So, I recently watched the three Jurassic Park movies over, having not seen them in a while. They were on TV so I was able to watch them close together. It had me thinking about Jurassic World, since the next one of those films is coming up and the hype train has been rolling with the news that Jeff Goldblum would be involved.
I wanna set this up with the fact that I am a HUGE Jurassic Park fan. I grew up on those movies, first seeing them at an age where every kid is obsessed with dinosaurs to a degree. Over my life, I’ve watched these films tons of times, learned many of the lines and use them in normal conversations, because I am a totally cool person and not weird in any way. My first time going to the Jurassic Park area of Universal Studios was like reaching El Dorado, despite the awkward looks received when one loudly states “man, if only people were actually in danger of getting eaten alive, that would be swell” because blah blah a twelve year old should keep those kinds of thoughts inside blah blah what’s wrong with you.
So as with many fans, I was stoked to hear Jurassic Park was coming around again with Jurassic World. I was happy they ditched the original script, which involved dino-human cloning and some sort of hidden commando/anti-terrorism group. First time I saw it, I was blown away, mainly due to the fandom blinders I had on. However, the more distance I got from this initial reaction, the more I was ultimately unimpressed with the final product.
Now, this isn’t a review. I’m not really in the market to review movies that are two years old. Ultimately, I enjoyed Jurassic World. Had some good moments for sure, but I just left missing something. As a huge fan, this bothered me. I couldn’t quite grasp what this gap was. The movie wasn’t perfect, sure, with cringey dialogue moments, over-dramatic cinematography, a female character that just refuses to lose the damn heels, etc. But none of these things explained away what my brain was trying to get at. It’s like I had a problem but just couldn’t entirely grasp where I was coming from.
Well, having watched the Park trilogy, I have finally realized the major issue in the first installment in what I guess we could call the World franchise: The dinosaur was the damn villain.
In absolutely all the Jurassic Park movies, people are getting munched by dinosaurs like its human happy hour at Dino Sonic. Little British girls, Samuel L Jackson, The clown from Air Bud, maniacal Newman, everybody is a target for these garsh darned mean ol’ dinos. Except, that’s what happens when, as humans, we place our delicious fleshy meat-bag selves on an island with some of the most killing-machinest predators the world has seen. These creatures are essentially teeth and claws delivery devices. Just muscle and hunger. They can’t be blamed for eating these weak little creatures that spend most of the time being like “woah wuh is that a terplopasaurus?” even while their organs are being chomped like Beefaroni. The danger in these films is definitely the dinosaurs, but the are NOT the villain. Smart, sure. Badass, definitely. Sometime conniving, of course. But they only do what they do because they want to eat and we are just so damn delicious. Or we’re stupid and steal their damn eggs, BILLY.
The actual villain in these movies has been humanity. Messing with nature, attempting more control than we are capable, not looking before we leap. The people in these films are in these situations because of the weaknesses of mankind. Greed, pride, vengeance, ignorance. Our weaknesses are what puts these characters in the danger and lays out the Ponderosa buffet for these animals. The movies place our shortcomings against the backdrop of these prehistoric marvels that lack all these emotional and mental complexities in the name of survival. They hunt, eat and survive. In the end, it shows that for all of mankind’s achievements, our complexity as organisms is a hindrance in the face of basic survival.
Then Jurassic World comes around and, wait…
Alright, then Jurassic World comes around and brings us the Indominus Rex, a genetically spliced wonder of a beast designed to be a scary badass and increase sales (a little meta, dontcha think). They breed this thing, give it essentially super powers, and then lock it in a tight cage and point and laugh. In the movie, they make a point to show how smart this creature is, giving it a level of sentience not seen in other dinos in these movies. So when this genetic Frankenstein’s monster gets out and starts killing people, it’s mankind’s fault right? Almost. Then they have scenes showing dead dinos that the I-Rex killed for fun. They spent a serious amount of time having dialogue paint this creature as the dinosaur world’s first serial killer, including the fact that this dino committed cannibalism on her sibling IMMEDIATELY after hatching, well before she would have been tainted by the confined space. And yeah,
Andy Owen gets plenty of “you did this you created it my pecs are sad” moments a la Ian Malcolm. And fine, there’s the whole “the psychiatrist from SVU is up to no good” angle. But ultimately this film wants you to know that Indominus is NOT normal, NOT able to be a part of the dino world and NOT allowed to live, ultimately making the I-Rex the FIRST and ONLY main antagonist dino to be killed in a Jurassic movie (not kidding, think about it: T-rex from 1, T-Rexes from 2, Spino from 3). The fact that it is the dinosaurs that end up doing Indominus in just furthers the whole “THIS DINO IS BAD, GUYS” thing that they want us to digest.
Though this really deviates from the nature vs man thing, it was almost redeemable in a very crazy way. So, as Indominus is out reeking more havoc than Bam Margera at home, the humans are slowly uncovering what sort of genes were spliced into this dino. Cuddlefish DNA helps her camouflage and get the Viet Cong drop on some of the coolest characters in the movie. Tree Frog DNA helps her hide her heat signature from various sensors, facilitating her escape. Spearmint DNA gives her that fresh, delightful aroma. This all culminates at a point where
Emmet Owen takes his Raptor pals and token black friend that should have had way more lines out into the jungle to hunt Indominus. They find the beast and Indominus is able to turn Mr. Mom’s little pals right around to attack their former masters. At this point it is revealed that Indominus has one final bit of DNA spliced in, possibly the smartest and worst that it could have. Something that perhaps helped drive her need for escape and her lust for blood and power. Star-Lord Owen is disgusted when he makes the connection. “How could they?!? A POX ON ALL SCIENCE AND THOSE WHO CHALLENGE GOD!!!” he shouts to the sky, or he would have were there not a Raptor bearing down on his jugular. Throughout the movie we’ve seen Indominus exhibit abhorrent traits such as, well…
……RAPTOR DNA! OF COURSE!
A shame really. The character and much of the film would have been saved if the writers had just dedicated, dove into the mess of a script that was the original Jurassic Park 4 and made the Indominus spliced with humans to some degree. The thing doesn’t then have to get up, start singing and Michigan J. Frog her way off camera, but come on. That would have been a much more delightful reveal, that they tweaked bits of human DNA into the creature, explaining its cognitive abilites, its problem solving, its cruelty and villainy. Now we’re back to the Man-In-Prehistoric-Nature motif of the first films while simultaneously making the people behind the science seem MUCH worse. Not only are they bastardizing prehistoric nature, but the are dragging the human genome, something we view as sacred, into the whole mix. We suddenly know how it feels to be the dinosaurs, to have some scientist taking the building blocks of our entire species and playing with them, focusing so much on if they could that they never stop to think if they should.
With human DNA, Indominus becomes an extension of us, and an extension of those weaknesses mentioned above. The problem and villain remains human, but we’re shown just the drastic lengths this villainy can go. I feel this would have revived this film, all other qualms with acting/writing/cinematography aside, because at the very least it would have shared a tone with the original films and therefore kept the motif rolling into a new franchise while making the overall tone more modern.
Oh well, let’s hope Jeff….uh Goldblum…… uh can…………….can find a way.