As any regular reader of this blog will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. I have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of bad to good.
This month, it's time to grab your plane tickets to Isla Nublar and journey to the world of Jurassic Park, a series that has brought dinosaurs roaring into the zeitgeist since debuting in 1993. Starting with Spielberg's timeless original, and including Colin Trevorrow's shiny new release Jurassic World, I'm bringing you my verdict on the series as a whole, from worst to best.
Did your favourite reach the top? Read on to find out...
4th - The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
However, there is something about The Lost World that just doesn't seem right - in attempting to recreate the first film, it feels like something has gotten lost (pardon the pun) along the way: the magic. That sense of awe and majesty that saw audiences sit mouth agape in 1993 simply doesn't carry over to the sequel.
For example, our introduction to the new locale (the island of Isla Sorna, Isla Nublar's southern cousin) is merely a bunch of rich people eating canapés and sipping chardonnay. Later, when Ian Malcolm and his team (a young Vince Vaughan and Richard Schiff) venture into the jungle to save Julianne Moore's character, they stumble across a herd of Stegosaurus like it's no big deal, like they've bumped into their mate Bazza in the street outside Woolies.
There are a few sequences that stand out - the bus dangling over the cliffside is really great, with moments like the glass slowly starting to crack underneath Julianne Moore's hands dripping with suspense. It's moments like this that you realise who is directing this film, even though the rest feels like anything but vintage Spielberg.
In fact, I'd go as far to say that The Lost World is Spielberg's worst film to date, possibly excluding Crystal Skull. The colour palette is drab, the narrative goes nowhere, the characters are limp and uninteresting and the CGI looks flat and dull. Not even that final sequence where a T-Rex is unleashed on downtown San Diego can save this hurried and uninspired sequel.
3rd - Jurassic Park III (2001)Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
This is more like it - in my opinion, Jurassic Park III, despite all its flaws, is actually a much better and more loyal follow-up to the original than The Lost World.
Scenes like the one set within the bird cage with the pterodactyl's are up there with some of the most effective from 1993's Jurassic Park - the mist, the bridge and the eerie suspense all topped off by the swooping reveal of the monsters lurking in the fog. It's really chilling stuff if you ask me.
Not only that, but this film really trims the fat of previous entries - at only 88 minutes long, it's a short and snappy (pun intended) thriller that flies by.
That's not to say it's without fault - Tea Leoni just screams and whinges a lot, whilst all it takes to get Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) back on the island is a fat paycheck, literally seconds after he insists nothing would change his mind. Dinosaurs? Mortal peril? No way! Unless, y'know, there's some mad stacks involved...
And the less said about THAT dream sequence, the better.
2nd - Jurassic World (2015)Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Pratt makes for a confident and assured lead, all whilst sharing some great chemistry with Dallas-Howard. The two spend most of their time quipping at one another, but I did feel like the attempt at building them into a romantic relationship was contrived. The two kids are okay - they're definitely a step up from the girl in The Lost World.
It’s Vincent D’Onofrio’s character that serves as the only weak link – he plays a villainous military contractor who is hell-bent on turning Owen’s trained raptors into weapons, and is the very definition of flat and two-dimensional. Other than that, I really can't find much to fault Jurassic World on - sure, the plot is kinda silly, but it is a series about bringing dinosaurs back to life. Plus, it has widest variety of dinos in the series so far, so it's a winner in terms of variety.
1st - Jurassic Park (1993)Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
The original and the best - Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park easily ranks towards the top of his filmography and is a milestone of 90's blockbuster cinema - back in 1993, the mixture of VFX and animatronics blew audiences away. It's weird to think that I was born the same year as this film came out because, looking back, it really does hold up today.
So many moments from this film have gone on to become ingrained in cinema history - the water rippling, the brontosaurs heads above the tree-line, the velociraptors in the kitchen. It's indelible and unforgettable stuff. Not only that, but its characters - Sam Neill as Alan Grant, Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm and Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler - are memorable and endlessly quotable.
The rousing score from John Williams combined with Spielberg's penchant for bottling the audiences sense of awe and channelling it through the characters ensures that this film continues to astound children even today. That first scene where John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) gazes out across the fields of majestic dinosaurs and that score kicks in is pure cinema magic.
Is it a perfect film? No, there are a few hiccups here and there, most notably the abruptness of the ending where our surviving characters all hop onto a helicopter, look back towards the island, sigh and the credits roll. But, the timelessness of scenes like the one pictured eclipse the weaker moments by far. It might not be Spielberg's zenith, but it easily ranks within his top 5 films to date.
And now, over to you - what is your favourite Jurassic Park film? How would you rank the series? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!