One reason 1993’s Jurassic Park became so iconic was the timing of its release. The 1990s saw a growing popular interest in paleontology, particularly among kids. These days, a third grader will rattle off the identities and powers of Marvel superheroes; back then, they were more likely to know the scientific names and relative sizes of dinosaurs.
Any dinosaur-obsessed kid who goes to the new Jurassic World, the fourth film in the franchise and the first in 14 years, might find the movie to be a distressing experience. Not because it’s scary - though there are plenty of boo! moments – but rather because the movie is rather flippant, if not callous, about the suffering of the prehistoric animals on the screen. A lot of dinos die in Jurassic World.
This is somewhat ironic, considering one reason the picture is such a drag is that the action routinely pauses for one character or another to go on and on about how these animals should be respected. (There is also a mourning scene over a dying brontosaurus that’s awkwardly transparent.) Yet such instances are only there to toss a (dinosaur) bone to discriminating audiences, especially considering these moments are at odds with the violent spectacle that defines much of the movie’s action.
The main threat in Jurassic World is a genetically engineered beast that’s been developed in order to draw more visitors to the re-opened theme park. When this “Indominus rex” escapes and goes on a killing spree of humans and dinosaurs alike, the park’s security force responds with an indiscriminate amount of gunfire that leaves countless creatures dead. This all culminates in a climactic dino-battle that is clearly designed to be the film’s signature set piece, but instead left me drained. Various animals, including some we’ve been encouraged to care for, are mauled and maimed in a prolonged and gruesome fight scene.
The movie’s attitude is worth noting, especially as it applies to the idea of stewardship and creation care.
I don’t want to make too big of a stink about this. These are light monster movies at heart and, like Joyce Carol Oates, I get the joke. Plus, if it ever comes down to me or a Velociraptor, I implore you to go ahead and fire away. Yet I do think the movie’s hypocritical attitude is worth noting, especially as it applies to the idea of stewardship and creation care.
Here at TC, we’ve followed a number of stories dealing with the way humanity exercises dominion over animals, whether it’s related to bull running or circus elephants. (Incidentally, we’ve also written about the “woolly idea of reviving extinct species”). Jurassic World had the opportunity to work as a commentary or satire on the way society exploits God’s creatures - there are ripe references to SeaWorld just waiting to be picked. But instead, the movie panders to such notions in its ponderous dialogue, then sets a different tone with its countless deaths.
I understand that there was little chance a mainstream blockbuster like Jurassic World would take any sort of activist stance when it comes to animal rights. And it didn’t need to in order to work as a piece of populist entertainment. (There are other reasons why it fails on that front.) Yet if Jurassic World is a far cry from its ancestor, that’s partly because it’s missing the sense of respectful wonder that defined Jurassic Park. There, the dinosaurs were majestic creatures deserving of awe and astonishment. Here, they’re largely machine-gun fodder.