Some say that the best movies are those that are about the process of making movies. We say that the best movies involve dinosaurs, but you might find it surprising that both might actually be true about one of this year’s newest blockbusters, Jurassic World. did you think we were going to say, Furious 7? Considering that this prehistoric-murder-romp has currently grossed a worldwide total of $1.422 billion dollars to be the second highest grossing film of 2015, beating out Avengers: Age of Ultron, it might be worth considering why this particular Jurassic Park sequel succeeded when so many before it had failed.
Dr. Ian Malcom would probably call it the essence of chaos theory, all while he was trying to hit on the woman sitting next to him, but we believe that there is something more to the success of this latest installment in the franchise. Jurassic World, can actually be seen as a clever allegory for the modern entertainment and movie industry. It’s real triumph comes from its themes, plot, and allusions to common undercurrents in today’s society, which help boost the two-hour dinofest to something more than just mindless summer entertainment. Also, it may have something to do with all the dinosaurs eating people. According to our market research that usually helps in these matters.
All the World’s A Stegosaurus
Let’s start by analyzing the players on the stage. Masrani, played by Irrfan Khan, is the man who took over InGen from John Hammond. He is very rich, and somewhat aloof to the daily goings-on of the park. We get the sense that he pops in every now and then just to see how things are going, or he sends vague and buzzword memos that randomly motivate the directions of others. He is most definitely the Executive Producer in this scenario. He has the funding and the power, but none of the daily responsibility.
That role falls to Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She is very much in control of everything, making her the movie’s main producer. She is often bogged down in every minute detail that happens, whether it be wooing potential backers, organizing hundreds of crew members, or inspecting sets. She is the person that coordinates it all and puts it all together. She is also very stressed and somewhat of a workaholic. She does have a production team, and two main assistants to help her, but she is still doing the bulk of the nitty gritty herself.
Owen, played by Chris Pratt, is a director. He works with the cast, in this case the dinosaurs. He understands their motivations, he gives them direction, rewarding them when they succeed, and doing his damn best to make sure they don’t bite his or anyone else’s head off. This also means that the dinosaurs are the actors in the analogy, because of course they are. Throughout the course of the movie there are dinosaurs we cheer for, ones we feel empathy for, and ones we root against. In both worlds, they are what the crowds come to see. In the park, they are the names that get put up in lights and glorified as celebrities, even if they can be temperamental and a bit hard to work with at times.
Hoskins, played by Vincent “King Pin” D’Onofrio, is a studio executive. He has no real authority on the set, but no one other than the director seems really willing to risk pissing him off. He has a lot of outside considerations and crazy ideas he keeps trying to work into the movie, applying more and more pressure as time goes on to do things his way. He is always thinking about the profit margin and the bigger implications. In this scenario it is weaponizing the dinosaurs, but for a studio executive that could easily be lingo for merchandizing.
Dr. Henry Wu, also known as BD Wong, or that guy from that one Law and Order, is the screenwriter. He is the first person to conceive of the ideas that eventually turn into dinosaurs. He slaves and works to create something new that will both wow his employers and the public at large. He puts his heart and soul into his work, and has to follow vague directions from the producer and studio such as requests to make a “cooler” dinosaur. Wu even admits that they have been altering the dinosaurs to appear as the public believes they should look, not as they really should look. He is basically throwing historical accuracy out the window to make his final product more appealing to audiences. Unfortunately, like all writers, once his work leaves his lab he loses all control over it and then it comes down to the rest of the production team to alter, raise, and feed the beast as they best believe.
The entire catalyst to the plot, the Indominus Rex, was created as a ploy to lure in more customers, and increase the park’s revenue. It is literally billed as the next biggest, scariest, and best thing. The creature was even named not according to any scientific guidelines, but through focus group testing, and what would sell best on T-shirts and coffee mugs. We also learn that the new genetically created dino is basically a mixture of the coolest parts of other dinosaurs, mainly two crowd favorites, the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Velociraptor. Like any summer blockbuster, the studio has tried to take the parts of other movies that everyone loves and smash them together in hopes of getting a higher opening weekend box office.
Every summer, studios are expected to come out with the biggest, scariest, craziest new movie to drive up their profit margins and to get customers in the movie seats. Sometimes they hit the mark, and sometimes their new creation ends up rampaging through their banking accounts, figuratively eating the livelihoods of cast and crew alike. In a few instances, and when the monster of a movie was bas enough, it even had the power to wipe out entre production studios, but is the entertainment industry really at fault? If there is one thing Jurassic World got right it is that the hungriest creatures of all are the viewing public.
Maybe in that way, Jurassic World, is more of a comment on our society in general. It tries to point out that as a culture driven by our progress, we are always looking for the next newest thing. It’s the attitude of, “what have you done for me lately?” After all, the movie does explicitly state that dinosaurs are old news. In the world of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs have become as interesting as “watching an elephant at the zoo.” The public has literally become jaded to what sounds like the most incredible thing in the world.
The original Jurassic Park happened more than twenty years before the start of this current movie and thus anyone born on or after 1994 would always have grown up in a world of dinosaurs. The kids would not see them as wondrous, just commonplace. It is similar to how the generation that is currently in high school and college views the Internet or smart phones, or movie CGI. To them, it is something they always remember as having existed. It is just a common fact of life. In fact, Jurassic World gives us the perspective of two regular modern children.
The youngest members of the movie, Zack and Gray, represent the common viewing public. They are, literally, the two age groups that entertainment companies target most of their products towards. Gray is younger and obsessed with dinosaurs. He just cannot wait to see them, and he knows everything there is to know about each dino before he even catches a glimpse of them. Zach, the oldest is, completely blasé about the whole thing. He is like, “way totally over it.” Instead, he prefers to spend his times on his phone or staring at girls. Dinosaurs are something he has always known. They are something he can see pictures of on the Internet, but they are not the only two people in the park. There is more than twenty-thousands others who are constantly on their phones, taking selfies, recording video, snapping pictures.
It is more than ironic that these lessons are coming from a movie in the Jurassic Park franchise. After all, for years they have been trying to capture our attention with new and bigger threats and new and bigger dinosaurs. Jurassic World is an example of life imitating art that is so blatant it would probably give Aristotle a catharsis so strong he would have trouble walking in the morning. However, maybe a nostalgic-ridden popcorn movie like Jurassic World is the only type of movie that could really convey this message. In a sense, it is parodying itself, and our world of blockbuster entertainment.
Others might argue that Jurassic World is just doing the same old thing. In fact, the plot is not all that different than the original Jurassic Park, and it would be hard to argue that the Steven Spielberg classic is charged with the same subversive undercurrents. The real main difference between the two is the way in which they are delivered. In Jurassic Park, the park is not open. It is all about wonder and spectacle, not unlike the other big effects movies of the late eighties and early nineties. In Jurassic World, the park is open and doing business. People have become jaded by what they see, and here we find not large animatronic and practical effects, but the usual summer CGI along with the usual summer faces, like Chris Pratt.
A Raptor of Our Own Making
On the surface, Jurassic World is just another summer blockbuster trying to grab our attention to make some cash. It is just another film, like so many others that are produced every year to spike a studio’s profit margin. For all intents and purposes, The park, Jurassic World is like one big movie forcing its actors to try and get our attention. They do a trick and we clap. The T-Rex eats a goat and we watch before returning to our next distraction. For the most part we are blissfully unaware of everything we are seeing, at least until things start to go wrong.
The Indominus Rex sparks not just a bad movie, but a horribly bad movie. We are talking Water World bad. Yet, the unstoppable killing machine is also posing a theoretical question for us to consider. Isn’t it the kind of dinosaur we all want to see. It is smart, terrifying, exciting, and even intelligent. By all expectations it should be everything we want. So really, who is responsible for the creation of such a perfect killing machine? Most people will blame InGen, but ultimately they would not have made the I-Rex unless it was what the public was silently demanding. Could the same not be said for some of the cash-grab movies that we have seen come out over the past several years.
Almost everybody agrees that the Transformers franchise is terrible, yet Transformers: Age of Extinction was the highest-grossing film of 2014. It was the second highest-grossing film in the Transformers film series, and it was the fourth one in that series. It has pretty much unanimously been confirmed that the Transformers series is absolute crap, so how the heck did the last one make so much money? Similarly, how much money is the new Fantastic Four reboot going to make? Despite talk of nerd-wide bans on the film, we are pretty confident it is going to make back its production cost and then some. Why, because we have proven to the entertainment industry time and time again, that we want them to create monsters. So the next time one bites our head off, Jurassic World would have you remember that it is kind of our fault.