15 June 2015

Jurassic World is the dinosaur Blackfish

Now here’s the premise for a movie:

Large predatory animals, completely removed from their natural environment, reared up outside their normal social system, are trained by well-intentioned people to do tricks for the amusement of audiences. The company makes big profits, the audiences have a good time, and all seems well.

But the large, smart predators run amok, killing people in the park.

Jurassic World? Nope. I was thinking of Blackfish.

I should have got it.

There’s the title, for one. It’s not Jurassic Park 4.

There was this feeding scene in the trailer.

But it didn’t click for me until I saw the introduction of Owen (Chris Pratt’s character):

In this picture, he’s got a clicker in his left hand (right of frame here). He’s using it to train raptors. Exactly how the clicker is used to train the beasts is not explained, but it’s similar to other whistles and such I’ve seen animal trainers use. Some of his dialogue about animal behaviour is pretty good.

That’s when I realized, it was so obvious. The name of the park... feeding shows and splash zones... decent trainers doing their best to work with unpredictable predatory animals.... my god, this was Sea World. Except scaly.

Part of the subtext of Jurassic World, I argue, is that it is a commentary on the wisdom of using live animals as “attractions” for theme parks.

It’s an interesting shift of theme from the 1990s. Jurassic Park (both book and its film adaptation) was a cautionary tale about science and hubris: the usual Frankenstein elements that make up so much scientific storytelling. The second and third films downplayed those elements in favour of straight “nature wants to eat you” adventure stories.

This entry in the franchise movie has moved on from comments about basic, esoteric research. Now, it’s taken for granted that research is happening. The story is about turning that research into commodities, and the issues around making living things “attractions.”

Now that I think about it, the creation of a new hybrid dinosaur in the movie also plays off on the notion of making new organisms that can be the “intellectual property” of a corporation, mirroring some of the GMO debate, particularly over food. But this is not as developed as much as the film’s protrayal of the theme park experience.

So far, the “meta” discussions that I’ve seen about Jurassic World have been about the portrayal of women in the film, and the scientific accuracy of the dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles (mososaurs, name notwithstanding, were not dinosaurs). I haven’t seen anyone discussing this movie as the dinosaur Blackfish.

Update, 16 June 2015: Ah, I was not the only one! David Steen picked up on this, too.

1 comment:

Jason G. Goldman said...

This is, in expanded form, what I tweeted last night: https://twitter.com/jgold85/status/610317781645393921