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.
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!]