Greed Finds a Way

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Forgive me as I steal a line from The Critical Drinker, a movie critic on YouTube. “Greed finds a way…” he said of Jurassic World: Dominion, the latest movie in the Jurassic Park franchise.

It is a description that need not contain itself to Hollywood dinosaur flicks when the same could be said of the entertainment industry at large. Books, movies, TV series, music. Talent is being pushed out of the way to allow for the expansion of a mediocre compost heap where the money goes to die.

The thing about decaying waste is that it’s boring to watch. A few weird things might crawl out—it may even grow the odd plant around the edges—but basically, audiences have been left standing amid the buzz of flies like Jeff Goldblum confronted by Triceratops droppings.

Even when poorly executed, movies are expected to have a point.

But today, the cinematic experience is geared toward profit, not a deeper lesson.

“Are you not entertained?!” their generic action heroes shout at us.

Well, no, not really. A trip to the local gym offers a similar visual experience to a summer blockbuster and contains a more detailed plot.

The one thing we can agree on is that scary movies are a thing of the past. Fear is a big part of enjoyment when it comes to a thriller, but terror is a mental game that cannot be bought.

I remember the release of Jurassic Park (1993). Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece—based on Michael Crichton’s novel—quickened the hearts of audiences.

When the T-Rex stalked its way around the jeep, hidden by the rain and darkness, five-year-old me crawled under the seat and watched from between the cracks in the red-clothed chairs. The cinema air vibrated with the alien sounds of prehistoric animals awoken from history. We saw these expensive pixels as real creatures. It was, as they used to say, cinematic magic.

Epoch Times Photo
A child reacts to an adult Tyrannosaurs Rex robotic dinosaur as it performs in the O2 arena ahead of the forthcoming European leg of the live show “Walking With Dinosaurs” in London, England, on March 18, 2009. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The best Hollywood studios can manage these days is a bit of gore and CGI. Ironically, their blood and guts are less convincing than the pile of alien flesh roasting under Kurt Russell’s flame thrower in The Thing (1982).

Expensive Movies Aren’t Necessarily Good Movies

According to Highsnobiety, the most expensive films are: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Titanic (1997), Spider-Man 3 (2007), Justice League (2017), Tangled (2010), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2015), John Carter (2012), Waterworld (1995), Avatar (2009).

For those films that are part of a series, their most expensive instalments are far from their best. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was the first and easily the most accomplished of the franchise made at half the cost.

What is it about fame, scope, and money that sinks the quality of sequels? Is it because we reward studios by buying tickets to garbage? It could be a new social law of “bigger is better”—up until it becomes a failure of concept. The answer is not obvious.

Titanic is the outlier as a genuinely memorable experience, although notably, the budget was spent devising the locked-room scenario of a sinking ship rather than an expansive world.

The secret to creating a scary movie hides in the boundaries that ground fictional worlds, trapping characters inside and the audience along with them. In the case of Titanic, you have to believe the ship is inescapable to fear the act of sinking. Jurassic Park was set on an island to limit its scope, crushing predator and prey together before obscuring the view with a storm.

The Fall of the Jurassic Park Franchise

This brings us to Jurassic Park’s many sequels. We’re going to skip over Lost World and Jurassic Park III and instead focus on the modern movies of Jurassic World (2015), Fallen Kingdom (2018), and Dominion (2022).

As The Critical Drinker said of Dominion, “It’s a [explicative] mess of a movie.”

I have similar reservations about the Fallen Kingdom. At one point, there was a volcano erupting, a dinosaur stampede, an impossible dive off a cliff into the ocean, lava eating into a locked facility and—I felt absolutely nothing. The screen was full of dollars but lacked tension.

Even Blue, “the friendly Velociraptor,” has become an excuse to sell merchandise rather than a believable character. If they wanted an interesting story, why not have Blue turn around and attack Pratt’s character, as happens in the wild where park ranges get eaten by the lions and bears they cuddle? At least it would have raised questions about trust and nature in an era of heightened environmentalism championed by a generation that rarely goes to the park, let alone a tropical rainforest.

David Koepp, the filmmaker of the original Jurassic Park, wouldn’t let the dinosaurs be referred to as “monsters” because he didn’t want an ecosystem of movie tropes. The point was not to set sharp-toothed, curved-claw killing machines onto humans and count the bones—it was to explore the clash of species out of sync with each other and the ramifications when scientists act like God.

It played on our human fear of the past and asked questions like, would we have survived if larger, smarter predators shared the food chain? Are we really as strong and powerful as we think we are? Is our extinction inevitable when faced with a better-adapted creature?

Epoch Times Photo
Chris Pratt and Blue the velociraptor interact onstage at the grand opening celebration of “Jurassic World—The Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California, on July 22, 2019. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for Universal Studios Hollywood)

The gruesome dismembering of Bob Peck’s character Muldoon (and later Pete Postlethwaite’s professional trophy hunter Roland) was meant to demonstrate that even the most skilled killer could be outsmarted.

This narrative trick served to increase tension for the remaining characters who lacked his skill. We were scared because the director was robbing us of protective authority figures while leading us into the unknown. The bloody demise of nameless extras does not compare.

Casting Richard Attenborough as park creator, Hammond was very nearly a fourth-wall break. The similarity to his brother, famous naturalist David Attenborough, gave an intangible realness—as if Jurassic Park were a nature documentary—not a movie—even though never explicitly stated.

It formed part of the subtext of terror and believability of horror essential to create fear.

Lean scripts, essential characters, and small worlds make for immersive plots, but when hundreds of millions are thrown at a director, they feel the need to over-stuff films to justify the budget.

New directors have forgotten the basic cinematography tools of scale and framing in their race to fulfil studio demands despite earlier films in the franchise using them to stunning effect.

“Woke politics” may be a type of cinematic decay, but greed is the serial killer turning Hollywood into a mortuary with executives standing over the mess of bodies, shaking their heads in confusion.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Alexandra Marshall


Alexandra Marshall is the online editor for The Spectator Australia, contributor to various publications, political commentator on GB News and Sky News Australia. She is the Young Ambassador for Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and the English-Speaking Union, a political advisor, and a former AI database designer.

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