COLUMN: ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Top Gun’ and Hollywood’s obsession with legacy sequels

On June 10, the last legacy sequelJurassic World: Dominion”, was released in theaters. The film reunites current cast members of the franchise (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) with cast members from the original “Jurassic Park” film (Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum).

This formula is a hit in Hollywood. Every major studio is jumping at the chance to create their own legacy sequels with the intellectual property they own.

From “Star Wars” to “Scream”, how to differentiate the lure of nostalgia from true homage? To answer this question, we can examine two films that are currently conquering the box office: “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“Jurassic World: Dominion” is a film that does not know what it wants to be. For most of the time, the film feels like the latest episode of Indiana Jones. The two main characters, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, travel the world to Malta, where they search for their kidnapped daughter.

The second storyline follows legacy characters Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant, and Ian Malcolm as they attempt to infiltrate biogenetics company Biosyn. Sattler thinks they are breeding a previously extinct species of locust to destroy all crops that aren’t Biosyn’s. Together, these two stories are a far cry from the contained story told in the original “Jurassic Park.”

What makes “Jurassic World: Dominion” a cheap attempt at a legacy sequel is that it ignores everything that made the original film such a phenomenon. The film is bloated with various subplots and rather poorly edited because of it. The central antagonist, a generic Bezos/Zuckerberg guy, is ridiculously unintimidating. Even the dinosaurs, the very things that set the Jurassic series apart from other action franchises, are almost completely irrelevant to the plot.

Instead of honoring the legacy of the original film, “Jurassic World: Dominion” is a misguided attempt to bait nostalgia. If the weak plot wasn’t enough to prove that including the legacy characters is nothing more than a marketing ploy, the legacy characters are put into outfits that almost perfectly resemble their original costumes. These characters aren’t even allowed to grow over time; they’re only in the movie so viewers can get some satisfaction from their presence.

Overall, “Top Gun: Maverick” succeeded where “Jurassic World: Dominion” failed. Instead of rushing to capitalize on the success of the legacy sequels, Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise took the time to make a movie with real beating hearts.

Rather than attempting to freeze time, the film acknowledges that Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is getting older. In fact, the very notion of what a legacy is and how we can get lost in the past are the two ideas at the heart of the film’s theme.

Kosinski and Cruise approached this film with immense care. Of how they included Val Kilmer’s iconic “Iceman” from the way they honored the beloved character Goose, originally played by Anthony Edwards, you can tell their main goal was never to create the most spectacular show.

Besides the cautious approach to honoring the original film, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the finest examples of blockbuster cinema in recent years. It’s edited with pinpoint precision and has one of the most thrilling third acts in any action movie. It’s not awash with unnecessary visual effects and convoluted storylines. It’s self-referential, but never crosses the line of nostalgic bait.

All in all, the legacy sequel is a cinematic phenomenon that won’t be going away any time soon. So why should we settle for sequels and franchise reboots that don’t seem to care about their original legacy?

About Michael Sauers

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