Fiction Fridays: One Scene That Would've Made Jurassic Park 3 Better
When Jurassic Park came out in the early 90's, I was too young to appreciate it. Dinosaurs had never been my thing as a kid, and I was really easily scared. I didn't like loud noises (I have a distinct memory of leaving my first concert early so we could skip the fireworks at the end - hearing my mom say to her friend "We'd better go before the fireworks start because she won't like it.") and a movie about dinosaurs attacking people at a park was distinctly Not For Me. I was also probably way too young to be in a theater anyway and with a newborn sibling. Taking a kid to the movies, for a film that would freak me out, was low on the priority list for my parents.
Then it just never happened. I never got around to seeing it, even as people around me expressed their love for it and how much it changed cinema and how important it was to them. I didn't get it, and I thought I had just missed out on the age where it would've meant something to me, so I wasn't really missing out at all. I still wasn't a dinosaur person. As someone who is constantly a victim of overhype, I’ve learned to take what everyone else says they like with a grain of salt.
Fast forward a while. It's September 2018, my boyfriend and I had just started dating, after being friends for a good chunk of time. Jurassic Park is one of his all-time favorite movies. He was that kid that loved dinosaurs that I never was. 2018 is also the 25th anniversary of the film, so I am lucky enough to see it in theaters when it's re-released in honor of the milestone. At this point the film had been near unavoidable, I’d seen bits and pieces but never the whole thing from beginning to end. I go in with an open mind, expecting to finally get some pop culture references but not be blown away.
(Narrator voice: She was blown away.)
I got it. I finally understood. For once, the world was right, everyone else was right. This was a perfect film, with interesting characters, compelling action, iconic cinematography. It was worthy of every accolade anyone had ever given it. Even as I started to dive into the whole franchise and the newer one, nothing compares to that first movie. And I even like the second one a lot, too.
(We’ll talk about Jurassic World another day.)
My favorite part of that first movie, though, is unequivocally Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler’s relationship. Their partnership throughout the movie both romantically ambiguous and professional, her gentle ribbing of his avoidance of children, his jealousy as Dr. Ian Malcolm starts to flirt with her (and I’ve seen Jeff Goldblum flirt in person, it’s hard to ignore), are what make those characters. We don’t have to learn about their lives outside of this whole event, we just know they exist together, sharing take out when they come back to their hotel room after being out in the sun at their dig-site all day. Alan was a hundred percent saving the champagne in the beginning of the film for when he would propose to Ellie and nothing is ever going to change my mind of that fact.
I had been pleasantly surprised by the second Jurassic Park movie, even if it didn’t include my two favorite characters. It still kept the same attention to who the characters were, making them the focus over the dinosaurs or the action, and themes of family. I’d been warned, though, that the third film is just not very good. My first question was whether or not Ellie and Alan were back, and were they married in the third one.
Imagine my disgust, my horror, my heartbreak, when I find out that they are not together. Both actors are brought back, and yet the characters are not together. Laura Dern is given a combined maybe 7 minutes of screen time in this third film, while Sam Neill is given the rest. Dr. Ellie Sattler, world renowned paleobotanist and dinosaur expert, is relegated to stay-at-home mom, as she’s apparently had kids with another person. Alan hasn’t been in her life for six years?? Did she dump him? She married some other guy and had kids with him?? Alan is just… alone?? Doing digs while other interns flirt in the sand the way he used to do with Ellie????
That might’ve been the worst thing I could’ve heard, and I saw Jurassic World before I saw Jurassic Park 3.
I avoided it, for a long time, knowing that my two favorite characters had been inexplicably broken up. After all that work they’d done throughout the first movie to warm Alan up to the idea of having kids -- something that was clearly what Ellie wanted, with him -- thrown in the trash. I was so annoyed and heartbroken, and content with those feelings, that I knew all I had wanted to know about the third Jurassic Park movie and decided I never had to watch it.
Then, of course, it was playing on TV last weekend as I sat writing and I was exposed to the movie I had wanted to avoid. Granted, I was at least able to snark about it from the comfort of my boyfriend’s couch and from behind my laptop. And once it was over, I was glad to know that yes, the movie was as terrible as I’d been led to believe. The thing was, though, that it probably could’ve been better. If they’d just let Alan and Ellie be together from the beginning, and brought her along for the ride.
I’m not going to pretend to know about any behind the scenes problems that kept Laura Dern from being included in the rest of the film. Maybe she didn’t want to be in the third one (I wouldn’t blame her). Maybe she had scheduling conflicts. Whatever it was, the movie suffered for her absence.
So let’s do a couple rewrites. There’s a copy of the script available here, although which version it is, I don’t know. For the sake of our rewrites, though, it’s good enough. You’ll be able to see the general idea of the original scene, and what I’ve changed because, well this is my dream, dammit.
EXT. SUBURBAN BACKYARD -DAY 4
TWO PLASTIC DINOSAURS enter the frame and do battle accompanied by a child's ferocious sounds.
WIDER TO REVEAL -
CHARLIE, a three-year old boy, plays in a sandbox with his favorite toy dinosaurs. ALAN GRANT squats next to him and watches with great delight.
ELLIE SATTLER-GRANT sits with them, holding an INFANT on her knee — a picture of the perfect family.
Oh, actually, Charlie, those two are herbivores. They wouldn't be interested infighting each other. But these…
(picking up two other dinosaurs)
See, these are carnivores. And this one here — see its claws --this one here uses its claws to gouge at the throat of its opponent…
As Grant demonstrates with some GRUNT and GROANS of his own, Charlie mimics the sounds — trying to be just like Dad as they play.
He's three. Why don't you wait till he's a little older?
(back to Charlie)
He bounces them along the sandbox edge.
Then, the sound of a CAR ENGINE turning off and a door SLAMMING is heard.
That must be Mark.
Mark, we’re back here!
Ellie and Grant stand just in time to see --MARK DEGLER coming through the gate carrying a briefcase. He's their age, handsome but not annoyingly so, with a friendly, balance demeanor. Everyone shakes hands, as Charlie continues to play.
Thanks for coming over, Mark. We know you don’t usually take fundraising pitches from home.
Any chance to share a meal with the famous Doctors Grant. I must’ve read your books countless times. Doctor Grants?
(re: the baby)
Here, let me take her.
Ellie hands off the baby. Alan looks every bit as comfortable holding the infant as he did playing with Charlie.
Shall we head inside? Get this show on the road?
Whatcha got there, buddy?
Mark kneels, eye level with Charlie, picking up a toy dinosaur.
This one’s a carnabore - rawr!
Alan smiles proudly.
That’s it. That’s literally all they could’ve done, to set the tone for the movie and bring the audience up to speed as to what has been happening with them. They were happy, having survived their ordeal on Isla Nublar, still doing their work — only this time they were married and with kids of their own. The kind they were talking about having back in the first movie. We could see how the characters have grown and how they’re still the ones we knew.
Better yet, they could’ve swapped places, with Alan unable to leave his current dig and Ellie getting roped into looking for the lost son of William H. Macy and Téa Leoni. They could’ve appealed to her motherly side instead of pretending to just be yuppies looking for the next big thrill — while Alan is left at home with the kids. She could’ve been the one to lead them through the island, probably even potentially avoiding some of the worse parts because she’s just smarter (Woman inherits the Earth, after all) and they probably would’ve gotten home safely, too. Alan doesn’t even have to save them in the way that Ellie does in the real movie, because for one she probably would’ve called him and he definitely wouldn’t have let a three year old answer the phone. New intern and budget Matthew McConaughey could’ve even been the babysitter while Alan had to go to his actual job.
Of course, there is less conflict in there and conflict is the heart of any good story. The conflict shouldn’t have come from separating these characters that worked so well together.
Now, there’s been the announcement that Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum will all return for the third Jurassic World movie. Of course, who knows if this movie will ever come out due to the pandemic, as it was slated for release in 2021 and according to IMDB is currently filming as of June 2020 (which we can guess is actually not happening). I had already made the decision a long time ago — or rather shortly after waking up having fallen asleep in the second Jurassic World movie — that the only way I would get back to the theater to see it was if they brought back Alan and Ellie and rectified that mistake they made in 2001 by breaking the two of them up.
At this point time will only tell, but I can definitely tell you one thing for sure.
More Laura Dern makes everything better.