On June 10, the latest legacy sequel, “Jurassic World: Dominion,” hit theaters. The film brings together the franchise’s current cast (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) with the cast from the original “Jurassic Park” film (Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum).
This formula is a hot commodity in Hollywood. Every major studio is jumping at the opportunity to make their own legacy sequels with the intellectual property they own.
From “Star Wars” to “Scream,” how do we differentiate between nostalgia bait and true homage? To answer this question, we can examine two movies currently conquering the box office: “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“Jurassic World: Dominion” is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. For most of the run time, the film feels like the latest “Indiana Jones” installment. The two main characters, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, travel across the world to Malta, where they search for their kidnapped daughter.
The second storyline follows the legacy characters Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm as they attempt to infiltrate the biogenetics corporation Biosyn. Sattler believes they are breeding a previously extinct species of locusts to destroy any crops that aren’t Biosyn’s. Together, these two stories are far removed 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 edited rather poorly because of it. The central antagonist, a generic Bezos/Zuckerberg type, is laughably unintimidating. Even the dinosaurs, the very things that make the Jurassic series stand out from other action franchises, are almost completely irrelevant to the plot.
Instead of honoring the original film's legacy, “Jurassic World: Dominion” is a misguided attempt at nostalgia bait. If the weak plot wasn’t enough to prove that the inclusion of the legacy characters is nothing more than a marketing ploy, the legacy characters are put in outfits that almost perfectly resemble their original costumes. These characters aren’t even allowed to grow over time; they’re only in the film so viewers can get a little bit of gratification from their presence.
Overall, “Top Gun: Maverick” succeeded where “Jurassic World: Dominion” failed. Instead of rushing to capitalize on the success of legacy sequels, Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise took the time to make a film with a real beating heart.
Rather than attempt to freeze time, the film acknowledges that Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is aging. 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 film’s thematic core.
Kosinski and Cruise approached this film with immense care. From the way they included Val Kilmer’s iconic “Iceman” to the way they honored beloved character Goose, originally played by Anthony Edwards, you can tell their main goal was never to create the showiest spectacle.
Apart from the careful approach to honoring the original film, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the finest examples of blockbuster filmmaking in recent years. It is edited with razor-sharp precision and has one of the most thrilling third acts of any action film. It isn’t flooded with unnecessary visual effects and convoluted plotlines. It’s self-referential, but never crosses the line into nostalgia bait.
All in all, the legacy sequel is a cinematic phenomenon that isn’t 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?