Jurassic World: Why fans may be disappointed but Hollywood will certainly be happy
Within three days of being uploaded onto YouTube, over 30m people had watched the trailer for Jurassic World, which enters UK cinemas this weekend.
It immediately became one of the most watched trailers of 2014, picking up more views than the trailers for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay which had been released months earlier.
The trailer's prehistoric thunder was quickly stolen by the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The frenzied fan reaction to both films should come as no surprise. Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic World, the two franchise flicks herald the revival of dormant Hollywood franchises reprised after a lengthy absence. The most recent Star Wars installment, Revenge of the Sith, was released 10 years ago, while it’s been 14 years since the release of Jurassic Park III.
The return to previously well-trod territory is nothing new for Hollywood.
In the last two years alone audiences have been treated to a return to the universes of Robocop, Godzilla, Jack Ryan, Alien (Prometheus), Superman (Superman Returns) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, following a break since the previous instalment.
The reaction to the Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens give an indication as to why – films fans go wild for a familiar franchise.
Of the 50 highest grossing movie franchises of all time according to aggregator Box Office Mojo, 24 have seen films added to the canon following a break of 10 or more years. Plenty have had slightly shorter breaks between instalments, but a gap of 10 years or above is the time frame most relevant to the return to Jurassic Park or a galaxy far, far away.
Of those 24 franchises, 23 contained three or more films which tended to follow a familiar pattern: An adored blockbuster hit, a decline in audience interest and critical reception, before a bid for a return to past successes once the franchise had been left alone for a while.
On the whole, that bid fails. But that’s not to say the reboots aren’t considered a success by the studios. Of the 24 franchises studied, the average “reboot” (the addition following a break of 10 years or more) made $109.7m less at the box office than the original – with ticket prices adjusted for inflation.
Yet while they more often than not do not replicate the runaway success of a franchise’s original film (possibly in part due to increased competition at the cinema and beyond), a “reboot” can still make a lot of money.
In fact, the films that heralded a franchise’s return such as Jurassic World, made on average £20.3m more than the previous effort. Audiences grow bored of a franchise when it churns out sequel after sequel every other summer. But following a break can allow a franchise to feel fresh again and – as demonstrated by the reaction to the aforementioned trailers – build up nostalgia value.
It’s easy to criticise Hollywood for being unoriginal, but when 12 franchise films have been the biggest box office smash of their year over the last 15 years, can you really blame the studios?
The more pressing concern for film fans is whether the return of a treasured series will live up to expectation or not. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Aliens vs Predator. Did they really satiate the excitement?
Unlike box office figures, this is subjective from individual to individual. But in order to get a feel of overall sentiment to franchise returns, I had a look at ratings from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Just as is the case with box office figures, “reboots” struggle to live up to past glories. On average the films studied were rated 29.9 percentage points lower than the original instalment, and 4.8 percentage points less than the franchise’s average score.
But Star Wars and dinosaur fans shouldn’t get too disheartened – this doesn’t mean you’ll have to relive the pain of Jar-Jar Binks and and The Phantom Menace. “Reboot” films were still, on average, rated 6.3 percentage points higher than the instalment that came before.
Scriptwriters apparently needed a while to formulate new ideas following panned efforts such as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) or Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
Yet even if Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens don’t quite match up the myth, one has a genetically engineered dinosaur and the other has a triple-sided lightsaber. Both have classic John Williams scores.
Hollywood knows that’s all it needs to make a quick buck.