I didn’t go to see the latest installment of the Jurassic Park film franchise expecting to have a problem with its philosophical approach. I expected Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, helmed by Spanish director J.A. Bayona, to provide me with plenty of popcorn-worthy thrills as roaring dino-creatures pursued greedy humans. In that I was not disappointed. It is an action franchise, after all.
But this particular film introduced a new way of thinking about the creatures cloned from the DNA in the blood in the belly of that mosquito trapped in amber way back in 1993’s Jurassic Park. And here Jeff Goldblum’s mathematician character and I parted ways with everyone else in the film.
[Spoiler alert! Sorry, there is just no way to talk about this without giving things away!]
Up until now, it’s been an underlying assumption of the Jurassic Park universe that cloning the dinosaurs in the first place was a dangerous mistake. Dr. Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his assistant Dr. Wu (B.D.Wong—who reappears in this film) were the stereotypical mad scientists, over-reaching in the name of science, although with every good intention. In previous films they took precautions, of course, like making sure all their little dinos were female so they can’t reproduce. And, at first, everyone was charmed by the wonder of it all—seeing dinosaurs in their natural habitat for the first time in millions of years, yadda, yadda.
But, then, as Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) so aptly puts it, there was “the running and the screaming.” Not just once, but, so far, five times (in the original film; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Jurassic Park III; Jurassic World; and Jurassic World: The Lost Kingdom). Once might ask, will we never learn?
Because in this latest film a volcano is set to destroy Isla Nublar, site of the original Jurassic World theme park, an event which would kill all the remaining dinosaurs. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), in testimony before the U. S. Senate, argues that maybe this is a good thing. (One is reminded of Captain Kirk’s vehement statement about the Klingons facing a similar fate: “Let them die!”) The mathematician is asked whether he’s suggesting that God is taking a hand. He shrugs and demurs, but says maybe He was just trying to fix what we had screwed up by messing in His business.
In the end the Senate decides not to act, BUT Hammond’s one-time partner Benjamin Lockwood agrees to help, and off we go to SAVE THE DINOSAURS! (Oh, yes, they are to go to another island where they will be isolated from everything else (sure) and no theme park this time!) Does anyone else have a problem with this?
Certainly not Jurassic World’s former Operations Director Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and hunky raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). They are all about saving the dinosaurs, especially Owen’s raised-from-the-egg-raptor, Blue. It’s not until Claire and Owen get knocked in the head and almost left behind while the dinos are brutally corralled that our heroes begin to get an idea that something is not right.
Of course, the dinosaurs are not headed for their idyllic island, but rather for auction to the highest bidder. The evil scientists and a greedy assistant to the dying Lockwood have joined up to “weaponize” and commercialize the innocent creatures. Claire and Owen, aided by Blue and some surprise allies, must save them from this horrible fate!
Unfortunately, this involves MUCH more running and screaming. And, in the end, a decision that violates every environmental and ethical choice made in every Jurassic Park franchise movie so far, not to mention every “monster” movie since the beginning of cinematic time. When once again faced with the wrenching decision to let the dinosaurs die a quick death or release them to the “wilds” of Oregon, the adults in the room rightly make the hard choice to save our current biosphere. But a child pushes the button that allows the dinosaurs—eleven species of them—to escape into the world. Because they’re innocent. And “clones, like me.”
Yes, okay, fine. A rattlesnake is “innocent,” too, but I don’t want one in my kitchen. Much less a three-story-tall creature that has been extinct for 65 million years and can eat its weight in steer beef every two hours.
The guiding principle of “mad scientist” science fiction, from its beginnings in Frankenstein to this day, is that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. In the end, even Frankenstein’s monster preferred death to life in a world where he didn’t belong. Perhaps we can’t expect a little girl to consider the consequences of her action. But we can certainly expect the writers of this film to consider them. Michael Crichton (who wrote the original Jurassic Park and was a doctor and an environmentalist) would certainly have considered them. But, in this case, I think the writers are only thinking of the sequels.
FAREWELL (FOR NOW) TO THE EXPANSE
This week saw the season finale for SyFy Network’s excellent SF seriesThe Expanse, and what an ending it was! Lots of edge-of-your-seat action and character redemption, along with the mind-bending conceptualization the show is known for. Because the show is moving to Amazon Prime next season, this finale had to wrap up the current plot arc. I must say the writers did so in a very satisfying way. I, for one, will have to make do with this ending, since I’m not a Prime customer, but I do appreciate the care with which the show’s creators left me behind.