Monday, 15 June 2015

Unanswered Questions: Jurassic World

 Me for 2 hours.

I've read and watched a number of reviews for Jurassic World, and because I'm the sort of guy who's Just Here For The Dinosaurs, there are naturally a lot of character, plot, and thematic elements that I didn't cover in my review. Some of them occurred to me, some of them didn't. I could chalk these little anomalies to the film's flaws - after all, as I said in the review, the film is not without them. It's an imperfect blockbuster.

But that's no fun.

Would the public really go to Jurassic World given the events of Jurassic Park?

The road to Jurassic Park was drenched in blood and paved with skulls: the families of those who died were compensated, the survivors paid off, and given the failures of Isla Nublar and San Diego it seemed unlikely that anyone could make a dinosaur park work. Would they really even try again, knowing that people would have to be nuts to send people to a park where there's a distinct possibility of death?

Theory: what part of REAL DINOSAURS don't you get?

Worth it.

We already have humans risking death in thrill rides every day. Dozens of people have been killed by animals in captivity in the last two decades. Zoo escapes with fatal results are still happening. A woman was mauled to death by a lion on safari in South Africa this month. Even attractions with no live animals see deaths in the dozens every year.

And you're telling me people wouldn't be lining up for the chance to see a real, live dinosaur? The same people who went in their droves to see a movie about a park where you get to see real, live dinosaurs to the tune of $511 billion worldwide?

No, I think people absolutely would go to a real Jurassic World even after Jurassic Park and San Diego. People are just that way.

Why do filmmakers never get equipment right?

At one point, Gray is seen taking multiple, consecutive pictures on a vintage box camera without ever winding the film between exposures. Furthermore, Owen's gun is a Marlin 1895SBL Guide Gun, chambered in the six round .45-70 GOVT: despite firing the weapon well over a half-dozen times, we never see him cycling the rifle lever once. What, are we supposed to believe these are magical cameras and guns?

Theory: looks can be deceiving.

You nerds, I cannot believe anyone would be so anal, so nitpicky, so pedantic as to take issue with minute details like cameras and guns in a film. Why would you waste your time on such minor, irrelevant nonsense? Do you hate fun or something?

Ankylosaurus' closest relatives had five toes on its hind feet, which would suggest that Ankylosaurus also had five toes on its hind feet. Yet Jurassic World's Ankylosaurus only has four toes on its hind feet. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE AND I DEMAND AN EXPLANATION FOR THIS GRATUITOUS ERROR IMMEDIATELY.

You know those hipster keyboards designed like typewriters? They also have top-of-the-line digital camera being housed in retro boxes: that'd explain why there's no shot winding. Similarly, while the gun clearly resembles a Marlin 1895SBL Guide Gun with 45-70 GOVT chamber, we already see that technology in Jurassic World is quite a bit more advanced than today's - for all we know it's an entirely different gun that's modelled after a typical one.

So what was the deal with the Indominus rex?

The Murdersaurus starts out being genetically manipulated to be the next big dinosaur attraction, but then it's NOT a dinosaur. Then it's genetically manipulated to have non-dinosaur DNA, which makes it a monster, but the other dinosaurs also had non-dinosaur DNA, but they're still real dinosaurs. Then it's genetically manipulated to be the ultimate killing machine, but they're all surprised when it breaks out. Which backstory is it?

Theory: all of the above.

Me whenever the Murdersaurus appeared, possibly for different reasons intended.

I don't see why not. I see this criticism of the film a lot, but to me, it isn't so much "changing the backstory" as revealing more of the backstory. It is a dinosaur in that it shares the general phenotype of a large carnosaur, but it is also not a dinosaur in that it does not even attempt to become a facsimile of an existing species like the others.

As for the surprise in this super-intelligent, hyper-predatory, extremely-psychotic animal breaking out, well...

Is the military really that stupid?

We all know that militaries all over the world use all sorts of animals: dogs, pigeons, horses, elephants, mules, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and so forth. But dinosaurs? That's just stupid.

Theory: Yes, of course they are.

There's a lot of middle ground between raptors as military animals and Dr. Dinosaur.

While I'd like to hope that the world's militaries are led by cool heads (HA), you cannot deny that certain individuals within the military - or people with delusions of military splendour like Vic Hoskins - have gone on some wild experimental rides, nor that some people are just ridiculously, hopelessly incompetent.

Let's look beyond animals. In the past century or so alone, the world's militaries have spent actual time and money developing:

This madness naturally extended to include animals. The US army put a lot of time and money into Bat Bombs, which are exactly what they sound like. The Soviets used explosive-laden dogs to blow up tanks while the US considered using cats to blow up submarines. Pigeons were used to carry messages, recon, and even guide missiles. The US Navy employs bottlenose dolphins and Californian sea lions in a variety of roles, and even orcas were used to recover munitions. War Pigs were loosed against the war elephants of the Diadochi - sometimes after being set on fire. During the Cold War, they even went into cybernetics with anti-communist cyborg cat spies. Honey bees and Gambian pouched rats work as minesweepers; Chickens played a part in UK nuclear weapons programs; the Polish employed a freaking bear to haul ammunition!

Corporal Wojtek spent his retirement at Edinburgh Zoo, continuing the bonds of kinship we Scots and Poles have shared for centuries.

In a world where dinosaurs can be genetically recreated and manipulated, I absolutely can believe that the military would be looking intently for applications in their field. Velociraptors have shown great intelligence, pack mentality, adaptability, and obvious physical superlatives: while I can see military attempts to make Raptor Commandos could fail spectacularly, I can also see why the military would attempt it. The army has a long and illustrious list of abject failures. Just look at the William D. Porter, or the Charles de Gaulle.

Really, I don't see why this is such a stickler given the series' already spectacular science fiction of recreating dinosaurs from 65-million-year-old-plus DNA. Surely if you're willing to accept that, you'd be willing to accept the military making the same sort of actions - and mistakes - that they've done all throughout history?

How did this disaster even happen?

The first Jurassic Park breakout happened because of a series of extremely unfortunate events: a storm forced the near-total evacuation of the island save a dozen or so individuals, the park was still months away from opening day and still under construction, and on top of all that the park's lead programmer decided to basically shut down all phones, fences and locks. All that happens in this one is a really big, intelligent dinosaur breaks out.

Theory: are you sure that's all that happened?


Hoskins' phone call about the Murdersaurus being "an opportunity" suggests that there was, in fact, a lot more going on behind the scenes. The ACU team were clearly highly trained and experienced, yet they seemed totally unequipped and unprepared for the beastie. What if Hoskins was deliberately wrecking attempts to contain the Murdersaurus to justify a complete takeover so he could show off his new Raptor Commando Squad? As stated above, it wouldn't be the first time an armchair general bit off more than he could chew - making his eventual comeuppance all the more ironic.

Heh heh heh, "bit off more than he could chew..."

On that note, there's a weird dichotomy going on in regards to being able to "handle" dinosaurs. On the one hand, people are saying there's no way Jurassic World could work, because you can't contain dinosaurs, or that people wouldn't go to a zoo where they couldn't guarantee the public's safety. Yet at the same time, people are crying foul at the park's security being unable to handle the Murdersaurus' rampage. What gives, guys? Surely either Man can handle Dinosaur, or Man cannot handle Dinosaur?

What happened to Barry?

Last we saw of Barry, he barely managed to survive Blue's attack. Then at the end of the film, he's with the rest of the survivors. How did he make it?

Theory: Barry is good at his job.

Damn right.

We already know Owen's a badass because the film can't stop pushing his badassery credentials in our faces. But why should Barry be any less capable just because he isn't a Raptor Whisperer like his colleague? He still works with Raptors - he observes, feeds, cleans, wrangles, and handles them. For all we know, he has a history every bit as colourful and intriguing as Owen's. Plus, remember that for most of the film, only the Murdersaurus and the four Raptors have escaped. The Raptors were chasing after Owen, Claire and the boys, and the Murdersaurus was making its way to the 20,000+ guests. Aside from maybe a few stray pterosaurs that, I think Barry could've managed alright.

That'd be a pretty fun tie-in comic, seeing Barry make his way through Jurassic World all on his own, avoiding the Raptors, Murdersaurus, Dimorphodons, helping scattered survivors, making their own adventure. You could have had that, people - but nooo, we had to know what Chris Pratt was doing every waking minute.

Don't worry, Barry, your time will come.

How come that Dimorphodon was flying back to the island?

In a rather weird scene, a helicopter is flying towards the island to drop off some soldiers. A Dimorphodon is seen flying in the same direction as the helicopter.

Theory: Um...

You got me there. Maybe it was blown off course by high winds, and was making its way back to the island for the fabulous meat feast? Perhaps it mistook the helicopter for a fellow pterosaur and decided to tag along? It decided it was too far to Costa Rica and turned back?

Or perhaps it was one of the few sympathetic pterosaurs, who saw the carnage being wrought (seriously, that was a really harrowing scene) and fled to find help for the humans. It found the helicopter and tried to lead the humans to the unfolding disaster, only to seriously misread the signals. OR maybe that's what it wanted the pilot to think - it was really leading the helicopter to further disaster!

How could that be the original T.rex from the first film?

It's pretty heavily implied that the T.rex is the same individual from the events of the first film, as the scars match the wounds from the Big One in the finale. Yet according to Dr. Arnold in the first film, all dinosaurs on the island were engineered with a faulty enzyme that doesn't allow them to manufacture Lysine, which would mean they had to be supplied with the amino acid by Park staff or they would die within a week or two. How did the T.rex survive after the original Jurassic Park was abandoned?

Theory: the Lysine Contingency was a stupid idea that was never going to work.

Most animals - crocodiles, sharks, humans even - cannot produce their own lysine either. They, like dinosaurs, derive lysine from plants - or feeding on dinosaurs which fed on those plants. The Lysine Contingency was never going to work because it made no biological sense in the first place.

So why did Arnold, Muldoon, Hammond et al think that it would? Well, none of them are geneticists. Faulty enzyme production methods are used to control bacteria, but complex animals like dinosaurs are another matter. It could be a matter of simply presenting the Lysine Contingency as a bluff, to calm people worried about dinosaurs escaping from the island, or perhaps a monumental oversight.

What about Wu?

Wu seemed to be in cahoots with Hoskins, yet he acts surprised when Masrani talks about the Murdersaurus' abilities. Surely he knew this would happen?

Theory: Yes, he did.

"You're implying a minor character from the first film could end up being the franchise's ultimate..." *takes pencil off clipboard* "villain?"

When Wu was acting surprised with Masrani, that's exactly what he was doing: acting surprised. When we see him take off in the helicopter in the final act, it's clear that he knew a lot more than he was letting on. Why would he reveal all his cards at once?

Also, remember that brilliant "to a canary, a cat is a monster" bit? Look who he's talking to - Simon Masrani, 8th richest man in the world, the boss of Jurassic World. Prior to the events of Jurassic World, InGen was absorbed into the Masrani Corporation. To the newly absorbed InGen, or even rival companies - like, say, BioSyn - a monopolist like Masrani could be viewed as a monster, and telling him he's "used to being the cat" suggests that BioSyn has plans on the Masrani Corporation themselves.

In other words, the corporate espionage of Jurassic World could have gone all the way back to the beginning. We don't know what happened to Wu after his scene with the raptor hatchling: we can infer he got off the island safely, of course, given his presence in Jurassic World, most likely on the boat. We know that Nedry had allies in the park, as the ship's mate (who the game called Miles Chadwick) tried to hold the boat as long as they could to get Nedry in time. Perhaps BioSyn had other agents on the island from the beginning.

We know from the novel that Hammond has a somewhat cold relationship with Wu, and even back then, We had ideas on how to "improve" the dinosaurs:

Hammond was looking at him in that patient, paternal way. Wu, thirty-three years old, was acutely aware that he had worked for Hammond all his professional life. Hammond had hired him right out of graduate school. 
"Of course, there are practical consequences as well," Wu said. "I really think you should consider my recommendations for phase two. We should go to version 4.4."
"You want to replace all the current stock of animals?" Hammond said. 
"Yes, I do." 
"Why? What's wrong with them?" 
"Nothing," Wu said, "except that they're real dinosaurs." 
"That's what I asked for, Henry," Hammond said, smiling. "And that's what you gave me." 
"I know," Wu said. "But you see. . ." He paused. How could he explain this to Hammond? Hammond hardly ever visited the island. And it was a peculiar situation that Wu was trying to convey. "Right now, as we stand here, almost no one in the world has ever seen an actual dinosaur. Nobody knows what they're really like." 
"Yes . . ." 
"The dinosaurs we have now are real," Wu said, pointing to the screens around the room, "but in certain ways they are unsatisfactory, Unconvincing. I could make them better." 
"Better in what way?" 
"For one thing, they move too fast," Henry Wu said. "People aren't accustomed to seeing large animals that are so quick. I'm afraid visitors will think the dinosaurs look speeded up, like film running too fast." 
"But, Henry, these are real dinosaurs. You said so yourself." 
"I know," Wu said. "But we could easily breed slower, more domesticated dinosaurs." 
"Domesticated dinosaurs?" Hammond snorted. "Nobody wants domesticated dinosaurs, Henry. They want the real thing." 
"But that's my point," Wu said. "I don't think they do. They want to see their expectation, which is quite different.
Hammond was frowning. 
"You said yourself, John, this park is entertainment," Wu said. "And entertainment has nothing to do with reality. Entertainment is antithetical to reality." 
Hammond sighed. "Now, Henry, are we going to have another one of those abstract discussions? You know I like to keep it simple. The dinosaurs we have now are real, and-" 
"Well, not exactly," Wu said. He paced the living room, pointed to the monitors. "I don't think we should kid ourselves. We haven't re-created the past here. The past is gone. It can never be re- created. What we've done is reconstruct the past-or at least a version of the past. And I'm saying we can make a better version." 
"Better than real?" 
"Why not?" Wu said. "After all, these animals are already modified. We've inserted genes to make them patentable, and to make them lysine dependent. And we've done everything we can to promote growth, and accelerate development into adulthood."  
Hammond shrugged. "That was inevitable. We didn't want to wait. We have investors to consider." 
"Of course. But I'm 'ust saying, why stop there? Why not push ahead to make exactly the kind of dinosaur that we'd like to see? One that is more acceptable to visitors, and one that is easier for us to handle? A slower, more docile version for our park?" 
Hammond frowned. "But then the dinosaurs wouldn't be real." 
"But they're not real now," Wu said. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. There isn't any reality here." He shrugged helplessly. He could see he wasn't getting through. Hammond had never been interested in technical details, and the essence of the argument was technical. How could he explain to Hammond about the reality of DNA dropouts, the patches, the gaps in the sequence that Wu had been obliged to fill in, making the best guesses he could, but still, making guesses, The DNA of the dinosaurs was like old photographs that had been retouched, basically the same as the original but in some places repaired and clarified, and as a result- 
"Now, Henry," Hammond said, putting his arm around Wu's shoulder. "If you don't mind my saying so, I think you're getting cold feet. You've been working very hard for a long time, and you've done a hell of a job-a hell of a job-and it's finally time to reveal to some people what you've done. It's natural to be a little nervous. To have some doubts. But I am convinced, Henry, that the world will be entirely satisfied. Entirely satisfied." 
As he spoke, Hammond steered him toward the door. 
"But, John," Wu said. "Remember back in '87, when we started to build the containment devices? We didn't have any full-grown adults yet, so we had to predict what we'd need- We ordered big taser shockers, cars with cattle prods mounted on them, guns that blow out electric nets. All built specially to our specifications. We've got a whole array of devices now and they're all too slow. We've got to make some adjustments. You know that Muldoon wants military equipment: TOW missiles and laser-guided devices?" 
"Let's leave Muldoon out of this," Hammond said. "I'm not worried. It's just a zoo, Henry." 
The phone rang, and Hammond went to answer it. Wu tried to think of another way to press his
case. But the fact was that, after five long years, Jurassic Park was nearing completion, and John Hammond lust wasn't listening to him any more. 

You have to wonder... Was Wu in on it this whole time?

So where do we go from here?

After raking in $511 million worldwide in its first opening weekend (third biggest opening day, second biggest US weekend, and biggest global weekend in cinematic history), the news that Chris Pratt has signed on for a sequel, and the knowledge that director Colin Trevorrow will not return, speculation as to where the film could go is rife.

Theory: a whole new (Jurassic) world?

I was talking a lot about the possibilities inherent in the Jurassic Park franchise. I think it would be a tremendous waste to just re-do The Lost World. At the same time, well, even though I can believe the park reopening after the Isla Nublar and San Diego incidents, perhaps Jurassic World re-opening is indeed a smidgen too far. Plus I'm not sure the film would go for a legal courtroom drama as Zara's family sues Claire for everything she's worth. I mean, I'd watch it, but I'm not sure the world is ready for Velociraptor lawyers.

Yet if you can't go back to the island, how can you call it Jurassic World? Well, maybe we just need to change the meaning of that phrase. Ever since JPIII, the world has known about Isla Nublar. Jurassic World is a worldwide phenomenon. Yet even before the park was made public all those years ago, BioSyn was hunting for clues, wanting to get a piece of the resurrected dinosaur pie.

Wu leaving the island with the embryos is a pretty tantalizing sequel hook. Of course there are probably still nutters in the military desperate for Raptor Commando Squad, but why focus only on military applications? Indeed, what if Wu went further than InGen, and brought dinosaurs to the world on a scale they never imagined? Having a park populated with giant deadly carnivores is risky, but what about a number of smaller, safer parks with those baby Triceratops, Apatosaurus and Gallimimus, genetically altered to inhibit growth to create "pet" dinosaurs a fraction of the size? The dinosaurs aren't cheap now, but that's because they cared enough to do them right - in the absence of extinct species protection laws, who's to say some company or another will just create inferior knock-off dinosaurs from stolen DNA? Perhaps advances in genetic technology and recreation revolutionise the techniques, making them cheap and reliable enough for multiple applications. Soon dinosaurs could become as normalised as dogs, cats, horses and livestock are now.

The park may be gone, but it's still a Jurassic World.


  1. I think that's my favorite single panel of Atomic Robo ever.

    Given what you've said about real-world zoo-related maulings and killings, it might only stretch plausibility a bit to have the park back up by the next movie - if I remember correctly, the iRex was never actually seen by tourists, only the pterosaurs. But perhaps Chris Pratt Vs. BioSyn knockoffs is more likely, given the hooks in the movie itself. Maybe they'll set up not on an island, but in Africa or South America somewhere, giving us the spectre of resurrected dinosaurs escaping and taking over the earth!!

    Or not.

  2. Zara's family might not be able to sue. After all, no one really knows what happened to her. We do, but did anyone at the park see what happened?