Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jurassic Park IV? Not likely

The above image, DUH, is from an old Playstation game (WHICH I OWN, BITCH) and is essentially a less-than-stellar fighting game. Still, it's dinosaurs, and dinosaurs make everything better. Only Communists and really ugly people dislike dinosaurs.

That said, ever wonder what happened to JURASSIC PARK IV? Rumors had been tossed around for years now, from Lex (Ariana Richards) returning as the main character to plot devices involving Deinonychus mercenaries (seriously) to something about dinosaurs invading the mainland and a state-of-emergency declared for the US...I mean, really, it all sounded incredibly overblown and "jump the shark" (or "nuke the fridge," however your pop culture references roll) but it looks like the project has ultimately been shit-canned.

With Michael Crichton's untimely death, Kathleen Kennedy, one of the film's producers, stated that the flick is pretty much done for. They're still attached to it, but it's likely that the project's been pushed way, way, way down into the seventh level of development hell, never to be seen again.

While I postulate that the first Jurassic Park is one of the best adventure films in cinema history, I do feel that the franchise ran out of fresh ideas about halfway through The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The two sequels, including JP3, were still entertaining and exciting in their own right, as "hardcore" dinosaur films go, but the franchise definitely lost something when Jack Horner (whom I have some choice things to say about) decided to stomp T. Rex, the undisputed Tyrant Lizard King, into the ground in favor of the fish-eating Spinosaurus. Anyone who knows me will anticipate my shrieking rants on this subject, so let's move on.

Honestly? I'd have been the first in line for JPIV, ESPECIALLY with the plot I'd read online. Check this out, from Aint It Cool News' "Moriarty":

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 yes, there's more to it, but Moriarty was tight-lipped beyond that.

I wanted to paste that here for posterity, because it's a crazy-as-hell plot and I'd loved to have seen that, regardless of the shark-jumpage. There just aren't enough dinosaur movies these days. The last one was King Kong in '05, and next year Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs brings them into a CGI-animated fare, but beyond that, we can only hope that, in a few years, someone will bust out with an awesome, lavishly animated movie version of Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles graphic novels.

Until then, we've still got Dinosaur King :D