Jurassic World Review
When the original Jurassic Park came out, I was obsessed with it. I watched it numerous times. I had some Jurassic Park comic books. I had dreams about it. I even wrote a fanfic…Jurassic Mall. In this story, as the name suggests, a shopping mall featured dinosaurs…which inevitably escape and eat people. Interestingly, the dinosaurs preferred to eat bearded people. Despite this past obsession, when I saw that a new Jurassic movie was coming up, I wasn’t excited. The previews looked terrible. The velociraptors are on our side? Really? There is a giant genetically modified super dinosaur? There is a velociraptor whisperer character? Ugh.
Well, I saw it anyway. And…I liked it! Here is why:
I liked the premise about the genetically modified dinosaur. As a business, the park was aware that consumers want larger, more exciting attractions. This notion touches upon a couple of interesting concepts. The first is the notion of bigger and better. Obviously, as a sequel itself, the movie must be “bigger and better” than the original. To this end, the movie includes a bigger threat (the GMO dinosaur) and the park has a bigger attraction (again, the GMO dino). In this way, the movie is self-aware of the bigger, better sequel phenomenon. Where are the roots of bigger and better? Is this a part of Western narratives that range from the adventures of Odssysus following the Trojan War to Ultron after Loki’s failed attempt to subjugate earth? I don’t want to make a narrative about narratives, as “the sequel” may or may not culminate into a bigger story. At least in many recent movies and stories there is a culmination that each subsequent story must be bigger in some way than the last. It reminded me of an article I read in grad school by Gottchalk called “Hypermodern Consumption and Megalomania.” Hypermodernity is described as intense, instant, urgent, and excessive consumerism. I will not waste time exploring if we are in a postmodern society or hypermodern society or if these things really even matter (as certainly there is a lot of modernism and even pre-modern institutions, ideas, and economic relationships governing the lives of individuals). For the purpose of the review, consider hypermodernity as an adjective rather than a political position regarding the struggle against capitalism. With that said, hypermodern consumption is described as more self-gratifying than status expressing. That is, people go to Jurassic World for the emotional experience rather than the status it grants them. Gottchalk also argued that there is a certain megalomania in the language of most advertisement, inasmuch as ads use superlatives such as biggest, best, most and obsess over quantities of time and space. This was evident in the film through the counting of dinosaur teeth (we need more teeth) or the general notion of more (more cool, bigger, scarier, etc.) The “Indominus Rex” really captured the linguistics of megalomania in advertisement. So, in this way, the film captured a dominant theme of consumerism and advertisement.
The film also raised issues about authenticity. Dr. Wu in the film pointed out that all of the dinosaurs are genetically modified and that if they weren’t, they would look much different. In this sense, nothing in the park is real. The Indominus Rex is just less authentic. Authenticity does not matter in the amusement park as people are there for the experience and what they experience becomes real. Again, this reminds me of some old sociology reading from grad school from Baudrillard (I believe) regarding Las Vegas. In that environment, Cesar’s palace, pyramids, the Eiffel tower, etc. are not historical places (or people). To the people who see them they become as real as the originals. These monuments are divested of their original meaning and become authentic as simulacra. So, in the park the dinosaurs do not have to have feathers or bear any scientific accuracy to the original. They become reality. Interestingly, the dinosaurs of the film are also our reality for how dinosaurs are experienced. While I was in China, I visited a museum where I saw dinosaur fossils with ashy black feather imprints. The reality of dinosaurs is more like this than those of the film. Like the visitors to the park, film dinosaurs become the reality…and really, this reality is preferable to authenticity (a downy dinosaur might not thrill in the same way a more reptilian one does).
Beyond this hodgepodge of authenticity, megalomania, and consumerism, the film does touch on some old time themes (such as fear of science and the creation of monsters that turn on us). A person could view the film as having an anti-GMO message. After all, the movie touches on the privatization of life (a corporation owns the dinosaurs) and some fears of GMOs. For example, one fear regarding GMOs is that they cannot be contained. Because corn is wind pollinated for up to a two mile radius, Monsanto corn can contaminate other types of corn (reducing biodiversity and resulting in legal troubles for “stolen” property). The Indominus Rex is four miles from other attractions, but escapes its cage and goes on a rampage. The island itself is off the coast of Costa Rica. If the dinosaurs escaped, this would wreak havoc upon not only human life but the animals, plants, reptiles, and birds of the tropics. However, because this life is also capital, no one wants to destroy the dinosaurs because this is destroying money. So, even as the Indominus Rex is clearly a threat there is a hesitance to stop it. Instead, other dinosaurs are used to try to stop the Indominus Rex. In real life, this doesn’t work out well. The cane toad was used in Australia to fight the cane beetle, but became an invasive species itself. Likewise, the rosy wolf snail was introduced to Hawaii to stop the invasive giant African snail, but decided instead to attack endemic Hawaiian snails. But, since this was a move…the T-rex, surviving velociraptor, and mosasaur team up together and stop the Indominus Rex. Nevertheless, they part ways…perhaps going on to cause their own trouble elsewhere.
Otherwise, I liked the nostalgia of the movie (with continuity with the other film, a visit to the old park’s visitor center, old vehicles, Jeff Goldblum images, similar dinosaurs, and a Jurassic Park T-Shirt). I also like that the movie was filmed in a similar fashion, so that the movie has a 90s feel with bright lighting, bright colors, dark jungle, and out of focus shots (not everything is digitally crisp).
There are some parts of the movie that are pretty ridiculous and the characters are not as likeable as those from the original film. Some parts are quite satisfying, such as the sudden death of the Simon Misrani the owner of the park and Vic Hoskins the head of security. The raptor bond to Owen Grady was a little silly and the final dinosaur battle was obviously not the most likely outcome of three dinosaurs meeting in a park in the dark. I wasn’t thrilled with career woman Clair’s longing for children. However, I was seated in a theater with children behind me…one of whom decided it would fun to kick the back of my seat and make commentary. The kid eventually did stop kicking my seat and actually cried when the Apatosaurus died (kids…so terrible and sweet). Still, as an audience member I felt that Clair should find children half as annoying as I did in that moment. As a whole, I enjoyed the film and found it more thoughtful than the previews suggested.