The Films of 2015: Jurassic World
It's so easy to forget that.
Every single Jurassic Park film in history has concerned adults learning to parent children in their custody (if not their actual, biological progeny). The character who undertakes that journey in Jurassic World happens to be a woman. Her name is Claire Dearing, and she is played by Bryce Dallas Howard.
Instead, Claire steps up to take responsibility -- a key philosophical touchstone of the franchise -- in a pressure cooker situation. She takes responsibility for the children she must protect, and for the park that has gotten out of control.
She undertakes her parental responsibilities, just as Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and even the Kirbys (Tea Leoni, William H. Macy) all undertook the same journey in their respective dino adventures.
So why repeat the kids, parents and dinosaur mix?
This is a span in which something on our personal screens is always more interesting than what is actually in front of our noses in the real world.
If successful, he believes velociraptors can be utilized in combat situations.
In both cases, we have made “children,” and believe it is our right to control their destinies. They (dinosaurs and human children) are extensions of us, here for our pleasure and happiness, and governed by the rules we lay down.
For example, the Indominus Rex has been raised in isolation, without socialization, and Owen points this fact out to Claire. She replies sarcastically that the dino “needs a friend” and that maybe the park should “schedule a play date.”
This idea is mirrored in the Mitchell family. Gray and Zach have not been told by their parents that they are planning to get divorced. Instead, Mom and Dad have retained lawyers and are taking steps to dissolve the family, but they have not informed the ones most impacted by their decision; their own progeny.
Again, is that any way to parent?
It is, but it's abundantly selfish.
Those animals, as noted above, are termed “assets.”
That sure makes them sound like things, not living creatures, doesn’t it?
And it's easier to control a thing, than a person, or an animal.
And indeed, this is why the movie is not in any way sexist. Claire -- at the start of the movie -- is already a bad mother or parent (like Victor Frankenstein, to provide a prominent literary example). Her children, however, are not human, but dinosaurs. She treats them no better than her sister treats Zach and Gray. She moves assets around, but she takes no responsibility for the "life" under her authority.
So one can't claim that Claire yearns to be a mother in the movie, as she undertakes her journey with her sister's kids. On the contrary, she is a mother from the word go.
Instead, Claire learns to be responsible in her motherhood as she undertakes her journey. See the difference, and why it is significant?
But when those profits falls, the dinosaurs are blamed. Claire notes, for instance, that “nobody’s impressed with a dinosaur anymore.”
That the children are not good enough. That the assets have somehow failed their parents.
Only a new child, one better than the old children, can fill the void.
The whole idea is that a “normal” dinosaur no longer does it for park visitors. They're bored.
They need the next fix, the next “cool” thing that can go viral on the Internet. What's the next product? The next thing to consume?
This is a tragic impulse in the human animal, but especially so for children, who lose the love and attention of their parents to siblings, or simply to the next "big" thing.
And don't make the mistake of believing this only happens in science fiction blockbusters.
I can tell you for a fact that there are many parents out there who believe that by having another child, a new child, they will repair all that's wrong in the family.
And -- to audience cheers -- the movie also trots out another old friend from Jurassic Park, one scarred and old, but still gorgeous as hell and ready to go to the mat against the pretender for her throne. This creature has been forgotten, shunted aside for cooler attractions. But as we see, she is still magnificent.
Not with her co-workers, not with Owen, and not even with her sister and nephews. So she makes a change. She acts...responsibly. She sets the animal in Paddock 9 free.
It is Claire who takes on the Alan/Ian/Kirby role of parent who learns the error of his/her ways. By comparison, Grady already knows everything he needs to know to be a good parent and a good dino wrangler in his first scene in the movie.
He doesn’t change or grow, accordingly. He's right in his beliefs at the beginning of the movie, right at the movie's half-way point, and vindicated in his rightness at the denouement. So, despite Pratt's efforts and inherent charms, Owen is pretty dull and stagnant as a character.
It’s Claire -- not Owen -- who does the changing and growing. Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill vetted this subplot too, so perhaps it is actually the opposite of sexist that this time around Bryce Dallas Howard gets to do so.
We have seen men take responsibility for their children and for the genetically-engineered dinosaurs on several previous occasions. Why can't a woman undertake the same character arc?
And when she does, why do some insist it is sexist for her do so? If a man can take this journey (or men, accurately...), why is it wrong to send a woman on the exact same one? Isn't that, actually, what equality is all about?
It features an amusing tour of the park (including a dino petting zoo…) and plenty of scenes that help us understand how the theme park isn’t honoring the animals.
And then, one of the best scenes in the film finds Owen and Claire encountering an injured dinosaur in the field, after the I-Rex break-out.
Claire touches it gently, as it takes its last breaths. She realizes that she has given too little thought to the idea that these assets are living animals -- with their own thoughts, their own purpose, and their own destinies.
The scene represents a nice breather in the action that alludes to the original film (and a scene with a sick triceratops), but more importantly, it hammers home this movie's point. When you don’t treat life with respect and reverence, you are doing the opposite. You are acting in a dishonorable fashion.
Her most meaningful and indeed heroic act in the last third of the film, involves the release of a dinosaur from Paddock 9, as I noted above.
Claire releases it to rescue her nephews, of course, but also as an act of honoring the animal. She frees it and allows it to pursue its destiny as king or queen of the jungle. It has been denied this fate its whole life; its place on the "food chain" (which Owen tags as a key element of dinosaur life).
That destiny becomes the film’s beautiful, valedictory image. The metaphor is thus clear: we can't cage our children, dinosaur or human, and chain them to our expectations . At some point, they must be free to do what they will. The film's final image really captures that idea in a majestic, emotional way.
For example, Vincent D’Onofrio’s character is pretty two-dimensional and awful. He is handled in a less human fashion, even, than are the velociraptors…who are fully dimensional, especially Blue. He does and says all the wrong things, and at all the wrong times. He is a basic movie villain, and we anticipate his much-deserved death from his very first scene.
I can understand not being able to repeat Jurassic Park’s sense of wonder. It's an impossible act to follow.
But I did hope for a bit more in terms of scares or jumps this time around. I suspect I may feel this way because Trevorrow does not possess the neo-classicist visual approach of a director like John Carpenter or Steven Spielberg. The film is smart and witty, but it is not patient, and the visuals don't reflect the story as meaningfully as they could, except in isolated instances (like the film's aforementioned valedictory image).
In short, the visuals simply do not feel as cinematic this time around, and I missed that element. There's not a single scene here as tense, or as meticulously constructed, for example, as the trailer-on-the-precipice scene of The Lost World (1997).
Still, Jurassic World (2015) ably incorporates all the key genetic sequences of the long-lived Steven Spielberg franchise and gives the juggernaut a solid face-lift.
Jurassic World is better, frankly, than either of the two previous sequels, even if it’s not quite as good you might hope it to be.
The film's leitmotif about honoring relationships -- whether with dinosaurs or children -- is powerfully-wrought, and a perfect corrective for our busy, eyes-on-iPhone-screens-at-all-times age.
It's a good sequel, but Jurassic Park (1993) still reigns in this Jurassic world.