“The American media produce a product of very poor quality. Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it’s sold without warranty. It’s flashy, but it’s basically junk.” – Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton was a visionary because he saw the problems of society as problems society ignored. We are entranced by the glitz and glamor of whatever is being sold to us. Whatever they slap on a lunch box.
Of course none of us start out this jaded. And truly, if you read Crichton’s works through the years, and even his papers and senate speeches, you start to see his hopelessness in the fight against societies problems. Maybe he feels alone. Maybe he feels he is the only one trying. He certainly hopes that “life finds a way.”
In 1993 Jurassic Park discussed a problem that was certainly on the tip of Crichton’s consciousness. He worried about frivolous genetic manipulation. We were entering the age of mainstream genetics. We were learning to clone sheep, to change the color of fish, to create bug resistant crops. Was this progress or was the goal of cloning a Mammoth for amusement the rape of the natural world? Do these living things have rights or are they assets? Dr Henry Wu defends his work. They were never real dinosaurs, they were always a mix of genetics. Today, we allow corporations to copyright genes.
Crichton solves a few problems as well. From a technical standpoint, Jurassic Park should not exist. The prevailing technology at the time was based around Stop Motion – a film trick that had you filming movement one frame at a time. Spielberg, a practical effects enthusiast since he was given to us by the angels, decided this wasn’t good enough.
And it wasn’t. Spielberg took the archaic world we lived in and modernized it causing an evolutionary change in the film industry. Stan Winston, the practical effects master, also made sure these new effects kept their authenticity to the viewer. John Williams, beloved composer, knew that he didn’t have to score every plot point, he was smart enough to understand restraint. Together this team knew Jurassic Park was about the human element. The emotion, the trauma, the suspense, the anticipation. Jurassic Park was based on Michael Crichton’s well researched fear of the future of society. Together they created something industry shaking.
The most common complaint you hear about Hollywood today is there are no new ideas. Hollywood isn’t completely to blame. The years surrounding 2000 were heavy with nostalgia in every form of media. Since then, Hollywood has meandered. Trying 3D again. Attempting gritty reboots and increasing screen resolutions.
Bigger. Better. More teeth. Jurassic World wants to reboot the Jurassic Franchise. And in fact the film does well. Its fun to watch, the dialogue is fun, and its great to see another side of Isla Nublar. Jurassic World reaches its goals at every attempt. But Jurassic World is content. In the context of its time, Jurassic World is an amazing movie, but Jurassic Park is a world shattering movie. Jurassic World was built for the post-Nolan super hero crowd.
Jurassic World then is a sequel to the accomplishment, but not an accomplishment in of itself. Jurassic World is what you get when your business is run by committee and not by the eccentric John Hammond. They stood on the shoulders of geniuses.
Ultimately this was Crichton’s fear, that we as a species would give up innovation for convenience. That we were content with the past and things were good enough. While we live in an age of massive social upheaval in the world, his worries remain true for the film industry. Why should we innovate film when we can outsource our CGI to a Chinese firm for little to nothing. Maybe its an obsolete argument to say that Hollywood should be about art instead of money. But maybe, like the dinosaurs, we should have left this franchise alone as fossil record.
Jurassic World is a great film and is certainly worth your time to see. In all probability, you’ve seen it before you’ve read this. You’re thinking “Golly, he’s awfully critical about this movie” and you’re right. We can enjoy films, art, poetry, and novels. But we have a duty to be critical. To advance as a species we cannot sit still. When art challenges us we must challenge it back. Jurassic Park changed film forever, yet you walked into Jurassic World “not expecting much of anything”. Even more, Jurassic World has set itself up to have a sequel. What are you expecting of it? Setting your expectations low should not be acceptable. Maybe I’m old and jaded now too, but I believe Michael Crichton’s predictions were right.
Take a look back at some Jurassic Park games here.
Look at the story behind the scenes here.