By Joe Boyd
Is Jurassic World the best movie ever made?
Subjectively and artistically, probably not.
But objectively, by at least one very important Hollywood standard, it is indeed the best movie ever made. A few weeks back, Jurassic World, the massive reboot of the popular 1990’s Jurassic Park series, set the all-time record for opening weekend box office with a whopping $524 million worldwide. It beat the domestic record of The Avengers set in 2012 and the international record of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 set in 2011.
In this monthly series, we take a glance at popular culture to see what it may be showing us as about the world we inhabit. An analysis of Hollywood box office numbers isn’t the backbone of this publication, but allow me to suggest a few reasons I believe this movie saw the greatest financial week-one success in cinematic history.
1. Dinosaurs. They’re awesome, but let’s move on.
2. Nostalgia. Hollywood knows nostalgia moves the needle. The vast majority of profitable films are already proven franchises. As a matter of fact, halfway through 2015 only one of the top 10 grossing movies (Dreamworks’s Home) is not based on a previously successful movie, book, or franchise. Jurassic World hit, in part, because aging Gen Xers now have children the same age as when they experienced Jurassic Park in 1993. They want to share this with them.
3. Action. The majority of major breakout films over the last few decades have been action/adventure. Cinematic purists can grow weary of explosions and chases, but the general public obviously loves it. Movies like Birdman and Boyhood get critical acclaim, but can’t come close to the popularity of a summertime action adventure.
4. Chris Pratt. The star of this movie, in my opinion, is ultimately what pushed it over the edge. Put another up-and-coming talent like Channing Tatum in this movie and I’m guessing the take would be 5 to 10 percent less. Pratt is off-the-charts likable.
Last month I wrote in this column about the rise of Jimmy Fallon, citing his secret weapon as likability fueled by authentic joy. Pratt has the same in spades.
5. Experience. For a while it was common to say the advent of digital media would stunt the movie theater experience. In some ways this is true, but certainly not for the big-tent blockbusters. Mark Cuban recently said that creating experiences for people would be the next hottest industry, as people begin to desire to do something “real” outside of their iPhone and computer.
It may be ironic to think of going to a movie as more “real” than the digital world, but it is. Driving to the theater, meeting friends, sharing popcorn, laughing with an audience, feet sticking to the floor . . . these are all communal experiences we crave after days of virtual reality.
So what, if anything, does this say to us? A few thoughts based on the above five observations.
1. More dinosaurs at church. Obviously.
2. Nostalgia matters to people. In church, sometimes we belittle nostalgia by calling it “tradition.” Creating and maintaining meaningful traditions within the church is important. Obviously, there comes a time to change things that no longer work, but as humans, we also desire to exist within a tradition and a local church that has a history. This is why, among other reasons, something as simple as weekly Communion can provide great meaning to people.
3. People want an adventure. We are drawn to action movies in part because we see our lives as boring and predictable. When engaged, the kingdom of God is never boring. The job of the church is to provide the divine adventure we seek.
4. Look for young leaders who possess authentic joy and encourage them. It’s no accident that Chris Pratt is also a follower of Jesus. He’s got something special in him that can’t be overlooked. Women and men as attractive as Pratt are in your community waiting to be set free.
5. The church creates more communal experiences every year than perhaps any other organization. While we should attempt to have a voice in the digital world, our secret advantage in the years to come may be our long tradition of gathering people together every week. People long to be in the same room with others and share life with them. And when they come, it is the job of the church to provide space for God to move.
Joe Boyd is founder and president of Rebel Pilgrim Productions, Cincinnati, Ohio.