Polygon's Ben Kuchera wrote an opinion piece last week titled, "Why Jurassic Park is one of the best action films ever (and how the sequel seems to flub it)." You can read it here; in fact, I urge you to do so before continuing here because I will reference it a few times.
Kuchera provides a really interesting summation of why the original Jurassic Park works so well, but I think he may be missing the obvious in assessing what we know about Jurassic World. If you somehow haven't seen the trailer, you can watch it here. He argues that the sequel is so far off of the original that there's essentially little-to-no hope that it will regain any of the franchise's former glory. I'd argue that it might be much closer to the mark than he gives it credit.
In a way, the new film appears to be a return to form for the series. In a touching scene in Jurassic Park, after the park has gone awry and most of the characters are dead, injured, or lost on the island, Mr. Hammond laments the mistakes he realizes he's made in his current park and immediately looks to a future in which he fixes them all.
In Jurassic World, we're seeing history repeat itself in far grander fashion. The park is open, it's bigger than originally planned, a lot more people are there, and it seems to be working. If the second and third films were explorations of the continued consequences of the first film's disaster, then this fourth foray is perhaps the most direct continuation of Mr. Hammond's vision. Fittingly, though, "life finds a way," and that power is definitely "out" again.
This brings us to Kuchera's first big argument: if three movies have already shown the characters in this world that dinosaur encounters never end well, then "Just don't go the island. Problem solved." It's not that simple, though, because the events of the first three films have made the renewed existence of dinosaurs public knowledge and humans are inherently greedy. Oh, and as the continued production of these very films prove, people love dinosaurs.
With technology improvements over time, it's no wonder that someone would feel compelled to go back and try to make the park work a second time with better fences, tighter security, less automation, and every other prevent-a-second-Nedry-incident protocol you can imagine. There's no way corporations would be able to resist the urge to try to make a park like this work when the earnings potential would be so great.
And, really, hasn't LOST shown us that people can't stay away from a damn island?
Even going beyond that, the original featured humans messing with genetics to bring back an extinct ecosystem; these were scientists messing with the natural order of things. As Dr. Malcom put it, "Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet's ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that's found his dad's gun." It stands to reason that the next logical step is not more re-creation, but truly new creation—which gives Jurassic World some close thematic ties to Jurassic Park.
In Kuchera's piece, he opines, "there's almost no hope that it will recapture the magic of the original film, due to the strange need of the creative team behind the movie to create a villain — a villain that's a monster created by messing with the DNA of existing dinosaurs." While the need to create a monster may be "strange," it's true to human nature. By featuring a new hybrid dinosaur, the admittedly-goofily-named Indominus Rex, the film shows exactly what would happen if a dinosaur theme park started operating legitimately: the marketing team would demand that R&D work on creating new and better attractions after the "regular" dinosaurs were yesterday's news.
Whether they can use this new animal/monster/villain to good effect has more to do with the writing and plot points than it does with whether the "big bad" is certified organic. The filmmakers, of course, run the risk of overdoing special effects, giving this new creature unrealistic powers, or simply veering too far in the Michael Bay direction; but the dinosaur being a lab-grown cocktail blend doesn't need to be the movie's fatal flaw.
Kuchera's article goes on to argue, "The further the sequels moved away from this idea of the dinosaurs as animals and humans as the invader, the weaker they became." This certainly holds water, especially when considering the end of The Lost World in which the T. Rex runs rampant through a city, a failed homage to Godzilla. However, the whole movie up to the point is really much better than its ending and does feature humans as the invaders: whether they were there to study, photograph, or even capture dinosaurs, they clearly weren't welcome. The third movie may have lacked some heart, but it held true to this theme.
In Jurassic World, though, the material almost moves even closer to treating the dinosaurs as animals: they're finally in a working zoo, after all! It remains to be seen how wrong things go; but, by having thousands of people invading the space of these animals, I'm hopeful that the new film will finally give the franchise some new territory to explore that it hasn't had since about two-thirds of the way through The Lost World.
Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but I'm holding out hope that the film's writers have considered the scenes that made the original movie work.
They need to set the stage, get you invested in the characters, and bring back some of the wonder and awe of these prehistoric creatures, all while growing tension. They need to let things go wrong slowly, not all at once. They need to focus on people surviving against the odds (although, on this front, I'm already concerned about Chris Pratt's pack of velociraptors). And they need really memorable adventure set pieces (you'll never forget the car in the tree or the kitchen showdown).
I don't know if they can do all this without the movie feeling derivative; I also don't know if the movie can strike balance between nostalgia and newness if it doesn't do these things. They might be between Scylla and Charybdis, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll chart a safe enough passage through the treacherous waters.