“Jurassic World” Ethics: Why Movie Reviewers Are Useless

I’m going to see “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” just as soon as I can, as I have seen all of the other “Jurassic Park” films since Spielberg’s first. Of course I am: I love dinosaurs.

I have loved dinosaurs since I was about 4, and my dad brought me a bronze model of  a T-Rex when he returned from a business trip to Chicago. That five-inch model was the first entry into a collection that eventually reached over thirty dinosaurs, greatly abetted by my mom, who was a ceramicist. She would peruse the dinosaur books I borrowed from the library and pick out artwork that she liked. Thus I became the only kid in Arlington, Mass. with ceramic models of a gorgosaurus and a styracosaurus.When I was in the first grade, I gave a talk about my collection and the species they represented—in those days they hadn’t even discovered velocirapters yet, thought dinosaurs dragged their tails, and assumed they were cold-blooded, like reptiles—at theParmenter School sixth grade hobby show.

The more I learned about dinosaurs the more  I loved them. I still can’t get over the fact that these amazing creatures existed, when they look like the results of a fantasy artist’s bad drug trip. I must confess, I also love the fact that dinosaurs drive evolution deniers and Fundamentalists crazy. If the Earth is the only planet with life, doesn’t the fact that God filled it with dinosaurs suggest that they were his favorites too? Might it even suggest that God looks like a T-Rex? My first face to face experience with an intelligent person who simply denied facts that didn’t fit in with her ideology was a U.S. Chamber of Commerce colleague who noted the large, leather pteranodon hanging in my office and said, which a superior smirk, “You don’t really believe those things existed, do you?”

Mostly, however, dinosaurs fill me with wonder, exactly as they did when I was 4.

This was the aspect of the first film that Spielberg captured so well: It’s not a monster movie, but a pro-dinosaur movie. People forget now, but many critics dismissed “Jurassic Park” as junk: they were  enthralled with Spielberg’s other movie that year, “Schindler’s List,” an important movie. The critics didn’t get “Jurassic Park,” and still don’t.

Now they are slamming the fifth in the series, the sequel to “Jurassic World,” which they also didn’t get, because most critics equate dinosaurs with Godzilla. I thought “Jurassic World” was easily the best of the sequels. I loved the attack of the pterosaurs (accompanied by air raid sirens!)—I had models of all of them! I loved the mossasaur—Mom made me a couple of different species—and its surprise role in the film’s climax. I loved how the T-Rex, just like in the first film, became an unlikely rescuer of the human stars. And look! There’s an ankylosaurus! Mom made me one of those!

I was looking over the Reason website for ethics topics, and found a film review of “Fallen Kingdom,” which opened this weekend. The review faulted this film for not having wittier dialogue, like this was supposed to be “Noel Coward World.” “Jurassic World” had no witty dialogue, but I laughed several times out of pure joy. Four rapters flanking a bad-ass Chris Pratt on a motorcycle? The victorious T-Rex briefly eyeing the raptor who had rescued it (recalling that the T-Rex-raptor mismatch concluded “Jurassic Park,” my favorite ending of any movie, ever), and deciding, “Eh, I’ve had enough fighting today. Take off, squirt”? The ankylosaurs playing croquet with the park’s spherical transport vehicles? As with the previous films, the dinosaurs got most of the laughs, and that is as it should be.

Reason’s critic writes,

My own childhood was not rich in dinosaur consciousness: I never had any dinosaur books or dinosaur toys or any of the other dinosaur merch that I know attends the dinosaur phenomenon. I think it’s sweet that Steven Spielberg (an executive producer now—note the brief glimpse of a shooting star in one scene) still feels a connection to this stuff—may he rock on with it for many years to come. But I have to say that I find these movies—the ones that followed the original Jurassic Park, anyway—blindingly repetitious and tremendously boring.

(“merch”?)

Then what the hell are you reviewing dinosaur movies for? For us, those who are fascinated and thrilled by these real-life dragons, the movies are the closest we will get to visiting a real Jurassic Park, and believe me, if there was one, and I could afford it, I’d be there. “Jurassic Park III” was probably the weakest of the films, but it had a spinosaurus, the gigantic, alligator-mawed, sail-backed predator that we only knew about because of photos of a single fossil skeleton in a German museum destroyed by Allied bombs in World War II! (After the film, another one was found, and is displayed in D.C. in the National Geographic building. Damn right I visited it. And bought a model for my collection.)

If you don’t get what’s wonderful about dinosaurs, then it is unethical to review dinosaur movies. You’re not qualified. Do they send reviewers who think ballet is silly to review “Swan Lake”?

Movie reviewers see too many movies. They are jaded, and largely incapable of wonder. They want witty lines and liberal politics. They want “Meryl Streep World.”

How very, very sad.

[One final note: It is also neat the way that new discoveries keep dating the films. For example, in the original, the theory that a T-Rex could only see things that moved was used extensively, but it had been debunked by the second sequel (and was used as the basis for an in-joke.) In “The Lost World,” the first sequel, a T-Rex salaciously licks Julianne Moore like she was a red-haired lollipop. Just last week, it was revealed that scientists had proven that dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues. Cool!]

44 Comments

Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology

44 responses to ““Jurassic World” Ethics: Why Movie Reviewers Are Useless

  1. I’ll wait to see it on my “little” screen at home.

  2. Orin T.

    AS a dinosaurs lover with theatrical credits I am looking forward to your review of Swan Lakr.

  3. Chris Marschner_

    I love these films. Enjoy.

  4. “Merch” is how so-called trendy people say “merchandise”.

    I really enjoy the Jurassic Park series. Though #2 suffers the way mostl sequels do. We watched Jurassic World Friday evening and our 2 year old wandered into the room as the pterosaurs attacked, and she said, “the bats are cute…and scary”.

    I feel the end of Jurassic World was a little deus ex machina + a little nostalgia style that a lot of movies in this era fall for. I’m not sure how releasing s T-Rex to fight and hopefully kill the genetic engineered dinosaur solves the plight of the humans one bit. Either way, at the end of a fight the humans have a ridiculously huge meat eater to contend with.

  5. Inquiring Mind

    On the tongue thing… didn’t the first movie explain they used frog DNA to fill in the gaps?

    Could explain how these dinosaurs don’t exactly match with scientific data…

  6. luckyesteeyoreman

    Jack, do you know more about the story of the fishermen who caught what is thought to be an ichthyosaur in their nets? If so, I would be delighted if you shared what you know about that. I am fascinated by what little blurb I read of the story, long ago, despite the photo that came with it – fuzzy, as always, like with UFOs – and that fuzzy photo being the main reason I have never pursued the story further. I don’t deny evolution, but I am mostly skeptical of how evolution is currently progsplained in stayteskoolz.

    Unrelated, perhaps: the “What on Earth?” segment I caught just last night, during one of my all-too-frequent bouts of insomnia. Seems some money-obsessed (no doubt) white man (of course) attempted to cross-breed a couple of species (including the silkworm moth and gypsy moth, maybe more), and “let” the hybrid escape his mad-scientist back yard (so the segment says, in the predictable all-knowing, bitterly mocking way).

    And now, the biosphere faces an unstoppable plague of tree-killing moths, devouring the forests in Rhode Island, spreading to forests in other states (“as far south as Tennessee,” I swear I heard through the tele).

    All this MUST be true, because satellites spotted it.

    So, introduction of some kind of wasp has been tried for halting the damage by the hybrid’s caterpillars, but with little effect. I am thus more convinced than ever that Evolution exacerbates insomnia – or, cures it, depending on the subspecies (or parallel hybridization). But at least, now I know of a wasp that lays its eggs in forest-devouring caterpillars; the darling little wasp hatchlings eat the caterpillars’ insides. (Perfect allegory for the pestilence of progressivism in FUNdaMENTAList “America.”)

    I can’t wait to see what some smarty-dick “progressive” East Asian, or Shia Muslim, or pro-open-borders Hispanic, or Hindu nationalist, or West African cannibal sex-slave trafficker, or oh-what-the-hell 800-pound coconut-addicted Pacific Islander (any one of those, with a knack for cross-breeding non-simian species), cross-breed in the way of wasps, and what THEY evolve and “let” out of THEIR back yards). Perhaps THOSE hatchlings will have similar appetites for WASPs, so that THAT particular acronym can be retired before it is defined in the law as hate speech – and the REAL wasps can eventually rule the earth (female ones, of course – you know, the egg-layers). Now I’m starting to get curious about wasp eggs for breakfast…

  7. A.M. Golden

    I saw the film yesterday and will be very interested in what you think of some of the ethical dilemmas that come up in the movie, especially at the end.

    • There were already pterandons flying avross the ocean for at least twenty years in the franchise’s timeline. See the ending of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

      • A.M. Golden

        Oh I didn’t just mean the pteranodons, though they are part of the problem, too. And JPIII did demonstrate that they were pretty nasty critters.

        Reluctant to discuss details due to spoilers.

  8. I saw the movie last night; I loved it.

  9. dragin_dragon

    I’m with Z; waiting for the DVD

    • dragin_dragon

      Sorry, all, didn’t ‘Confirm Follow’. Will do so now. Love dinosaurs, looking forward to more comments.

  10. Now why couldn’t we have a world with that type of dinosaur rather than the type in D.C.?

  11. Luke G

    The Jurassic Park reviewer who doesn’t like dinosaurs reminds me of the local 2-bit film critic who shredded “The Fellowship of the Ring” for being bloated and self-important, spending all its time setting up a story that it didn’t resolve, and taking the idea of an ambiguous ending too far so the film became meaningless.

    Turns out he had done so little research he didn’t know it was the first in a trilogy.

  12. valentine0486

    You could look at this the exact opposite way. Maybe the best people to review horror movies are those who dislike horror movies. If they like it, then you know it’s good.

    I don’t like chick flics, so when I think one is good, like I did with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, most people are going to like it. My wife doesn’t like Superhero movies, so when she liked Deadpool and Logan, you know those are two of the best in the superhero genre.

    A critic who is predisposed to dislike a genre is more useful to me than one who is predisposed to like a genre.

    Besides, if you KNOW you are going to watch all the Jurassics because of your life-long love of Dinosaurs, then, by definition, any review of said movie is not meant to be helpful to you. Similarly, if someone hated dinosaurs and refused to watch any movies about them, any such review would not be meant to be helpful to them. Reviews are for the undecided.

    Also, Jurassic Park III would probably make my list of top 20 worst movies I have ever seen. (Possibly top 10). It was difficult to suspend my belief as to the intelligence of the dinosaurs in that movie, and impossible to suspend my belief as to the complete lack of intelligence in the human characters.

    • Jeff

      While I agree with your assessment of the too-intelligent dinosaurs in JPIII, decades of personal experience and observation leads me to conclude that there is no Hollywood writer capable of writing a character so dumb that real, actual, live people cannot outdo him in the field of stupidity. Usually by an order of magnitude or two.

      • valentine0486

        I can’t argue with you when you are right.

        I think the thing that bothered me most was that everyone was so stupid in that movie. If it had just been one moron, I could have lived with it.

        • I agree that JPIII was the worst of the series, but not within miles of a genuinely bad movie. And it had nothing as jaw-droppingly absurd as both Julianne Moore and Jeff Goldblum sprinting around carrying a baby T-Rex that had to weigh 200 pounds as if it was a cocker spaniel in JPII. And that was Spielberg!

          • THIS. Of course, I just though Moore was a buff weightlifter. My cognitive dissonance allowed me to ignore Jeff carrying the baby Rex. (I KNOW he is a wimo, after all)

          • A.M. Golden

            To say nothing if them failing to figure out the T-Rex was following the blood stained clothing Julianne Moore stupidly carried around for half the movie.

  13. Willem Reese

    My interest was recently boosted when I found out that significantly more dino-era creatures than just a few bugs have been found in amber…things like frogs, dino feathers, and even a tail (!). These seem to be fairly recent discoveries, from places like Myanmar.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44458201
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/08/dinosaur-tail-feathers-encased-amber-may-hold-jurassic-secrets/95125370/

    Not the same time period, but still hoping to see a dire wolf and/or mammoth delivered in my lifetime.

  14. DaveL

    I loved the attack of the pterosaurs (accompanied by air raid sirens!)

    Did you catch the part where Jimmy Buffett makes a cameo appearance to rescue a pair of margaritas?

  15. Willem Reese

    Should we expect more negative reviews now that Chris Pratt has noticeably “come out” as a Christian?

    • My guess? Yes. And as soon as his films stop being hits. he’ll have to call Trump a dick or something, or he’ll be doing remakes bad remakes of Steve McQueen movies.

      • Willem Reese

        That would be a shame. I’ve thought, for a while now, that he has the right leading man/goofball mix to be the Harrison Ford replacement.

  16. Rich in CT

    This is a delightful little entry that missed earlier. I was away this weekend, but am very excited for Jurassic Park V!

  17. Bob

    Personally, I like Jurassic Park III quite a bit. I think it’s the best of the original series, but, of course, mileage varies.

    I do have a wonderful on / off topic quote. Ray Bradbury well-remembered that when he was at ‘literary’ parties in New York, that they would look down their collective nose at him when he spoke about space travel or the stars or the ancient past.

    “And when they did that, I would pack up my dinosaurs and go home.”

    I sure miss Ray Bradbury.

    • And as you know, Ray Harryhousen was his boyhood and lifetime friend. How Bradbury NOT be a dinosaur fan?

      • Bob

        Bradbury wrote a great many dinosaur short stories (of course The Sound of Thunder among them), and all are worthwhile. He also wrote a late-in-life novel, Graveyard for Lunatics, which was a fictionalized take on the two Rays (Bradbury and Harryhausen) involved in a Hollywood murder case.

        There is a great book waiting to be written about both of them as boys, right smack in the heart of the Great American Century, dreaming their particular dreams.

        By the way — just let me take another opportunity to say how much I enjoy your blog and your insights. I don’t always agree (I’m not even sure I always agree with myself!), but I’m always engaged.

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