's presence, we could occasionally flashback to a scene where Eric meets Dr. Grant. The paleontologist can talk to Eric about dinosaurs, his experience on Isla Nublar, etc. In this way, Dr. Grant can become a mentor figure for Eric that pushes him to survive.

But if we just have Eric surviving, we would miss out on other opportunities. In both Jurassic Park and The Lost World, humans played a large role as the antagonists, where the dinosaurs were treated more as the wild animals and forces of nature that they were. This need for a human antagonist gives us a chance to further the narrative trajectory that the franchise was initially aiming for.

At the end of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Isla Sorna is transformed into a wildlife preserve where human contact is largely forbidden. But this means that we could use that illegality of human contact to make a group of poachers taking dinosaurs to the mainland to sell. In this way, our story can push closer towards dinosaur integration with the rest of the world (as seen in Fallen Kingdom) but it can be more subtle than in that film, and more in line with the novels.

Image result for jurassic park dodgson
Dodgson! We got Dodgson here! Does somebody care?
If we wanted to bring further elements from the earlier films and steal something from the novels that was unused, we could even have the poachers being hired by Dodgson and BioSyn, the rival company to InGen that hired Nedry in the first film. Bring Dodgson's story full circle since his influence impacted the whole franchise but the man didn't meet his fate as he did in the The Lost World novel.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but we could have Eric dealing with both the dinosaurs and the poachers, protecting the dinosaurs and keeping them on the mainland. At the same time, the franchise theme of mankind's struggle with nature can be shown between Eric and the poachers. Where Eric survives by living with the dinosaurs, respecting their distances and the like; the poachers can be dominating and controlling.

Eventually Eric can escape from the island, maybe contacting the US or Costa Rican military. We can see his survival, as well as hints that some of the dinosaurs the poachers were hunting had reached the mainland and escaped, perhaps with a scene like the baby cradle scene from the original Jurassic Park novel - for a last minute bit of horror.



When thinking of this change, I was deeply inspired by the young adult novel that was released alongside Jurassic Park III, Jurassic Park Adventures: Survivor, which outlined Eric's story up to his encounter with Grant in Jurassic Park III. I enjoyed this book as a child very much and its focus has always stuck with me when I think about the third film.

I hope that you guys enjoy my edition of Jurassic Park III as I do.

But with my improvements Jurassic Park III out of the way, I think I would like to take the next few weeks (with the occasional break weeks) to take a look at another property tied to Stephen Spielberg.

One of my favorite franchises of all time and the inspiration for my love of fantasy, history, and alternate history.

The Indiana Jones franchise, starting with the progenitor of the entire franchise: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

See you all next week!

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