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‘Jurassic World’ Is An Above Average Sequel — Math Says So

“Jurassic World” is crushing it. It’s made oodles of money, it’s breaking records left and right, and if the historical credo of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” still means anything, it will be the first of many new dinosaur movies.

I was worried before the movie came out; I have a soft spot for dinosaurs and poorly-thought-out plans for containing them.1 But to my relief, “Jurassic World” isn’t a disappointment, it’s a smash hit by the standards of sequels and reboots — and not just at the box office. The general arc of most franchises, as I said last week, is downward. On average, each new film in a series reduces the franchise’s overall rating by a little more than 3 points on Rotten Tomatoes’ 0-to-100 rating scale. Every time producers go back to the well, it tends to get a little bit drier.2

Here’s what I wrote about how “Jurassic World” might affect the franchise:

It needs to hit a 93 rating to match or beat “Jurassic Park.” I bet my shirt it won’t. But if the film gets a 65 or higher rating on the Tomatometer, it will have a positive satisfaction score, likely satisfying fans who are familiar with the whole franchise. If it gets a Tomatometer score of 82 or higher, it will knock off “Superman Returns” to be one of the 10 best-ever sequels based on this set.

It is now rated a solid 71 on Rotten Tomatoes, so I get to keep my shirt. It’s pulled the aggregate score of the “Jurassic Park” franchise up by 1.5 points, and since a replacement-level sequel would have dragged the franchise score down by 3.2 points, that means “Jurassic World” performed 4.7 points better than expectations. People left the theater satisfied with the quality of the film compared to what came before it, which is essentially the best-case scenario for the fourth installment in a franchise. It’s not one of the best sequels ever, but it certainly leaves us feeling better about the product than “Jurassic Park III” did.

Charlie Jane Anders at io9 and Mark Harris at Grantland have both made really compelling points that this success is maybe bad for cinema in general. That’s probably true.

But the thing is, this isn’t just a movie that made a bunch of money, it’s also a pretty good movie that made a bunch of money. From the perspective of the franchise in general, it bucked the trend and made the series a little better. It broke the string of bad “Jurassic Park” movies. And now maybe Universal will try to make more good “Jurassic Park” movies.

There are worse worlds than that.

And who knows, maybe next time they’ll remember the feathers.

Footnotes

  1. I can only imagine what it’s like to be a business reporter in the “Jurassic Park” universe — another earnings call, another forward-looking statement involving the product massacring tourists on an island (or in California).

  2. There are, of course, exceptions — James Bond has basically found an equilibrium, as have the “Star Trek” movies, and a few franchises, like the “Madagascar” and “Toy Story” movies, have kept relatively stable or even improved consistently.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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