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Friday, 31 July 2015

Where next for the Jurassic Park movies?

Which creative direction would you take one of the most successful movie franchises of all time? Apparently, I would start by desaturating it of all colour. Read on to find out more.
To the surprise of no-one, the mega-successful, $1.5 billion box office juggernaut Jurassic World is getting a sequel. If you’re part of the broader contingent who thought the film was silly fun, that’s probably good news. If, like me, you thought the film was lacking in some areas, you may be less excited. Regardless, speculation is now rife about what the film will cover, and where it will pick up the sequel-bait left dangling at the end of the last film. Despite being less than bowled over with the Jurassic World, 22 years of investment in the franchise and obvious interest in the palaeo-theme of the series means I’m still curious about where this franchise goes. I’ve been involved in a lot of Jurassic World dissections online as well as with real human beings, throwing ideas around for what might work in another Jurassic instalment, as well as what could be maintained or improved on from the other films. The process has led to a lot of ideas and even some rough pictures which I thought I’d share here. Note this post contains mild spoilers for Jurassic World. 

Where the series stands

Any opinion about the future of a series is reliant on opinions of the existing products. Hence, it seems sensible to provide some context on where I think the Jurassic films stand before delving into ideas for new films. From conversations with others and reading lots of reviews, I get the feeling that my view is similar to many others: the Jurassic films are very samey, the sequels aren’t especially well structured, and the franchise needs fresh ideas. 

Let’s unpack that a bit. All four films have the same setting (tropical island theme parks which go wrong, or tropical islands where things have already gone wrong), similar characters (kids, a grumpy/cynical lead, a corporate scumbag, a romantic couple of two headstrong individuals) and the same major scenes (the ‘giant dinosaur vs. vehicle attack, which strands victims from civilisation’ scene, a Velociraptor chase, a panning shot of glorious dinosaurs in harmony with nature, exploring abandoned/ruined buildings etc.). Similarly, by at most the 50% run time mark, each film becomes the same 'chased by dinosaurs' skit. Even the new elements brought in for Jurassic World – dinosaur hybrids (we’ll get to those in a moment) – didn’t alter this: the role Indominus was interchangeable with that of the Tyrannosaurus or Spinosaurus from the previous movies. 

This repetition might stem from knowing what has pleased audiences in the past, but perhaps also the limited narrative scope available to the Jurassic films. Those elements more-or-less define the franchise, and jettisoning them risks losing much of what we identify with the brand. This is probably why the original Jurassic sequels were just the first film without the theme park-backdrop, and why Jurassic World was basically a ‘reimagined’ version of the original. All three follow-ups are extremely conservative from a creative perspective, mostly trading on nostalgia for the first film. It might be argued that this inability to move out of the shadow of the original might indicate Jurassic Park was better left as a contained, single story. I think there's some truth to that, but, whatever, the sequels are happening. It’s clear that avoiding/escaping (chose your own words there) sequel mediocrity is reliant on creativity being shot into the franchise in the form of a new direction or focus, or maybe even a genre transition. I'd wager that the success of the franchise relies on the next film pulling this off.

The right plot, and right level of complexity, is also important for the next film, because the last three movies have each had real issues with these. The first two sequels were seemingly bored and uninterested in their own story (The Lost World) or so underwritten that they seemed to just run out of ideas (Jurassic Park III). Jurassic World, by contrast, had enough going on to fill two or three films. The result was the same as being underwritten: poor characterisation, a loss of atmosphere and tension, and plot devices straining to get the story running. As an example, look at how brief and daft the release of hyper-dangerous Indominus was: folks who’ve watched this animal grow up are shocked they can no longer see her (so she waited years to do her camouflage tricks?); trained experts don’t check for basic equipment faults before waltzing into her pen without any concern or protection; trained experts get scared; trained experts open her cage door, allowing her to escape. Compare that to the original, where the very threat dangerous animals escaping is a key issue, built up over a long period of time. There's discussion from characters, establishment of the level of security across the island, introduction of important location, the animals are teased, and their escape is revealed via tense, iconic scenes. Jurassic World raced through this important, potentially dramatic story point so quickly and nonsensically that it had no weight or impact, as it did for virtually all other potentially interesting scenes, because there was so much else to cram in. Jurassic sequel plots are either too simple, or too crowded. 

There is evidence that the Jurassic series recognises that it has issues with repetition, Jurassic World effectively rebooting the series to take the story off elsewhere. I must admit to not liking the direction being hinted at now - militarised dinosaurs, weaponised hybrids and so on – and hope they abandon them for the next film. To me, this is the least interesting direction this franchise can take, it being both a recognised story cliché as well as promising little more than extended CGI dinosaur battle sequences no more interesting than watching someone play a video game. 

And we already have lots of palaeoart which does that for us.
We're already at saturation point for movies like that, and despite their box office success, their appeal is not universal. I find it odd that we were all laughing at those abandoned human-dinosaur hybrid concepts for the fourth Jurassic film – but what Jurassic World hinted at isn’t a million miles off that. I'm sure there are lots of interesting ideas that could be explored without turning this franchise into live action Dino Riders.
All that said, if that's where I think we stand with this franchise, where do we go next?

Introduce a genuinely new fossil species: our own ancestors

Movie algebra dictates that primitive humans + dinosaurs + modern day setting = vehicular mayhem. 
The last two Jurassic movies have tried to add novelty by introducing new dinosaurs. The problem with this is that dinosaurs, as antagonists, only offer slight variations on a theme. So how about introducing something really different: put fossil human species into the films. I’m thinking specifically of early Homo species here: things with obvious anatomical differences to modern humans, but also similar enough that they could be played equally for eeriness or sympathy. This seems like such ripe ground for storytelling, and could be framed as a publicity seeking exercise in a park setting (museum exhibitions of our own fossil history are pretty popular after all, and apes are often 'star animals' of zoos) or as a nefarious means to have human-like subjects for commercial or scientific exploitation.

The social and ethical issues of creating, caging and exploiting very human-like species make for numerous interesting points of discussion and impetus for plot developments. Where is the line between caging an animal and a person? What rights do stem-humans have? What rights do artificially-created stem humans have? How would people react to seeing their own recent ancestry behind glass and fences? Is it right to use our close relatives for entertainment, and if not, where is the line between them and other animals? What I like about this concept is that strong messages can be implied with subtlety – even the design of human enclosures would be meaningful - allowing for an adventure story to play out with layers of subtext beneath. Our ancestors would also add a whole new dynamic to the franchise as antagonists, being resourceful, tool-using, intelligent and emotional adversaries. It’s easy to imagine how an escaped ‘movieised’ stem-human could really put a spanner in the works any smoothly running facility. From a filmmaking perspective, we could see this as bringing classic components of classic dinosaur b-movies (cavemen) to modern audiences, and minus the cheesiness associated with those characters: fur bikinis, grunting language and so forth. 

Do the ‘hybrid species’ thing properly

It was almost a given that the lacklustre design of the Jurassic World hybrid species will be brought up here, but for good reason: it was a huge missed opportunity. I know Indominus has defenders, but the design is just so uninspired and the potential wasted. For anyone familiar with palaeoart, Indominus is just an animated version of John Sibbick’s 1985 Allosaurus restoration, whitened and with spikes. For movie goers, the hyped abilities of the animal were pointless outside of two scenes, and pretty redundant even there. As is well known by now, artist Brian Engh launched the #BuildaBetterFakeTheropod Twitter campaign as a response to the dull design of Indominus, encouraging artists to upload more interesting concepts for a genetically modified dinosaur. What a treasure trove of ideas that turned out to be! There’s several images there which could be key drawings to launch whole movies. If you've not checked it out yet, go and take a look now. I can wait.

A 25 m long, pseudotoothed beastie with prehensile feet. It kills SUVs for sport.
What is readily apparent from these works is that there's real horror potential in the Jurassic films: it’s actually pretty easy to make a creepy, scary dinosaur antagonist, even if you just blend elements of modern and fossil theropods. Keep those guys off camera for as long as possible, shoot them in the dark and shadows, and we could have a movie full of scares akin to tenser scenes from the first Jurassic movie. If we’re after a genre shift, a Jurassic film akin to Aliens (which the last film already nods to) might be neat: a siege movie where the hybrid creatures are scary, rarely glimpsed, powerful and barely understood by the film’s characters. Or a film where human characters, lost in some wilderness, simply have to survive being followed and hunted by weird, dinosaur-like creatures while they search for rescue. There’s potential for some interesting character-led films there, the protagonists stewing in an increasingly tense, hopeless situation as strange-looking animals close in. Push that 12A/PG-13 rating to its limit!

"Say, did you remember to flick the gene for determinate growth?" "...whoops."
If not horror, then why not use the hybrids is to enter ‘classic’ monster movie territory? Make the creatures really outlandish and huge, ala those of 50s B-movies, and more like unleashing a natural disaster than a rouge animal. This was the idea behind the #BuildaBetterFakeTheropod entry above, which is a play on hyperbole already associated with dinosaurs as the 'biggest animals ever'. Well, this hybrid is quite literally the biggest animal ever: it makes blue whales look as impressive as tinned sardines. There’s enough movies out there about giant creatures aggressively attacking cities and towns however, so my suggestion would be to make such a creature sympathetic, more King Kong than Pacific Rim. Make it a freak loner, very much an animal in behaviour and attitudes, and persecuted for causing problems by simply existing: eating other dinosaurs to sustain itself (sauropods seem like ideal snacks for this thing) and causing masses of damage whenever it travels across built up areas. In doing so, there’s fun to be had with other species escaping just because this thing trod on an enclosure fence. A tragic ending is, of course, a must for this creature. 

I like the potential for exploring accountability from the Jurassic scientists with this one, real old-school ‘man has gone too far’ stuff, especially given the commercial drive underlying hybrid production in the last film. Some of this was alluded to in Jurassic World when the keeping of Indominus in isolation was discussed: the undercurrent was that scientists made an animal, then made a monster by treating it terribly. This theme was rapidly forgotten (and, indeed, contradicted later on: for an animal supposedly brought up in isolation and with no idea of its own identity, it could identify and communicate with Velociraptor pretty instantaneously…) but, as a seed of an idea, it’s a good one, and may warrant exploration in another film. Needless to say, there's plenty of scope here for spectacle as a giant theropod smashes its way around, as well as for exploration of themes about exploitation of science and nature in pursuit of profit.

Give some dinosaurs actual character, other than roary videogame protagonists

It's a bit like Born Free, but with more Awesomebro potential.
Another new element of Jurassic World was that some dinosaurs were actual characters, with names, motives and everything. Well, I say ‘motives’: like all characters in Jurassic World, their actions were dictated more by plot contrivances than personality. Still, though I expected to dislike all the Velociraptor wrangling stuff, the first few scenes of it showed more potential than I anticipated. I disliked the stuff later on because it just got silly – the motorcycle thing, the Velociraptor/Tyrannosaurus tag team – but a movie which explored that relationship in more depth, and then tested it in a way other than just fighting other dinosaurs, could be interesting. 

Such a story would need to spend more time establishing the dynamics of human/dinosaur interactions than the latest movie, but that needn’t be done in a boring way: Rise of the Planet of the Apes showed how summer blockbusters can work cross-species sci-fi dramas into fast moving stories with big climaxes. We’d need to show Velociraptor as more than just a perpetually roaring, biting machine, and see evidence of intelligence other than that pertaining to finding and killing. We’d also need to feel that it was vulnerable, and thus unlike the other Jurassic films where there’s no consistency to animal mortality (i.e. we see the same injuries happening to different animals, but only some are hurt because of plot demands). I can’t see this forming the focus of a whole movie, but as a concept, I think more could be done with it. Bonus points to the filmmakers if they make a sympathetic, believable dinosaur character, and then have it die at the end, perhaps when rescuing a small boy from a well or barn fire. We could call it Velassieraptors.

Finally, Hollywood knows de-extinction is a real thing, right?

Jurassic World 2: sauropods vs. ecological destabilisation. "The race is ON."
One of the questions commonly asked of palaeontologists is whether cloning extinct animals is ever going to happen. Since the original film, the answer to that has gone from a straight ‘no’ to a ‘well, actually people are genuinely trying to resurrect some recently extinct species’. The core sci-fi concept of the Jurassic films is now reality in the form of de-extinction, and the related idea of rewilding (recreating extinct ecosystems using extant animals, or clones of extinct animals, typically for the purpose of stabilising dynamics of ecosystem or certain habitats). Both are genuine areas of research and discussion, as well as no small amount of controversy. 

A lot of discussions around de-extinction involve the nitty-gritty of reconstructing genetic material (it seems to be extremely difficult to do, even with recently-extinct species), which probably wouldn't transfer that well to film. But both de-extinction and rewilding have pragmatic and ethical issues which are relevant to the Jurassic films. What do you actually do with a resurrected species, other than keep it in a zoo? Let it roam wild somewhere? How many individuals should you make? Who, or what, raises them to adulthood and teaches them how to be whatever they’re meant to be? Who is accountable for the wellbeing of an ‘artificial’ animal? Shouldn’t we be putting these efforts into saving extant species more than resurrected ones? What impact will releasing cloned animals have on existing ecosystems? How precisely do we control and manage these artificial ecosystems?

Bringing some of these to the fore might make for an interesting movie. What do you do with islands overrun with long extinct species? Odds are, most of them will die in the absence of artificially-supplied food sources, so who’s going to step in to sort that out? Should some animals be moved elsewhere to balance out their populations? Could animals be grown and engineered to rewild parts of the world in need of ecologically-stabilising, long-extinct large animals? (That's not hypothetical: such schemes are being proposed and trialled, for real, in many places across the Northern Hemisphere.) Again, there seems to be a wealth of scenarios and stories in those questions, and lots of scope for adventure: rounding up and figuring out what to do with free-roaming dinosaurs, the creation of a ‘Jurassic nature reserve’, moving and introducing dinosaurs into new places and habitats, protecting them from evil poaching types, keeping fledging ecosystems in balance… Lots of cool stuff.

Most importantly, it's not lost on me that this concept lends itself well to another touchstone of dinosaur fiction and film - freakin' dinosaur-wrangling cowboys. A film which gets to introduce the complexity of cutting edge, controversial conservation issues and features people rounding up dinosaurs on horseback? There’s not a single part of my brain that doesn’t like the sound of that. It could be like Valley of Gwangi but, you know… good when the dinosaurs aren’t on screen. 



OK, that’s my lot. Hollywood, I’m waiting by the phone. Any Jurassic movie ideas of your own? The comment field is below...

27 comments:

  1. As much as I am thrilled and inspired by your very original and pertinent ideas, I think you summed up why I think this will likely not happen in Hollywood in the first lines of your post: Jurassic Park, as a concept and franchise can't really re-invent itself without stranding too far from the "Jurassic Park" feeling, created by the first film's impact. My point is that your ideas are wonderful but would more likely be used to make movies that are not connected to the JP franchise. I think it's time to create a wholly different world from Jurassic Park and go where Universal Studios, Hollywood, Spielberg and the general public are too scared to go. Again, a very compelling read.

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  2. I love all the ideas but the stem human one is the best...having a enemy that is pretty much human like a neanderthal with is a lot stronger and have bigger brains (though that does not automatly means there smarter than us) and you could have a kinda Mad max kinda chases with dinosaurs running around that would be amazing

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    1. Neanderthal is, IMO, too close, unless they're park employees. At the very least, it gives you limited options for messages about them, with pretty much the only satisfactory end result being equal rights, or the movie risks being called speciesist if they're portrayed accurately. When speciesism is applied to a group that is known to have interbred with H. Sapiens, it quickly draws comparisons to racism. Bringing back Neanderthals in a park setting would be eerily reminiscent of racial colonialism and exploitation in a "you're our property because of the kind of human you are."


      I think the better choice would be something earlier like Erectus or Ergaster. Clearly not like us, but clearly not like a wild animal either.

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  3. I hate to be not constructive, but the idea of 'paleo humans' + dinosaurs == creationist bovine fertiliser. I understand that that is nowhere where you aiming at, but that's the target it will hit.

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  4. Ingenious as always. Dinosaurs in fiction certainly have a stigma, and it's great to see the genre treated with the kind of interest and thoughtfulness they deserve.

    Sauropods v. ecological destabilization sounds pretty damn awesome. To me, it feels akin to the direction Crichton was headed at the end of the Jurassic Park novel... before the franchise was forever relegated to islands.

    Something expansive and fresh would be a much-welcomed shift. Though I could only see it happening as a kind of reboot (possibly of the original novel) with a completely retooled slant; which wont happen within the Jurassic Park license.

    We can always hope that box office bucks may inspire new ideas like these to see the light of day.

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  5. The problem with the de-exticntion movie is that it may lead people to actually hate de-exticntion even for species and ecosystems that need it (re: Pleistocene megafauna, islands).

    As for me, I wish they would just kill off the T. rex fan base by having how pathetic the real T. rex is, compared to accidents and even compared to many other extinct species.

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    1. "The problem with the de-exticntion movie is that it may lead people to actually hate de-exticntion even for species and ecosystems that need it (re: Pleistocene megafauna, islands)."

      De-extinction, while a neat notion, isn't exactly practical. We should be shifting our focus on protecting endangered species; it is less time-consuming, isn't as resource-demanding, and is a lot more manageable than attempting to re-introduce an extinct animal back into the world under a stable population - in a suitable ecosystem. Now, I'm not saying we should forget about bringing back extinct animals altogether, but they shouldn't take priority over extant species that are facing extinction themselves.


      "As for me, I wish they would just kill off the T. rex fan base by having how pathetic the real T. rex is, compared to accidents and even compared to many other extinct species."

      I am curious as to why you think Tyrannosaurus rex is "pathetic", considering it had superb vision, an excellent sense of smell, and possesses the most powerful bite force of any terrestrial animal ever recorded. Also, I doubt Hollywood would purvey baseless propaganda just to "kill" the fan-base of an extinct creature. Such loathsome slandering would be silly, don't you think? Especially if meant to achieve a frivolous result.


      As for the topic at hand, splendid post, Mark. I really do enjoy your insightful musings. I was skeptical of Jurassic World at first, but I went to see the film with no expectations. I loved the film, I'll say that much, but I am not confident of another sequel (especially when creativity continues to wane in the franchise). I sincerely hope the script-writers for Jurassic World 2 stumble upon your blog and see this post. They could use the rich amount of inspiration you have laid out here. I look forward to your next blogpost!

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    2. And how are you going to protect the endangered species without restoring their habitat?

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    3. As for why T. rex is pathetic in my eyes; A lot of other animals have good small and sight, and the same crushing dentition and bite force means a small gape and no cutting teeth. It isn't a big-game hunter, though still a predator.

      If you want a theropod that really does deserve that title, try a carcharodontosaur.

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    4. "And how are you going to protect the endangered species without restoring their habitat?"

      Restoring habitats is what wildlife conservation organizations do; preserve and maintain the ecological system of an endangered species.


      "As for why T. rex is pathetic in my eyes; A lot of other animals have good small and sight."

      Yes, a lot of animals do have an array of senses that are extraordinary. However, the senses of the Tyrannosaurus are among the best in the animal kingdom, both extant and extinct. My point still stands.


      "...and the same crushing dentition and bite force means a small gape and no cutting teeth."

      It seems you have not heard the latest news regarding the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus rex. You may want to read this article:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/33714357

      Summary: Tyrannosaurus rex did have serrated teeth. The teeth were also specially reinforced, meaning they were less likely to break, and there would be less gaps in the jaw.


      "If you want a theropod that really does deserve that title, try a carcharodontosaur."

      Carcharodontosaurus had poor vision and Giganotosaurus, though larger, did not have a body-frame as robust as the Tyrannosaurus. That said, I do not place any dinosaur over the other; every dinosaur species is unique, and I consider it a privilege that we are able to learn and admire what remains of them.

      Also, I would like to impart some advice to you; it is better to study a subject (franchise, animal, political topic, etc.) rather than make judgments based off of what other people think about it. Do some independent research, then make an assessment personally. There are many popular dinosaurs/movies/books that have irritating fan-bases, but that doesn't mean you should hate them based on their popularity. It is better to understand than to hate. =)

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    5. You can't keep an ecosystem intact when pieces are missing.

      You mean poor binocular vision, not poor vision. They make up for that with better peripheral vision.

      New media cannot be trusted on these things-as Dr. Holtz once said, "Despite what every documentary and pop culture source claims, T. rex DID NOT have cutting teeth".

      Teeth breaking or not has nothing to do with this discussion.

      They aren't actually better, but they do fit better with the idea of a predator that isn't restricted in prey size. T. rex is seen in pop culture as killing the biggest prey, but it was no big-game hunter focusing instead on smaller animals; the carnosaurs were the ones that took down prey bigger than themselves.

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    6. You can't keep an ecosystem intact when pieces are missing.

      You mean poor binocular vision, not poor vision. They make up for that with better peripheral vision.

      New media cannot be trusted on these things-as Dr. Holtz once said, "Despite what every documentary and pop culture source claims, T. rex DID NOT have cutting teeth".

      Teeth breaking or not has nothing to do with this discussion.

      They aren't actually better, but they do fit better with the idea of a predator that isn't restricted in prey size. T. rex is seen in pop culture as killing the biggest prey, but it was no big-game hunter focusing instead on smaller animals; the carnosaurs were the ones that took down prey bigger than themselves.

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    7. "You can't keep an ecosystem intact when pieces are missing."

      Indeed, wildlife conservation attempts are not always successful, but that doesn't mean their efforts to sustain the population of an endangered species are negligible. As I said, they do maintain and protect threatened habitats, which extends to restoring its missing pieces. There are even programs/laws in place to enact such restoration activities in the USA:

      https://www.cfda.gov/index?s=program&mode=form&tab=core&id=3d442a91b2d230fa10e295efcad7fb7a

      http://www.edc.uri.edu/restoration/html/fund/laws.htm


      "You mean poor binocular vision, not poor vision. They make up for that with better peripheral vision."

      My point is, for a predatory animal, its vision is lacking. Peripheral vision doesn't do much for the dinosaur in question besides letting it scan its sides (which wouldn't help it much, considering it had to ambush/chase prey - something it would have to do facing upfront). However, I will say that Carcharodontosaurus hunted large prey, so it wouldn't need straightforward eyesight. It hunted mostly by smell anyway.


      "New media cannot be trusted on these things-as Dr. Holtz once said, 'Despite what every documentary and pop culture source claims, T. rex DID NOT have cutting teeth'."

      Where is your source for that quote? I don't recall him disclaiming the recent Tyrannosaurus discovery.

      If you need a more reliable source, here is the scientific report of it:

      http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150728/srep12338/full/srep12338.html


      "Teeth breaking or not has nothing to do with this discussion."

      I'd thought I would share that because it was interesting. It was not meant to counter any of your points.


      "They aren't actually better, but they do fit better with the idea of a predator that isn't restricted in prey size. T. rex is seen in pop culture as killing the biggest prey, but it was no big-game hunter focusing instead on smaller animals; the carnosaurs were the ones that took down prey bigger than themselves."

      I do agree with your statement. However, Tyrannosaurus shouldn't be discredited as a super-predator because there is no evidence of it interacting with a sauropod. It certainly was no slouch when it came to hunting (it did hunt ceratopsids afterall, which are a herbivorous family of dinosaurs not to be taken lightly). Tyrannosaurids and Carcharodontosaurids were both a different family of therapods with a unique set of traits that helped them tackle prey in differing methods; Zhuchengtyrannus would have an easier time of taking down a Sinoceratops, but Acrocanthosaurus excelled in killing Sauroposeidon juveniles and maybe even fully grown adults. Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus, and Carcharodontosaurus were all the top predators of their time, and I don't think any of them deserve to be disregarded because of how they are portrayed in popular culture (and those depictions should never be taken seriously, considering how exaggerated and bogus they tend to be).


      Though when it's all said and done, I acknowledge and I respect your opinions. I'm actually glad we could have a civil conversation over the internet (that's not very common these days).

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    8. Well, if the pieces are extinct we do have to bring them back to save the threatened members of that ecosystem.

      Carnosaurs had a much poorer sense of smell (a much smaller olfactory lobe) than tyrannosaurs, dunno where you're getting that from.

      My source for that was his lecture "Life and Times of Tyrannosaurus Rex". In any case, while tyrannosaurs did have serrations on some of their teeth, they don't for a cutting edge and cannot be used as people claim they can be (for cutting).

      Agreed with that statement but most media (even some documentaries "cough*PlanetDinosaur*cough") constantly uphold tyrannosaurs, not carnosaurs so no need to worry about carnosaurs being overrespected (if anything they are severely downplayed)

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    9. "Well, if the pieces are extinct we do have to bring them back to save the threatened members of that ecosystem."

      Well, there is that. I suppose de-extinction is not a fruitless endeavor.


      "Carnosaurs had a much poorer sense of smell (a much smaller olfactory lobe) than tyrannosaurs, dunno where you're getting that from."

      The portion of Carcharodontosaurus's brain that involved its sense of smell was actually quite large, suggesting its ability to pick up scents was greater than that of dogs. Also, upon further studying Carcharodontosaurus, I realize that I've got to eat some of my words here; Carcharodontosaurus possessed a large optic nerve, which indicates it must have hunted mostly by sight. It used stereoscopic vision to help it determine distances between it and its prey.


      "Agreed with that statement but most media (even some documentaries 'cough*PlanetDinosaur*cough') constantly uphold tyrannosaurs, not carnosaurs so no need to worry about carnosaurs being overrespected (if anything they are severely downplayed)"

      I agree as well. I would like more variety of dinosaurs in paleontology documentaries. I think Giganotosaurus is long overdue for its own "breakout" movie. I only hope its representation won't be absurd like that of its Dino Crisis 2 portrayal .

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    10. Anonymous, no need to fold on the issue of tyrannosaurs being better at taking large prey than carcharodontosaurs. Despite the assertions of Bj Jeong there is no evidence that the latter did anything of the kind. For that matter, there's no direct evidence of tyrannosaurs doing it, either -- behaviour fossilises notoriously poorly. But everything about the construction of tyrannosaurs, especially T. rex, is robust -- far more so than the relatively fragile skulls of carnosaurs, including carcharodontosaurs. If anything was taking prey in its own size-class (which, note, most predators avoid when possible) my money is on T. rex. It's not the king for nothing.

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    11. T.rex is overrated by media and movies. It's really overhyped by "T.rex fanboys" too. "It's not the king for nothing" bla bla bla What about a club in a T.rex's face? Where's your king now? Or an Edmontosaurus tail in it's face? Or better, since you guys say T.rex could kill anything bc "OMG IT HAS THE STRONGEST BITE FORCE OMG", what about an Alamosaurus smashing your beloved king??
      It's just the "king" bc ppl overhype it. There's a lot more theropods that deserve attention such as Carcharodontosaurids that don't need to have "THE STRONGEST BITE FORCE" to be incredible creatures.

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    12. I know I'm almost a year late, but Anon, Mike Taylor is a legit paleontologist, not some Rex fanboy.

      And seriously, just look at the skeletons. Rex was extremely robust, had much better vision for what it was doing, had teeth which were more suited to take similar-sized prey, and in general appears to have been part of a highly competitive Therapod lineage that outcompeted others for their niches.


      And sure, Rex wasn't invulnerable, but it was a damn sight closer to being invulnerable than its distant relatives in the southern hemisphere, and for that matter, than its close relatives in Asia.

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  7. Now with fixed quotes. Hopefully...

    Blimey. A lot of shoulder-chips and negative nellies in the comments. Here...

    "I’m thinking specifically of early Homo species here: things with obvious anatomical differences to modern humans, but also similar enough that they could be played equally for eeriness or sympathy."

    Or awesomeness.

    http://pinktentacle.com/images/10/gojin_28.jpg
    http://pinktentacle.com/images/10/gojin_29.jpg
    http://pinktentacle.com/images/10/gojin_30.jpg
    http://pinktentacle.com/2010/07/macabre-kids-book-art-by-gojin-ishihara/

    Though in reality I imagine something like 1984's Iceman combined with, as you mentioned, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With dinosaurs added to taste. Could be interesting.

    "For anyone familiar with palaeoart, Indominus is just an animated version of John Sibbick’s 1985 Allosaurus restoration, whitened and with spikes."

    Or as Duane Nash said over at Antediluvian Salad, the theropod from Ray Harryhausen's Evolution sequences!

    "We could call it Velassieraptors."

    Mightyjoeyutyrannus? I'll get me coat.

    Before I forget, lovin' the concept sketches. Very evocative. I think I like the de-extinction idea most. Like Kacy I was a bit disappointed that ecological upheaval (integration?) hint was dropped from the first movie and never reappeared in the franchise. I guess modern Hollywood would turn it into something like The Swarm or Piranha, but it'd be great to see some kind of game management or even pest control background to whatever plot they might give it. (Hah. Plot.) Put in those cowboys and there's an instant ticket sale right here. And maybe a cadillac could show up in the background somewhere too...

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  8. Some worthy ideas, Mark. The real horror would be what the studios might make of them in their usual poorly inspired interpretations. Need directors/producers capable of delivering on a vision broader than a simple thrill-ride (though nothing wrong with that as an element if embedded into a well-told story). Odds of that are always small, it seems.

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  9. A couple of years ago, I suggested a Jurassic Park sequel set in 2060: global worming and environmental changes re-create a "Mesozoic-like" world, and Isla Nublar dinosaurs, perfectly adapted to this situation, spreading along whole South America.
    http://theropoda.blogspot.be/2012/07/se-io-dovessi-scrivere-jp4.html

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  10. Hi it's me back again...just wondering if I can use that 25-meter white pseudotoothed beastie for my new moviepilot.com post. It's about the whole Twitter campaign

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  11. I would love to see the dino-character and de-evolution storylines in a dino film, though they're all thought-provoking ideas, of course! :)

    I think one thing I'd like to see would be a "realistic" take on Jurassic Park, where the tension mainly comes from the bugginess of pioneering technology rather than because of Playing God(TM). I imagine it as similar to the "Apollo 13" of Jurassic Park. If it sounds boring compared with an action-packed thrill-ride, then hopefully this should give an idea as to the sources of drama:

    Have it be an interdisciplinary project organized by a major scientific institution, similar in scope to other pioneer experiments like the moon landings and the Large Hadron Collider, never tried before and therefore making people nervous and suspicious or eager and overconfident. Let the scientists involved worry over PR, which apart from tackling issues of expenditure and societal worth also depends on dispelling silly sensationalism while also preventing even a single casualty from occurring on the project. Have bioethics and architectural inspectors raise their eyebrows and demand frustrating delays. Have internal conflict as prejudice between different scientific fields and branches causes resentment and confusion. Have supervisors and organizers question themselves over the public and political pressure, their ability to meet it, and the beauty and horror of their own powers, and dread over how history will remember them, or even if their names will be remembered at all. Have hidebound old-timers rub shoulders - and butt heads - with short-sighted youths from the next generation.

    Then take this bundle of nerves and frustration and dizziness and existential dread, and threaten disaster at every turn. Have the place sealed off like a bio-dome to preserve a prehistoric environment, before systems go haywire and need emergency fixes or the whole thing collapses. Have the geneticists panic as hideous genetic disorders cause undue suffering on failed trial animals before the bioethics team can go public. Have the keepers receive unexpected injuries and - yes - a killer animal briefly break loose. Have ecologists paranoid about contamination of the ecosystems beyond if the animal gets out and multiplies. And have the scientists make press releases that get twisted and mangled until the whipped-up public are banging at the doors for the project to stop.

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  12. I just came up with an idea of another corporation cloning (this time accurate) dinosaurs, including Deinonychus, a breeding pair of which joins up with the raptors that got loose in San Diego in the second movie (in a deleted scene). The conflict being the accurate raptors don't know what's up with the freaks and that someone is trying to exterminate them.

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  13. I feel like Indominus was a wasted opportunity. Presenting her as an outright malicious monster didnt work very well for me. I wish they used more of her camouflaging abilities and made her more timid, like a scared animal but still very dangerous. Maybe the raptor pack could have still sided with her but in sort of adopting her and not basically the opposite.
    In any case I still can't wrap my head around the fact that the Carnotaurus duo from the novel will probably never appear in the movies. They made a huge impact on me.

    I think the series could use Pelicosaurs and Gorgonopsids. Dinosaurs are cool and all, but almost all giant theropods have a similar built and at this rate they'll end up not being as effective anymore. Four legged, fast creatures like Inostrancevia or Lycaneops are perfect, having a very different silouhette but still being ancient reptiles.
    I like the hominid idea but i'd personally go for a more ancestral creature. I think something like Gigantopithecus could be terrifying if done well. Derived primates basically live in the uncanny valley and I personally find them very unsettling and alien when presented in a certain light.

    A new excuse to bring people to the island would be an expedition in the Costa Rican cloud forest to find the raptors that escaped at the end of the novel and bring them back to the island for... environmental reason (?). I'd love to see more Costa Rican culture and characters injected into the franchise.

    Giacomo

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  14. How about a spin-off movie back in the time of the first park, where an animal escapes the park and they have to find it or survive it terrorizing a small town?
    as for the animal, it would probably be one from the original park we didnt get to see much - Metriacanthosaurus maybe?

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