Franchises fail for any number of reasons, from creative burnout to stories well past their expiration date.
They can collapse under different circumstances today, something studios rarely see until it’s too late.
All four films failed to varying degrees. Each represented a step in Hollywood’s woke evolution. “Dark Fate” hung its marketing campaign on its female leads, for example, not the aging superstar who embodies the franchise.
“Charlie’s Angels” jettisoned the sexuality and silliness of the source material for stern empowerment beats. Even Slate.com noticed the difference.
Might “Jurassic World Dominion” learn this lesson the hard way?
The June 10 release marks the sixth film in the mega-franchise, and box office experts predict it will soar past the $400 million mark stateside, at the very least. The franchise’s new players, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are joined by the trio who anchored the 1993 original – Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum.
That’s enough star power and nostalgia to fuel any Hollywood success story. Except Variety wants everyone to know there’s much more to “Dominion” than old friend and new dinosaurs.
The far-Left site’s “cover story” on the sequel details all the ways “Dominion” is feminist to the core. You have three strong, empowered starlets (Dern, Howard and newbie DeWanda Wise (TV’s “She’s Gotta Have It”), for starters.
The feature focuses on that trio, pushing Neill, Goldblum and Pratt to the periphery. That’s just the start of the feminist lectures, both in the article itself and, in theory, “Dominion.”
The headline does a neat peek into the future, declaring the film’s three female leads “Summer’s Breakout Action Stars” weeks before the movie opens.
The woke lectures have only begun.
We learn far too much about a single line Dern uttered in the 1993 “Jurassic Park” (“Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth”). That feminist riposte that gets more than a dozen paragraphs in the article.
Director Colin Trevorrow, the man behind the franchise’s recent sequels, previously showed his woke side via a teaser photo from the film’s set.
(Did Chris Pratt get paid the same as the guy who becomes dinosaur food in Act II?)
Now, he’s teasing Variety that Wise, a black actress playing a bisexual character in the sequel, may be the franchise’s new face.
“It was very important to introduce a new hero who could potentially define the future of this franchise,” director Colin Trevorrow says of Wise’s character. “We’ve had the opportunity to hopefully make someone that young girls are going to be dressing up as at Halloween for years to come.”
Couldn’t they dress up like Dern or Howard? And is Trevorrow going to hand off a massive franchise to Wise without any sense of her character connecting with audiences (yet)?
Next, we’re told the new generation of “Jurassic” women could be a Mary Sue invasion — flawless females ready to bore audiences with their perfection.
Ellie laid the groundwork for the “Jurassic” women who’ve followed — who are as compassionate as they are capable; desirable yet never the “sexy scientist” trope; and, above all, quick-witted, clever and not afraid to get up to their elbows in dinosaur dung.
Next, Variety gives us a lecture on why it’s important her character is bisexual but not part of the “strong black woman trope.”
Does this sound like an exhilarating summer movie or a Gender Studies assignment?
We even get the expected finger wag at anyone who recoils at all this wokeness.
But there have been haters. A small but vocal group of trolls criticized the casting [of Wise] as “woke.”
“As soon as you put a woman, a Black woman, a woman of color, or a person of color on screen, it has, to whomever, a connotation,” Wise says. “Whether they know the story yet or not, I’m inherently politicized. I know that.”
Remember when trolls lashed out at Billy Dee Williams in the “Star Wars” saga? Or Samuel L. Jackson? It didn’t happen. Audiences recoil at woke machinations, not the color of an actor’s skin.
Just don’t call any of this “woke,” Variety and Dern warn us. The actress, who famously dressed down the most charismatic hero in “The Last Jedi” for no good reason other than, “Patriarchy Bad!,” won’t have it.
Emily Carmichael, a co-screenwriter on the film, then shares more of the film’s woke intentions.
And all the women got their chance to shine. “There’s a moment where Ellie has to grab [Chris Pratt’s] Owen and pull him up, so it’s her saving him,” Carmichael says. “I was standing next to Bryce by the monitor, and she nudged me and said, ‘Let’s normalize seeing this on screen.’ And I was like, ‘Bryce, you’re looking at the future, and I see it with you.’”
Two questions remain.
One, will a woke “Dominion” hurt the film’s box office tally? Almost nothing will stop the sequel from crushing the competition. But we’ve seen woke sequels come up short of expectations, even those that don’t officially torch their franchises.
The perfect example is “Star Wars.” The 2015 film “The Force Awakens,” which brought the saga back to the big screen, earned an astounding $936 million domestically. The woke sequel, “The Last Jedi,” generated $620 million.
Two, just how woke is the film itself? Actors routinely talk up the wokeness of their work, but it doesn’t always reflect the material itself.
The perfect example? “No Time to Die.”
The 2021 Bond adventure found the cast and crew blasting the “Bond girl” conceit, extolling the “new” 007 and describing the super spy as reborn for a new age.
The actual film avoided most woke pitfalls, however. (It also underperformed stateside).
The crew responsible for “Jurassic World Dominion” may not care if the woke flourishes impact the box office receipts. They’ve got a culture war to fight, and that matters as much as the bottom line.
If not more.