Lately, there has been quite some distrust in the upcoming Jurassic World. I’ve read many comments about how the upcoming sequel doesn’t feel like a worthy addition to the franchise. I can’t promise you that it will end up being great, but I can offer suggestions why it might deserve more of your interest.
Here… or in my bungalow?
Let me just quickly address that ongoing sexism debate first. In case you’re not up to date, Universal recently released a clip of a short conversation between Chris Pratt’s park ranger Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard’s park executive Claire. Joss Whedon then sparked discussions by criticizing the scene as “70’s era sexist”.
I honestly think labeling this scene as questionable goes a little too far. Owen does indeed come off as a dick, but even though he’s buff, sweaty, and repairing a motorcycle during their conversation, he never comes off as a condescending alpha male. Claire is a little uptight, but she’s no cartoony prude. Owen casually asks if she’s interested in having sex with him. He’s obviously not meaning it seriously. Just look at his face. If she agreed to, he wouldn’t really believe it at first. And director/screenwriter Trevorrow does not make us root for Owen being a dick, nor does he want us to root against Claire. Nothing in that scene questionably indicates that sexism is good in any way.
But that’s that. Let’s talk about the possible and presumed quality of Jurassic World itself. Having read dozens of tweets, comments, and message board reactions, existing doubts seem to boil down to the following assumptions (paraphrasing): “Jurassic World is a lazy rehash.” “It’s not offering anything original.” “The new dinosaur attraction just feels like another Spinosaurus.”
Let’s take a look at the three basic plot pillars of Spielberg’s 1993 original:
- artificially creating life out of greed
- arrogantly assuming one might be able to control it
- underestimating the chaos of evolution, then paying for it
Jurassic World actually respects all of those elements and doesn’t just go for repetition. They keep those basic aspects, but put an interesting spin on each of them. The movie is specifically putting an emphasis on ongoing evolution and its consequences, cleverly building from ideas established in the previous movies. Let’s start with the movie’s biggest new attraction: the Indominus rex. There will be slight spoilers ahead, but nothing crucial.
Not just teeth and claws
At first sight, the Indominus rex seems rather lame. It’s just another apex predator that is bigger, meaner, deadlier and more intelligent than the T. rex. I’m not sure whether it will face off with the T. rex – which by the way will be the same T. rex you saw in the 1993 original, according to Jurassic World’s (fake) website. But by being a hybrid, it has some unseen, advanced features. It’s not going to fly a helicopter or hack UNIX computer systems, but its unpredictability should be interesting.
Having the creature is an evolution of two different ideas. On the one hand, it’s the logical next step from a business point of view. The park has been open for ten years now. There are kids who don’t know a world without existing dinosaurs, and all of them have access to thousands of internet video reports. At some point, future generations will simply not care about seeing dinosaurs in the flesh. Creating a brand new attraction makes it interesting again. Going meta, the same goes for Universal’s movie audiences. A fourth Jurassic Park simply has to offer more than Malcom and/or Grant running away from a T. rex and Velociraptors.
On the other hand, the addition of the Indominus’s biological features builds from the first movie. Sitting in the jungle in Jurassic Park, Grant remembered that the dinosaurs DNA had been spliced with frog DNA. As some frogs are able to change genders, it made the gender swap logical. The Indominus DNA has been spliced with those of certain distinctive animals as well, but the creators possibly underestimated the outcome. And it’s not just a threat for the visitors, or the T.Rex. It goes on a killing spree, intending to kill all other dinosaurs on the island. It’s basically decimating the company’s most important assets – the exhibits. The company may be insured against accidental deaths of visitors, but losing all of their specimen could actually bring that billion dollar business to its knees.
More moral questions
The 1993 classic raised the moral question whether it was okay to resurrect extinct dinosaurs (Malcom: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”). It never went much further than that, but it made you think about what else they could have tried to resurrect in the aftermath of this scientific breakthrough. Mammoths? Megalodons*? Neanderthals?
This new entry asks whether it’s okay to invent life. Again, you can expand this to the thought of what else they could be done with that technology. If Project Indominus was a hit, the creators would obviously go and invent even more “attractions” from scratch. Not just dinosaurs. Soon, genetic artists could be creating lifeforms resembling Cthulhu, the Kraken or other mythical creatures. They could decide to create an animal resembling a Xenomorph / T. rex hybrid. It would obviously not be a reality in this new movie’s year 2015, but maybe in 2075. Both The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III didn’t come up with fascinating ideas like that, but this one does.
*Of course I’m aware of the fact that the mosquitoes-from-amber principle would not have worked with prehistoric sharks. Let’s just assume they find additional ways to harvest usable DNA.
An evolution of arrogance
Jurassic Park had the humans losing control on two sides at once. Nedry brought the systems down from the inside. The dinosaurs tricked the humans by overcoming Wu’s ‘females only’ limitation through sheer evolution.
Jurassic World starts off differently. InGen had gloriously failed at running a park during the first two movies, but a new company named Masrani has the park successfully up and running since 2005. Which means they eventually did manage to take control. Then there’s the Indominus which can’t be controlled, and some new, surprising allies. Tamed raptors. Owen’s Raptor Squad could turn out to be as bad an idea as Kelly Malcom’s Gymkata in the second movie, but you gotta admit it’s a ballsy addition. And this too is not coming from nowhere. Having carnivores as allies has been a part of the original’s showdown, with the T. rex gloriously saving the day, and Jurassic Park III had Dr. Grant bluntly communicate with raptors by using a replica of a raptor larynx.
Luckily, Universal stepped down from John Sayles’ proposed concept of gun-wielding, talking raptors resembling the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Trevorrow adds that the raptors are not fully tamed: “Owen’s relationship with the raptors is complicated. They aren’t friends. These animals are nasty and dangerous and they’ll bite your head off if you make the wrong move”. How can you not be curious about this?
We’ve already been drenched in T. rex piss
You know what’s a lazy approach? Jurassic Park III came up with a sloppy idea how to bring back Grant to the island, then just introduced a bigger predator to up the ante. Who of us didn’t die a little inside when the Spinosaurus broke that T. rex’s neck after a twenty-second fight? The movie didn’t really have any substance to offer. It had that ringing phone. It had the terribly corny duo of Téa Leoni and William H. Macy. It had their son drenched in T. rex piss. It had Grant dreaming of a talking raptor. It had that terrible commando ending. It didn’t even run for 90 minutes. I’m not saying that Jurassic World will be good because they can’t have created something worse than Jurassic Park III. What I do say is that the new movie has a lot more potential than Joe Johnston’s sequel ever had.
I can appreciate that and gladly take new concepts such as the Raptor Squad or the Indominus rex over a save, boring concept such as ‘Malcom and/or Grant and a bunch of red shirts go back to the island because of reasons, cue raptors’ – and you should too.
Of course, all of this only works if your expectations are in check. This is obviously not going to be another eye-opening, breath-taking milestone of cinema. You’re not going to shit the same amount of bricks you shat when you saw the iconic T. rex scene for the very first time. That is not going to happen, at least not with Jurassic Park Part Four. But if you’re okay with solid sequels such as Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Alien: Resurrection, this might be worth a shot. Sure, feel free to Gennaro me if this turns out to be really, really bad. I know life will find a way. Here, or in my bungalow.
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