“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Like the events of 9/11, Jurassic Park changed everything. On June 10, 1993, Steven Spielberg piloted his film into the collective conscious of the world, and we collapsed under the weight of its awesomeness. Before you knew it, politicians had a JP pin on their lapel, and airport security was randomly selecting any man bearing a resemblance to Wayne Knight for additional screening. We came together as a people, united under a common banner, that dinosaurs are awesome.
However if Jurassic Park is indeed 9/11 in this tasteless analogy, then the subsequent sequels are the War on Terror. Long, pointless, and leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of the public at large.
For 14 years the Jurassic Park franchise lay dormant. There were occasional rumors of a new sequel trapped in development hell as actors signed on and off of the project, release dates were constantly pushed back, and scripts when through several rewrites. Still, no one really seemed to care. The public was not clamoring for a sequel, having (presumably) lost loved ones to Jurassic Park 3 and assuming that the magic that made the original Jurassic Park so special was now gone.
That brings us to now to Jurassic World and the question of where it will fall, in terms of quality, into the franchise? Is it even worth watching, or it is just another steaming load of Dino DNA being forced down our throat?
After settling into the seat of an IMAX theater (because I hate money), I admit I was excited. It had been 21 years since I last saw a Jurassic Park movie on the big screen, choosing instead to make it a Blockbuster night with the sequels. After 15 minutes of previews, most of which involved Paul Rudd making bemused faces, the feature began.
This is where the article deviates some from my colleagues. Instead of a review, I wanted to share my thoughts on what message the movie was trying to convey. Thematically, like all Jurassic Park films, there was the Man vs. Nature trope, which was also conveyed in Jurassic World. However, watching the film, the way all the characters, human and dinosaur alike, interacted, I realized what the film was trying to be. It was trying to be an apology.
Each character in the film is wearing two hats. One hat was ostentatious, designed to fill the paint-by-numbers roles that the actors in these films fill; but the other hat, more subtle and tasteful, allowed the characters to address the ways in which the film series had lost its way.
Owen, played by Chris Pratt, fills the role of the badass hero. This role has been trumped up from the previous films, relying more on action and steely gazes than Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, or Nick Van Owen (played by a pre-bloated Vince Vaughn). What Owen also brings back though is a general care and reverence for the dinosaurs that hadn’t been seen since Alan Grant shakily pulled off his sunglasses in Jurassic Park. Owen doesn’t treat the raptors or any of the dinosaurs as the movie monster they’d became over the years, nor does he seem disaffected by them as other characters do. Instead he understands their importance; he fears them, but he also respects them. Owen is embodying the feeling we all shared with the characters of the first film, something to be amazed at but also wary of. His connection with the dinosaurs resonates because it was something that had been lost in these films for so long.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is the operations manager at the park and thoroughly bored and disconnected with the dinosaurs of the park. He character is representative of the average movie goer who feels like the franchise has nothing new for them, and that it’s been run into the ground. It is also worth noting that she spends the majority of the film clad entirely in white, not unlike the outfit John Hammond wore in Jurassic Park. It speaks to how the franchise has been handled, first with amazing love and care like Hammond, then thrown into chaos for the next two films, and then, like Claire, with a sanitized touch. Claire does of course come around and realized the importance of the dinosaurs; that they are not just numbers on a screen but living creatures that demand respect. Perhaps that is also indicative of how the makers of Jurassic World viewed their audience and the dinosaurs as well?
I could go on and on. Ty and Nick, the two obligatory children in the film are representative of this newest generation of Jurassic Park fans, and how they deserve something of their own to love about the series. Hoskins and Dr. Wu, the films “villains” represent those who would continue the series down a comically ridiculous path if it will continue to make them more money. Margarita guy is symbolic of what people will put up with after spending so much money on something they want to enjoy.
Enough about the secondary characters though, what about what’s important? What about the dinosaurs? For simplicity’s sake, lets lump them into two groups, the first being the spectacles. The Mosasauraus (the big shark-eating swimmy one) and the Indominus Rex fill out this category. The Mosasauraus is the definition of spectacle. It’s big, but ultimately pointless. Something to put into movie trailers to grab attention. The series always has something along these lines, but when you trap your spectacle in a large tank of water, there is little it can do to affect the film unless you go to into or to close too its enclosure (exaggerated eye roll). The Indominus Rex is something far more sinister. An amalgamation of your favorite dinosaurs charging across the screen and destroying everything in its path solely because it doesn’t know what to do with itself. Remind you of any movie sequels? The Indominus Rex is indicative of where the franchise could be headed if not brought under control. This could be deadly to the series as whole because, to quote Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, “everybody knows you never go full retard.”
The second group is our classic dinosaurs, represented by the Velociraptors and the T-Rex. The Raptors find themselves in flux between their natural state and being talking Muppets in Alan Grant’s dreams. The Raptors once again have an air of danger and savagery to them, seemingly always waiting for that one mistake that allows them let loose and becoming the movie monster they have been for so long. Instead they are brought back under control by Owen, becoming the methodical and lethal creatures from the first film. Its easy to scoff at the idea of Owen being some kind of raptor wizard, but in the reality of the film, he has only earned enough of their trust for them not to kill him when his is facing them, which is not unlike anyone who works with dangerous animals for a living.
The T-Rex is the ultimate symbol of the classic film. Hell, its still the logo for the park after all these years AND the events in San Diego. At the climax of the film the T-Rex is finally released to deal with all the bullshit its series has been put through. In a scene only seconds long, the T-Rex crashes through the skeleton of a Spinosaurus in a fitting “fuck you” to the third movie and the disrespect shown to the T-rex at the hands of that movie’s spectacle. This is indeed your daddy’s T-Rex, or at least that’s what I can tell my kids because it’s clearly the OG of the series. Old, heavy, and covered in battle scars, it nonetheless moves with speed and strength to reclaim its rightful place as king of the dinosaurs.
While I will avoid spoiling the whole ending for those masochistic enough to read this far, it is a fitting end for a series that has chosen to persevere rather than take the easy way out and do a reboot like so many other franchises. Its not a perfect apology, but then again, what apology is? It’s a chance to begin to rebuild trust and not repeat the mistakes of the past; something that I hope they follow through with. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Is it the cultural milestone that Jurassic Park was? No, it is not, but it lets the viewer know that despite the missteps along the way, nothing can tarnish the legacy of Jurassic Park.