Almost Reel: Sequel Rights

If you’re anything like me–and if you are, you’ve just got to get more sleep–the most frightening news this week is the premiere of Jurassic Park III.

God help us. Don’t we already know there are dinosaurs? And that they’re ferocious and dangerous and stuff, oh my? What could possibly be innovative about III?

The Lost World was simply a re-hash of the original. But everyone knows that any movie Spielberg makes is destined to be a winner, and Lost World‘s huge grosses–roughly the GNP of South Africa–demanded that a third movie be made. Even if it only draws one-third the audience of Lost World it’ll be a big winner.

Side note: investing in a Spielberg movie is like investing in an Internet stock, circa 1999. Pure gold, baby.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the latest movie. Dinosaurs menace the humans, dinosaurs chase the humans, dinosaurs trample the humans, dinosaurs eat the humans, dinosaurs digest the humans, dinosaurs burp up the humans, dinosaurs get back in line for the buffet.

With any luck the dinosaurs will come to Los Angeles and eat Jerry Springer and/or Geraldo Rivera.

Jeff Goldblum doesn’t return from the first two movies, but Sam Neill makes a sudden reappearance, having skipped the second installment. Neill told intrepid reporter Ellen Kim he came back because “I wasn’t entirely happy with what I’d done with the character in the first film.”

What, Sam, you weren’t happy your character didn’t become Dinosaur Chow in the first movie? Are you really thinking this performance is going to get you nominated for an Academy Award?

Or maybe this is just Hollywood-speak for “I didn’t bank enough cash for the first movie and we all know this puppy’s gonna make some serious dough.”

But Neill‘s is the only character that will be familiar to moviegoers.

Side note: As sequels get further removed from the original, fewer familiar characters remain. “Rocky 12” will star Al Gore, Al Sharpton and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

As for the plot, for some unexplained reason, Mr. Neill is lured into landing on Isla Sorna (Latin for “Danger–dinosaurs here!”), where he learns that the millionaire financiers who have paid for the tour have duped him. Only this time there are newer, more ferocious and more intelligent dinosaurs that have been genetically enhanced by evil corporate lab techs to provide the action.

The main intellectual thrust of this movie–and it has occurred to me that “intellectual” was not what Spielberg was going for in the first two movies given the violence and gore in those, so I’m not expecting too much from this one–is to scorn scientists who mess with DNA.

Lost World had more action and is scarier than Jurassic Park. And III has more than Lost World. It has to be this way.

If it weren’t, nobody would come. People demand escalating action in movies, especially in sequels.

It is all we seem to care about. If they made Gone With The Wind now, Atlanta wouldn’t just be burning, it would be a post-nuclear wasteland, and Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable its horribly disfigured victims.

If they filmed The Ten Commandments the Egyptians wouldn’t have drowned in the Red Sea, they would be cut in half by machine-gun fire from Charlton Heston‘s M-16, which, coincidentally, Heston has been lobbying for since he became president of the NRA. And Kim Cattrall would hang on Heston‘s elbow–her robe would be in shreds.

Don’t even get me started on Hello Dolly.

Sequels have made the whole action trend worse.

Apparently Hollywood honchos think if you have a successful movie, all you have to do is give it a stupid new name featuring a roman numeral, like Gladiator IV: The Lion Becomes King and people will pay to see it again. What do they take us for, morons?

Can there be a worse idea than Jurassic Park III? Hmmm. How about this:
“The list they never thought would come out. It did. Schindler’s List II: The Other List

I fear we will always have sequels. And I cringe at what is coming: ReallyReallyGoodFellas. GoodFellas III: GreatFellas. Gladiator II: The Roman Empire Strikes Back. Gladiator III: This Time It’s Personal. Another Perfect Storm. Pearl Harbor IV: China Attacks!. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Early Years.