I watched Jurassic World this past week, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Of course, the constant flow of posts about the film and the persistent marketing doesn’t make it easy to forget. While I have some criticisms to share about the story, I must say this movie is fucking bad ass. It’s no surprise this movie is doing so well. (Most successful opening of all time!) It promised big scary dinosaurs, stupid humans who will never learn, and a thrill-ride reminiscent of the first film we all fell in love with, and it delivered.
First, a little bit of geekiness. As I sat waiting for the film to start in the theatre, I felt supper giddy as I realized what I was about to see. I was only three when Jurassic Park came out, and I vaguely remember watching it for the first time at my aunt’s house maybe a year or two later. I don’t think I watched it all the way through until I was in eighth grade, when we watched it in science class after our genetics unit was finished. That either sparked or happened in the midst of my Michael Crichton phase. He has been one of my favourite authors ever since, and I’ve read Jurassic Park several times. It is just as scary with every read through, and I think the film is on par with the amount of terror I feel watching it. I admit I still have dinosaur nightmares, and I’m 25. But anyway, I thought about how I had been too young to see the first film in theatres, so I just got super excited to see the park open in such an environment. And when the camera carried the audience through the Jurassic World gates as John Williams’ classic theme (which never gets old, unless you listen to this cover) blasted through the speakers, I nearly cried from excitement.
A bit much, I know, but if you have seen the earlier films and/or read the book, don’t tell me you didn’t wish that the park would have survived, that you didn’t secretly wish a park like that could open for real. If I knew everything would be safe, I would want such a park. Of course, the unpredictability of such a thing, and the rules of chaos theory, is the main point of the Jurassic Park franchise that is driven home time and time again, but it was amazing to see the park as John Hammond envisioned it: booming, safe, and successful. Twenty-three years later, we have the technology to make this park look like it actually exists with better special effects (although, Jurassic Park’s effects still look amazing) but it exists with a sense of foreboding, as we know it’s only a matter of time before tragedy hits the park once again.
Let me just say now that as excited as I was for the release of Jurassic World, I didn’t set very high expectations. I wanted and expected a fair amount of nostalgia mixed in with awesome-looking dinosaurs, and the terrifying thrill of watching said dinosaurs destroy a park because humans will never learn to leave well enough alone with animals that don’t belong in our world. I wasn’t expecting a really well-thought out, original story. Many people (myself included at first) before the movie was released were not enthusiastic about a fourth film, often saying something like, “Really? Another Jurassic Park movie? Didn’t they try that and fail? More than once?” And yes, but is it really that far-fetched to think that if something of this magnitude was possible 20 years ago that there wouldn’t be scientists working to perfect it and try new things with it? If you fail, try, try again, right? It’s what we do, so it’s not so unrealistic to think that if the science existed, that creating dinosaurs could happen, that we would and should try to perfect it. (Neil Degrasse Tyson basically says something of the sort in this short video with Bill Nye.) And really, all that happened in the first film was that very basic technology failed for a brief moment. If the storm hadn’t knocked out the electricity and the back-up generators had kicked in properly (or if Hammond had taken care of his employees), the park probably would have opened. Although had it opened, the scientists probably would have soon learned that they wouldn’t be able to contain their creations much longer with the whole dinosaurs-having-babies-in-the-wild thing. Why they thought it best to make all female dinosaurs is beyond me. 1) Don’t mix DNA from amphibians that can act as both male and female organisms in order to procreate. 2) If you must use said DNA, then make the dinosaurs males so that it is at least a little difficult for the animals to evolve so quickly and be able to procreate. Anyway, on to Jurassic World—some spoilers ahead! (Although the previews pretty much tell the whole story.) I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of what happens when an unpredictable, genetically modified dinosaur gets loose in a park of thousands of people…
“‘Monster’ is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.” –-Henry Wu, Jurassic World
I’m not going to talk about Claire’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) high heels. Owen Brady (Chris Pratt) calls her out on it in the film, and there’s a whole online debate you can follow if you care. The couple of things that got me thinking critically are more plot-related.
One, even though this new dinosaur, the Indominous Rex, was a top secret creation, it blows my mind that they wouldn’t have had better plans to take care of it if it ever did get loose, or if it did not grow up to be the dinosaur they expected. Yes, it’s bigger than a T-Rex (and apparently smarter and made of more resilient and diverse DNA), but it should not be invincible. I mean, why don’t they inject their dangerous dinosaur “assets” with a tranquilizer or cyanide pill that they can release remotely? Or, have more than one helicopter and more than one pilot. OR, don’t have people on the ground hunting something the size of a small house. That is something they should have learned by now. The first movie they weren’t as prepared for escapes, but the park wasn’t open yet. This park had 20 years to practice dealing with large game. I understand the point that they invested billions of dollars into creating this creature, so by all means, protect it, but if you’re going to invest billions into one creature, you’ve no doubt invested three times that if not more into the actual creation and upkeep of the park, and part of the fortune spent creating the Indominus Rex should have been preparing for more effective security measures. I mean, top secret or no, was there NO ONE during the planning process that didn’t simply ask, “How do we make sure we can promise the safety of all visitors and staff with a dinosaur that we know nothing about? We will lose everything if something goes wrong with this experiment. What measure can ensure we don’t have another catastrophe like John Hammond?” Not everything can be planned for, but I don’t know if the T-Rex had gotten out if they would have been able to get it back in its paddock without any loss of life based on how they attempted to get the Indominus Rex under control.
Second, Owen Grady is an ex-Navy guy who has bonded with a small pack of velociraptors (which, let’s be honest, were the stars of the film) since birth. I’m assuming this is several years in the making and was probably happening when the Indominus Rex was being created. I can’t remember what the Indominus Rex timeline was, but there had to be some overlap with an animal trainer being there while this other thing was being engineered, bred, fed, and left to grow to be 50 feet long. If the park pays someone to learn about nasty creatures like velociraptors, wouldn’t they think it worth considering consulting with someone like Grady before the dinosaur is an adult and ready to be shown to the park?
Of course, fixing these points wouldn’t make for a very exciting movie, and maybe this is more of a criticism on how humans can be extremely stupid at times. In short, it seemed like the different executives and engineers and technicians all do their own thing at Jurassic World and there is little to no communication between what everyone does. Had there just been one meeting of all the different experts sitting down to discuss potentially creating a new dinosaur, concerns about extra safety measures, captivity environment, and such would have been a bit more fleshed out, and many lives would have been saved.
And three, the other dinosaurs like the Mosasaurus (or “fish monster” as I called it before I knew its name) and pterodactyls added some interesting dynamics and I was super pumped to see the sea beast on the big screen, but they must underfeed all their dinosaurs because whenever a carnivore gets free, they try to eat people, and lots of them. It might be considered cruel, but perhaps the carnivores should be overfed so they’re slow and lethargic and not hungry when a human meal is an option. The pterodactyl attacks were kind of ridiculous. It made for an intense 10 minutes or so, flying around hitting people and playing with them. It was kind of scary and that poor young lady… technically she was a staff member, but it felt like she was the first and only “civilian” loss. Again, if the animals were fed properly, maybe they would have just flown up and away instead of wreaking havoc and trying to steal people and their margaritas. There just seemed to be a little too many dinosaurs attacking humans after awhile.
Also, the Mosasuarus twist at the end? A little too crazy for me, but it made me think about a possible double meaning for the movie title. It’s not just talking about the park; it helps drive home the point of not interfering with nature (beyond what the park did in the first place). The creatures of the Jurassic period (and other periods, because let’s face it, they’re from all different eras) don’t take kindly to crazy genetically engineered creatures that upset their natural order in their park.
All in all though, I loved this movie and I’ll be seeing it again. It deserves the big opening week it had. It brought to life a new, credible–albeit frustrating–story of humans with a god complex, new and old dinosaurs, nostalgic nods to the first blockbuster film, thrilling chase scenes, gruesome deaths, comic relief, human greed and corruption, and subtle messages for all mankind. The effects of 1993 were awesome; the effects of 2015 are fucking amazing. The dinosaurs don’t look much different on screen, but the ability to have them in more shots, and to even have their point-of-views was wonderful. I’ve read that more Jurassic movies will happen, and maybe the franchise should take a lesson from what they’ve been preaching. This kind of thing just won’t work. Dinosaurs and humans can’t mix. And sometimes four movies is enough. Knowing when to end a story (that in my opinion has no good path to pursue at this point) is sometimes more beneficial than milking interest that will soon run dry. Jurassic III was lame, and speculations that this movie would be bad were there, but the writers and producers were smart and tapped into the love of the first film and nailed this new film. Jurassic IV for the win! But now it’s time to leave it be and put this park to rest for good.
If you’re looking for an original story that will awe you, this isn’t it. But that’s not the point of the film. If you like Jurassic Park and want to experience renewed excitement in a nostalgic idea and story, then watch this film. If you don’t expect it to blow you away, it will be a thrilling cinematic experience that actually might end up blowing you away. If you wait until it comes out on DVD, make sure to turn off the lights and crank up the surround sound so you feel every earthshaking step and nasty roar of the Indominus Rex.