When I left the theatre after watching Jurassic World, one of the initial thoughts which struck me was that it was very similar to the original, so much so that it might as well have been a remake rather than a sequel. From the basic premise of scientific experimentation taken too far, right down to details such as corporate corruption and two vulnerable children lost in the midst of dinosaurs and subsequently having to fend for themselves (at least for a while), the similarities seemed endless and obvious.
It is no secret that Jurassic World has been a massive box office success so far, mainly because of its far-reaching appeal. There is something in it for most of the moviegoing demographic: it is attractive to fanboys, fangirls, families, and even newcomers to the franchise. In light of its recent popularity, it is interesting to compare Jurassic World with Jurassic Park (1993) and see how greatly filmmaking and mindsets can change over the course of 22 years.
Not knowing anything about the supernatural entity which is haunting your home, for example, is a scary prospect and subsequently one which draws large crowds looking for some sort of catharsis.
Although there are enough similarities to have Jurassic World be a remake, it seems necessary that Jurassic World is a sequel. This allows for it to dwell momentarily on technological and scientific progression over the decades while still following the familiar formula of humans desperately attempting to regain control of their own monsters (or creations-gone-wrong).
Generally speaking, when it comes to choosing films, mass audiences are drawn to that which induces strong feelings or emotions within them, whether this is found in a love story, horror film, or anything in between. Fear of the unexplored or unknown is one formula which plays upon people’s natural desire for knowledge. Not knowing anything about the supernatural entity which is haunting your home, for example, is a scary prospect and subsequently one which draws large crowds looking for some sort of catharsis. While dinosaurs do not fall under the realm of unknown – there is obvious evidence to support their existence – they can instead be categorized as unexplored, as they were alive in a time during which humans were not. Since humans have never interacted with these creatures firsthand, the notion of doing so vicariously in film is one which appeals to the curiosity of many.
Both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World play upon notions of the unfamiliar in order to evoke fear and excitement in the viewer. The idea that scientific experimentation can be taken as far as it is in the film is a scary prospect, especially considering the rate at which technology has advanced. In 1993, perhaps the idea of using gene splicing to create test-tube dinosaurs for use as theme park attractions would have been absurd. In 2015 it seems, alarmingly, a lot more fathomable.
The haunting implication here seems to be that one day, human intelligence will be the very thing that leads to its downfall.
This is primarily why it was necessary for Jurassic World to be a sequel rather than a remake – while both films offer up cautionary tales, the latter does so with the context of advancements which have taken place over the course of two decades. In Jurassic Park, the unfamiliarity and subsequent fear comes from the existence of the titular park itself. The very idea that such a thing could exist was exciting and unique enough to draw visitors, and in turn, draw audiences to the theatre to watch the film.
In comparison, the existence of Jurassic World is not enough to draw such large crowds, both in the context of the film and in real life. The film uses a relevantly corporate-centric lens through which to view this situation, as it strives to get more funding by pushing more boundaries. In order to add another layer of unfamiliarity, fear, and excitement, a new attraction is created – enter the Indominus Rex, a highly intelligent and mysterious killing machine created through confidential splicing. After giving the creature a name like “Indominus,” it is a wonder that park employees took so long to realize the inevitability of their doom.
The Indominus provides the much-needed layer of excitement which the jaded park-goers and movie-goers are so desperately seeking. The cautionary tale here revolves around the idea that we shouldn’t always be yearning for that which is larger, more dangerous, with “more teeth,” because it is possible for human beings to get so caught up in the success of their scientific advances that they might forget their place in the grand scheme of life, and this in turn will cause destruction.
After the Indominus has gone on a bender, killing everything in sight, one of the park’s employees says that she is figuring out where she fits in the food chain. This is a resonant statement as it relates to humans on a metaphysical level. The human race is one which has, for a long time, gone unchallenged at the top of the food chain because of the advantage of higher intelligence over other species. However, the haunting implication here seems to be that one day, human intelligence will be the very thing that leads to its downfall.
After giving the creature a name like “Indominus,” it is a wonder that park employees took so long to realize the inevitability of their doom.
In line with evolutions in genetic modification and gene splicing as it pertains to the world of the film, there has been an evolution in the fear of unexplored realms for film audiences. It becomes increasingly difficult to shock and excite, and especially to induce fear, in a public that has become so saturated with competing imagery. Similar to the park-goers in Jurassic World who are not excited enough with the already genetically-modified test-tube dinosaurs and demand something better, with “more teeth” (a phrase that is used repeatedly in the film), real audiences are also forever seeking “more teeth” in a metaphorical sense. Real audiences are seeking something which will shock them and take them by surprise, which has become increasingly difficult. This desire unfortunately often comes at the expense of elements which add quality to a film, as people are drawn to that which appeals to them on a shallow level.
This evolution in shock value in the context of filmmaking is one of the elements which makes Jurassic World such an interesting and necessary viewing experience. Part of the shock comes from the lack of shock itself – the idea of man-made dinosaurs in 1993 was absurd. Man-made dinosaurs in 2015 do not seem too removed from reality.
One of the best cautionary tales in the film comes from the character Hoskins, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who recognizes immense potential in the velociraptors because of their intelligence – he suggests that these creatures be weaponized for military combat, an idea which is met with much scorn from those who treat the creatures with respect, such as resident velociraptor-whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt).
Hoskins’ ideas eventually lead him to a gruesome and ironic death, courtesy of one of the velociraptors that he was so eager to harness. This further emphasizes the notion that while scientific advancements may be appealing and exciting, some sort of line should be drawn before things are taken out of human control.
Jurassic World is loaded with homages to Jurassic Park, and like its predecessor, it is also full of cautionary tales. These warnings can also be extended to the realm of filmmaking as they comment on the downside of adding shock value to a feature at the expense of quality. If we are to learn anything from Jurassic World, let it be that while “more teeth” are appealing at face value, it is steadfast quality which should ultimately win the battle.