Just how far can the ‘Jurassic World’ sequel really go?

07.23.15 2 years ago

Universal Pictures

One of the biggest dangling threads in “Jurassic World” is the fate of Dr. Henry Wu.

I thought it was fun casting to bring B.D. Wong back for “Jurassic World,” but when I saw the film, I was surprised by just how much screen time they gave him and how clearly he's turned the corner from “bright guy hired by Hammond to do something fantastic and ethically questionable” to “mad scientist screwing his theme park bosses while coming up with some sinister applications for his work.”

What surprised me more was that they let him live. After all, “Jurassic World” is unafraid to kill even the most peripheral character in violent and preposterous manners, so why wouldn't they kill the man responsible for creating the just-plain-evil dinosaur that's running around eating everyone?

The obvious answer is that they still need him, and sure enough, “Jurassic World” makes it clear that Dr. Wu was airlifted out to continue his work under the auspices of InGen, a company that is now crystal clear on the way they can use these things as smart weapons. Why, it almost feels like they're setting up a way for the studio to repurpose some of the ideas that were originally developed by William Monahan and John Sayles for what was just called “Jurassic Park 4” when they were writing it circa 2006-2008.

After all, there are pieces of that script and ideas from it that were folded into “Jurassic World,” so why not plan to go even further in that direction with a sequel? Just for fun, here's what I wrote about the script for part 4 back when it was still an active concern:

Steven Spielberg has been quoted as saying that they had the “mother of all ideas” for this sequel, and that if they”d come up with it earlier, this would have been the third film. He claims this will completely reinvigorate the franchise, and Kathleen Kennedy promises that it”s nothing like the other films so far. Normally, those sorts of comments could be dismissed as hype… but in this case, they”re not kidding around. Bill Monahan wrote the first draft based on a story by Spielberg. Monahan”s a busy guy, but most of his stuff hasn”t hit the screen yet, so don”t feel bad if you don”t recognize his name. Ridley Scott”s wrapping up work on his KINGDOM OF HEAVEN right now, and wants to make TRIPOLI at some point, while Martin Scorsese is just gearing up to make THE DEPARTED, which Monahan adapted from the Hong Kong thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS. As a result of all these other obligations, Monahan moved on after that first draft, and none other than John Sayles was brought on to bat clean-up. I know that most people think of John Sayles as Mr. Indie Cinema if they know his name at all, but he”s also a big-time script doctor and, more importantly, he came from an exploitation background. ALLIGATOR, PIRANHA, and THE HOWLING are all great early genre scripts that he wrote, smart and funny and very aware of what they”re supposed to do.

I”m pleased to report that this second Sayles draft of JURASSIC PARK 4 sees him working in full exploitation mode. I”ve talked to a number of people about this draft, and it seems to radically divide them in terms of reaction. Some people adore the premise and get excited as soon as they hear it. Some people (including the person who gave it to me) are convinced it”s the worst thing they”ve ever read and a signpost on the road to Hollywood Hell. Personally, I think it”s well-written and certainly inventive, but I also think it just might be the single most bugfuck crazy franchise sequel I”ve ever read, and I”m not sure we”re ever going to see this thing onscreen. It just doesn”t seem possible that Universal would make something this vigorously whacked out.

I spent the entire first act of the script thinking I had it figured out. I knew where it was going. Problem was, every time I thought I had it figured out, something happened that seemed to change the entire premise of the movie.

The script starts at a Little League game somewhere in America, an idyllic scene that quickly goes bad when pterosaurs attack the kids and their parents. It”s a cool scene, and I couldn”t help but immediately anticipate what might lay ahead. Dinosaurs in America. All-out warfare on home soil. This should be fun. In a series of television clips, we learn that this is the first attack on North American ground following months of this sort of thing in Central America and Mexico. The UN has created a task force to exterminate the dinosaurs. Awesome, I thought. A bad-ass heavily-armed United Nations task force versus the dinosaurs. Bring it on! But then the script throws its first major curve ball, introducing Nick Harris, an unemployed soldier of fortune. Nick”s the lead in the movie. Not Alan Grant. Not Ian Malcolm. Despite all the rumors to the contrary, those characters are not back for this film. Instead, we meet Nick as he watches those same reports on TV that we are. He”s approached by an ex-commander of his and offered a meeting about a job. He”s warned that the guy he”d be working for is a little bit strange…

… which brings us to John Hammond. It”s a great cameo role for Richard Attenborough, and he”s said several times that he is looking forward to it. In the script”s single wittiest scene, we catch up with the eccentric ex-billionaire who is now the most-sued man in history according to the Guiness Book Of World Records. He”s been declared incompetent by his heirs and his company has been taken over by other corporations. Technically, Jurassic Park isn”t even his problem anymore, but he still feels responsible for the dinosaurs and the damage they do. Hammond”s got a big idea: breed some new dinosaurs that can”t reproduce and introduce them into the wild population. A Judas strain that will kill off the dinosaurs within one generation. Easy enough, except the UN has outlawed any breeding of new dinosaurs by anyone and they”ve prohibited the sale, mining, or possession of amber worldwide. Hammond”s got scientists ready and waiting to go, but he needs genetic material to work with. As soon as Hammond mentions where that material might come from, I thought for sure that I was ahead of the script again. Oh, of course! The shaving cream can that Nedry stole. He”s going to hire this guy to put together a team of mercenaries, and they”re going to spend the whole film on Isla Nublar getting picked off one-by-one while trying to find the samples.
After all, the first three films are all pretty much carbon copies of each other, excuses to turn people loose on the island. I almost set the script down at that point, disappointed that they”d do something so predictable again after all this talk about how they were going to turn things upside down. Page sixteen, and I was sure I knew the rest of the script without even reading it.

But I was wrong… again.

Nick Harris does indeed got to Isla Nublar, but he goes alone. He does indeed track down the shaving cream can that Nedry stole, but that”s a mere five pages later. And as soon as he finds it, he”s attacked not only by excavaraptors (think trapdoor spiders), but also by security rangers who work for Grendel Corporation, the mysterious Swiss holding company that took over Jurassic Park from Hammond. Seems they want those genetic samples for their own purposes… whatever those may be. Nick has to get off the island, evading his pursuers, human or otherwise. He manages to make it back to the mainland just long enough to hide the shaving cream can before the security team catches up with him and gasses him into unconsciousness.

All of that happens by page 39, at which point I realized I had no idea where this thing was going, and I quit trying to guess. It kept confounding my expectations. It certainly didn”t feel like it was just another rehash of the same formula. When Nick wakes up, he”s in the tower of a medieval castle in the Alps. Seriously. That”s the precise moment when the entire enterprise goes so over-the-top loony that you”ll either go along with it for the entire insane ride or reject it roundly as a big bag of ludicrous. Nick is introduced to Adrien Joyce, the major domo henchman of Baron von Drax, CEO of the Grendel Corporation. Joyce isn”t a moustache-twirling bad guy bent on torturing Nick into revealing where he hid the shaving cream can. Instead, he offers Nick a job, and in order to explain the job to him, he has to take him on a tour of the entire castle, which turns out to be a fairly sophisticated genetics lab where Grendel Corporation has been breeding some dinosaurs of their own design, cross-breeds that never existed in any era of nature with all sorts of custom modifications.

I want to tread lightly on what happens over the course of the rest of the film on the off chance that Mary Parent or someone at Universal is seriously going to make this thing. There”s the eight-year-old-boy side of me that thinks that a DIRTY DOZEN-style mercenary team of hyper-smart dinosaurs in body armor killing drug dealers and rescuing kidnapped children will be impossible to resist. And then there”s the side of me that says… WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! Nick is put in charge of training these five dinosaurs, X1 through X5, and the first thing he does is name them. “Any soldier worth his pay has a name to answer to, not a number,” he says. So we are introduced to Achilles, Hector, Perseus, Orestes, and Spartacus, each of them a specially created deinonychus, which is sort of like a miniature T-rex. They have super-sensitive smell and hearing, incredible strength and speed and pack-hunting instincts, and they have modified forelegs, lengthened and topped with more dextrous fingers, as well as dog DNA for increased obedience and human DNA so they can solve problems well. All of this is topped off with a drug-regulating implant that can dose them with adrenaline or serotonin as the situation demands.

And go ahead. Look at the calendar. We”re a long, long way from April 1st right now.

By the end of the film, there are set pieces that are much, much bigger than anything we”ve seen in the other films, and much crazier. They”re all well-written, and there”s a glee to the bloodletting that you have to admire. There”s also a blatant set-up for a JURASSIC PARK 5 that is just too good for the studio to pass up. That is, of course, if they actually decide to make this one.

In the end, this represents an enormous gamble for Universal and Amblin”, and I admire them for at least exploring this as a possibility. They”ve thrown some damn good writers at it so far. If they make it, it”s anyone”s guess how fans of the series so far are going to react. This is no-holds-barred SF/horror/action with none of the staring-up-at-a-special-effect-in-awe tone of the first three films. This is a drive-in movie, slightly unhinged from page one, with some truly hissable human villains and some outrageous monster characters. Will it work? Will we ever see it onscreen to find out?

Only time will tell.

While there are plenty of things in there that they can't use, including Hammond and a return to an abandoned Isla Nublar, my guess is that there are parts they can still strip out and use. That opening scene with kids getting attacked on a Little League diamond makes perfect sense after seeing the pteranadons fly out of the park.

Can you see where the seeds of Chris Pratt's raptor team started in the ideas of this film? Now that they've laid the groundwork, anyone want to bet on whether or not Blue ends up at Owen's side for the new film? And now that Wu's starting creating his own dinosaurs, I wouldn't be remotely surprised if the InGen labs are surrounded by some very sophisticated organic security measure, like those “excavaraptors.”

Universal announced the release date of the film today, and they confirmed that pretty much the whole team will return. Pratt and Howard are both set to star again, and Colin Trevorrow is onboard to co-write with Derek Connolly.

While that doesn't completely knock him out of that rumored “Star Wars Episode 9” gig, it's obvious this will be his main priority as long as Universal wants it to be, and if he feels any ownership of these characters, he may well make the commitment to directing this instead. Whatever the case, it's clear that Universal sees this as a new franchise now, with “Jurassic World” as the beginning point, and they'll make their creative decisions moving forward with this one as the template. I'm not even saying that they'll specifically tell Trevorrow and Connolly to borrow from this one. I just know that Spielberg loved some of these ideas, and it wouldn't be shocking if he were still trying to find a way to bring some of those ideas to life.

But, seriously… they have to give Wu a spectacular death. They've set him up too well at this point for that not to pay off.

The untitled “Jurassic World” sequel will be in theaters June 22, 2018.

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