Sunday 21 June 2015

Jurassic World is Jurassic World

The qualities and weaknesses of the film Jurassic World are almost exactly the same as the qualities and weaknesses of the park shown inside the fictional universe of Jurassic World.

It’s a Woody Allen film, the funny slightly-creepy dickhole you see on screen is the same as the funny slightly-creepy dickhole creating the story, there is almost a 1-to-1 comparison between the moral nature of the fiction and its creator. It is a self-portrait of a deeply flawed culture. Or it’s like the Hunger Games, a film about how awful it would be to live in a culture of ritualised child murder, in which the most key scenes are of expertly-detailed ritual child murder.


So the first smart thing the Jurassic World film does is make the logic behind the park the same as the logic behind the film.

In the fiction the dinosaur makers are desperate and fearful of losing money because their park is both derivative and highly over-capitalised. It cost a shitload of money to make and though it seems successful they bet so hard on it that they need to make an even-more insane amount of money back. They don't really trust or respect their product. They have Dinosaurs, which are fucking amazing, but the public is used to them and they need more. If they actually get more money, more attention, more everything, they will still be fucked as they will just piss that away on bigger and more risky investments, but that doesn't matter right now, they just need a new thing.

In our reality, the reality of the film-makers, exactly the same thing is happening. Jurassic Park is the go-to franchise for Dinosaurs and everyone has fond memories because after five or ten years, shit films become culturally invisible. No-one remembers them so, for the terms of marketing, they don't exist. Remember those shitty Die-Hard sequels? You do now but in twenty years you won't and the memory of Nakatomi Plaza will still be shining.

The producers are locked in a logic-box. Dinosaurs are not enough, everyone has them now, and, like the park and like every major summer blockbuster, they are massively over-capitalised. They need to make an INSANE amount of money to be considered a success. So they need something new. They need some fucking bullshit.

The conversations in the studio about the creation of the Insomnious Rex and the conversations in fictional In-Gen about the creation of the Insomnious Rex* are the same conversations. Even the memos are the same. And the mixture of childish glee and vague contempt with which the film regards the Indomnius rex is the same as the mixture of childish glee and vague self-loathing with which the executives regard the Indomnius rex. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save (or re-capitalise) the series, it’s also a basic admission on the part of the technicians in the park and the artists of the film that Dinosaurs are shit.

If Dinosaurs are shit and uninteresting then the moral existence of Jurassic World is void and you may as well just use the reconstructed beasts for meat and tools. That's in the fiction. If films with dinosaurs are shit then Jurassic World is like a painting by a painter who doesn't believe in the beauty of their subject. It's like a man looking at a women he doesn't like, trying to make her look beautiful and silently hating her. It’s kind of like the darker side of porn. Desire mingled with contempt. It degrades the painter and the subject.


The way Jurassic World degrades its subject is just an extension of the way Jurassic Park degraded its subject but more egregious, with less love and more desire. A dark and recessive gene, only present in the first film, but brought to full expression in the 4th generation by relentless imaginative in-breeding.

And as I will state again, for an artist, contempt for the subject becomes contempt for yourself and contempt for the audience.

The Jurassic films have always played the trick of pimping animals as monsters.

It's an old genre trick.

A. T-Rex roar. They probably didn't roar. Why do they roar in the films? Because that’s what Alpha-Monsters do. We have learnt this from fiction. The T-Rex looks like an Alpha-Monster, so it has to sound like an Alpha-Monster. It must play the part we set for it. After all, we created it did we not? And the money that made it came from the entertainment industry. Why shouldn't it be our puppet?

B. Stegosaurus ass-up. As shown here the Jurassic films actually addressed this issue and then went back. Real Stegosaurus don’t feel heavy enough. Their tails would wag too much. They look like they are mincing a little. It’s slightly girlish, change it. Also they are too bright, grey them out.

C. Feathers. Feathers aren't scary. Feathers are feminine. Scales are scary, skin is ok. Boys like smooth objects. If a top predator is very bright and feathered we would have to shoot them differently the colour arrangement of the film would be different. And most importantly - the logic of light and danger would be different from other films. It would tell the story differently to other films, it would be different to other films. Change it. (We can add this to the theme of men in their thirties making films about childish things afraid of being seen as childish so sucking all the colour out of their films.)

D. Smaller Velociraptors. Obviously a no-goer.

I think in every case where Dinosaurs were presented in a way other than our most current and most accurate estimation of how they look they were :

- Masculinised. Less feathers, less bright, duller colours, made to look more 'heavy', not to tread lightly. Smoother.

- Monsterised. Less human-indifferent animal behaviour which you must work to understand. More human-focused behaviour that makes sense according to popular story logic. This animal is 'good' this one 'bad'. This one 'likes' this character, this other one 'dislikes' this character.

- Capitalised. Make them more like the other films, that’s what people recognise. Make them more like the IP so we can control the IP. Make it like a Trade-mark. Something we can own.


If this was just a normal genre film full of inventive things it wouldn’t be that bad. So J.J.Abrams and Simon Pegg don't actually like Star Trek that much? They'd rather it was something else? Well fuck it, not much is lost, the good stuff still exists and you get some fragments of beauty out of it.

But Dinosaurs aren't Star Trek, they are a deep thing.

Reasons Dinosaurs matter

- Dinosaurs are from and are symbolic of, Deep Time. The long reaches of time change the perspective of humanity and its relation to the world in ways too total and powerful to cram into even a group of essays. I will simply say that a world in which deep time exists has fundamentally different moral implications than one in which it does not. I will assert that our relationship to fictionally-recreated dinosaurs is like a single very thin strand of our thinking about and relationship with the idea of deep time. They are that time made real, in the minds eye at least. And they are the most exciting, lively and life-imbuing avatar of that concept.

- The power shown in the fiction of the Jurassic World series is a vague shadow of an entirely-real power we will almost certainly have. We might not be able to resurrect Dinosaurs but we will be able to do a LOT with genetics. In talking about the power of our technology over life, Jurassic Park is talking about a really fucking important power that we increasingly have and that we have almost no experience with thinking about. ILM is just the herald of an In-Gen that will one day actually exist.

- In a wider sense, the films, and the Dinosaurs which are the engines of the film are about the relation of technology to nature and this relationship is probably the deepest and most important question of human culture that exists today. What is the validity and beauty and moral meaning of natural world? What should our relationship to it be? Is it a tool, a toy, a work of art, a simple means to live? if it has meaning, where does that meaning come from? What are our responsibilities?

- I will assert here that I think that Dinosaurs are beautiful and have a moral meaning, inherent to themselves, both in their actual previous existence in the real world, but also in the minds-eye are works of art and living beings, though they live only as webs of digital light.


So I think the essential mediocrity and failure of imagination of the film betrays something more important than just a series of fictional ideas.

Beauty matters and the beauty of a strange form is a good thing to add to the world. A world in which Dinosaurs are feathered and bright and act like fucking dinosaurs and the people watching have to work to understand something outside themselves, is a better world.

And, since the power and energy and life of the Jurassic films derives entirely from the existence and imagined re-construction of fucking Dinosaurs, not doing the fucking Dinosaurs properly, turning them into toys, is an act of fucking startling creative douchebaggery.

The films are based on the advances in our knowledge of Dinosaurs and those advances are actually fascinating and good and meaning-imbuing and they were ignored. This film is like a version of Apollo 13 where they get rescued by aliens.

Its weak and its awful and its morally wrong. They had the power and the capacity and the fucking mandate to make the world more interesting and beautiful and accurate and wondrous all at the same time and they fucking failed and failed wilfully.


*I know, I know, it was a joke.


  1. Damn there's something thought making about this post. I would add (and I think this sorta makes the linkage between film and film narrative more of a hall of mirrors) that I understand feathers are still harder to computer animate then scales or skin, likewise the shiny is still easier to animate then the not shiny - at least this is what a dude I know in the business says. In the first Jurassic Park movie one of the reason that the T-Rex (we must call it a T-Rex not a Tyrannosaurus Rex now) attacked in the rain was because dark slick surfaces in the rain could be animated back then, unreflected surfaces less so.

    Now I'm not saying that the glorious pastel feathered dinosaur can't be animated these days, only that it would undoubtedly cost more, and because of many years of cost cutting in film depictions of dinosaurs (since well ... Jurassic Park) the popular view of them is as you say. So save money on production and give the audience the untruth they believe is 'realism'.

    Not sure if I have a point only that the animation technology of film making in Jurassic World may (assuming the guy I know isn't a boozed up bullshitter) be analogous in it's creation of entertaining falsehood with the bio-technology of the fictional dinosaur makers.

    1. This was the reason why superheroes used to wear skin-tight lycra in the comics. It was quicker (and thus more economical) to draw, than adding clothing that did not conform to the human shape. Capes being the exception, because they provide a dynamic (in the sense of indicating motion) and are easy to draw anyway because they are non-conformal.

      But look at the difference with modern comics.

      They have the computing power to do pretty good feathers and fur these days, but the computing cost of doing so (and making it realistic) goes up. And when it comes to CGI most studios really are skinflints. On the other hand, the publicity budget of many movies exceeds the production budget of the movie quite often these days. Their priorities are definitely in the wrong place.

  2. I find your points well stated and with merit. Thanks for sharing. Validates my feeling that working hard on playing games is not a frivolous act but an art worthy of study and evaluation.

  3. Pat,

    Every time I read one of your posts, as you take something supermundane like forest fires or dinosaurs and turn it into your muse for romantic mindfluckery, I have to stop and wait a second... to see if my head is going to explode Scanners-style.


  4. This post made me think of Dinotopia, and how laudable James Gurney's commitment to making his Dinosaurs as accurate to the current science as possible truly is, despite (or because of) the fantasy.

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    1. I can't tell if you are a bot or not but please don't dump sketchy pirate video links in my comments