For the makers of ‘Jurassic World’, the long awaited fourth instalment of the franchise, and also its fictional theme park world, the solution is the fabulously named genetically modified colour changing ‘Indominus rex’. That looks suspiciously like a regular Jurassic Park T rex with a slightly bumpier head.
Other than the new and improved dinosaur, the action proceeds in a familiar pattern – the film could almost be mistaken for a Jurassic Park remake, rather than a sequel. And the plot isn’t the only nod to the original – Jurassic World is shot through with references, from a tshirt worn by the token Nerd Guy, to the crumbling, ivy strewn original visitor centre, complete with the remnants of the iconic ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the World’ banner.
It’s a lot of fun to see John Hammond’s original vision of a fully functioning dinosaur theme park realised. Some of the best ideas happen in the opening act – the baby Triceratops petting zoo, the gyroscopes, the Mosasaurus in its Sea World style water park. I can’t be the only person who was secretly hoping nothing went wrong – a romcom that just happened to be based in a dinosaur park would be all kinds of fun.
Of course, everything does go wrong, with the improbably intelligent escape of the Indominus, persued by the hapless ‘Asset Containment Unit’. That surely has to be the absolute worst job in the history of security detail. Needless to say, they are all fairly swiftly eaten.
Back to the dinosaurs – and like the T rex of the original, Indominus quickly loses the spotlight to the velociraptors, who are slightly bluer but no more feathery than the 1993 versions. It may be inaccurate, but the choice is understandable – a six foot snarling turkey is striking fear into nobody’s heart.
As it is, they’re somewhat less terrifying than their 1993 counterparts, thanks to having been ‘whispered’ by the film’s token Hot Guy, Chris Pratt. They’re even employed in a sort of greyhound race, held back in little gates with muzzles over their noses, before being released in hot pursuit of the now rampaging Indominus. My money was on the blue one.
(As an aside – what was the thinking behind the Velociraptor whispering? Were they ultimately to be used in a live action show? It’s not surprising token Evil Guy was sniffing around, hoping to weaponise them – why else would anyone undertake this clearly insane project?)
If you were wondering – yes, there are also some humans in the film, who try to avoid being eaten and explain the plot to us. Not a one of them is a fully formed character, so there’s no need to spend any time on them – except to say that a conversation about childcare arrangements shouldn’t really count as passing the Bechdel test.
Anyway, back to the dinosaurs.
Best performance of the film goes to Dying Apatosaurus. It’s a nuanced, moving piece of dinosaur acting, full of pathos – and a nice nod towards the equally excellent performance of Sick Triceratops in the 1993 film. I also enjoyed Blue Velociraptor’s heroic charge in the final battle, plus a lovely surprise reappearance from Mosasaurus, who I’m fairly sure will feature in next year’s geobakeoff 100 point challenge.
In amongst all the dinosaur fun, there’s something interesting to say here about the ethics of live animal theme parks. I was reminded all the way through of Blackfish, and its terrifying footage of killer whales attacking their trainers after a lifetime of confinement. Yes, that was a documentary, and the whales never escaped their pools for an epic faceoff with the sea lions, but otherwise, the questions over ethics and safety, in a programme justified by ‘awareness raising’, are very similar. It would have been interesting to explore that more, rather than, say, the issue of whether a woman with a full time job should be held responsible for not looking after someone else’s very annoying children for a day.
Equally, token Evil Guy’s plan to weaponise the velociraptors for use in the military is strangely believable – you can’t help wondering if that’s exactly where this would end, were it to happen in reality. As it is, I’m looking forward to ‘Jurassic War’, where Chris Pratt’s velociraptors head out to battle in little camoflague hats, outacting him all the way.
In the end, the moral of Jurassic World is clear – if you let the money people run things, they will do anything, engineer any crowd pleasing hybrid, in order to satisfy a focus group and raise profit margins.
I can only assume this is the reason there’s now an incredible range of dinosaur themed fashion available in every major high street retailer. Having been searching for a dinosaur print jump suit for pretty much ever, I for one am very glad Jurassic World happened.