Jurassic World – Treating Raptors Right
Jurassic World is a fantastic dinosaur movie and an awesome action film. I was lucky enough to see the movie in Imax 3D, and the experience was completely mind-blowing. I was astounded by the adventure I was taken on for 2 hours – right into the center of Isla Nublar (the renamed Jurassic Park) and the heart of the action. Set in the not too distant future, Jurassic World is open for business. The attractions only imagined by John Hammond are by now all up and running, and Jurassic World is on its last legs financially. To prevent the business from becoming another dinosaur in the already overcrowded world of entertainment, InGen want the park to create a new attraction to boost attendance. Visitors are tired of seeing the dinosaurs, and find looking at their mobiles more interesting than a T Rex at feeding time. Seeking something bigger, cooler, scarier and “with more teeth”, InGen create a genetically modified hybrid… the Indominus Rex. Based on a T Rex, but with all the less than cuddly elements amplified, the Indominus Rex promises to be a monster worthy of Spielberg’s legacy. While the T Rex of the earlier Jurassic Park films has been retired and put out to graze in favour of a newer model, we see a few familiar faces in the velociraptors who pretty much steal the film as well as the hearts of most of the audience. Jurassic World is highly influenced by Spielberg’s original film (and reverentially so), but the latest installment in the franchise is a beast of a very different nature, with some refreshing perspectives. Jurassic World is one long homage to wisdom of the legendary Dr Ian Malcolm. Just to jog your memories, here he is in the first Jurassic Park film nursing his leg wound by removing his shirt: Dubious medical knowledge aside, it’s his theory on the descent into chaos that propels the narrative of Jurassic Park and his belief that you cannot assume control of nature that serves as a dire (and unheeded) warning to John Hammond. Jurassic World is Ian Malcolm’s legacy as we see his warnings ring true – life finds a way. You can never be in control of nature. Even though I knew Jeff Goldblum would not be reprising his role as Ian Malcolm in Jurassic World, I was still very excited about going to the cinema (my work colleagues have heard nothing except “velociraptor this” and “velociraptor that” for the past three months). I was so excited that it took me back to being a child, and the excitement I felt when I went to see Jurassic Park in the cinema in 1993. As a child I found the whole experience magical, and for me the velociraptors stole the show. Their terrifying ruthlessness as an indomitable killing machine scared me, but they were also exciting. As highly intelligent pack hunters, they thrilled me even though they were the “bad guys” in Jurassic Park. Or were they really the “bad guys”? Perhaps I was on their side as a child because deep down I knew that they weren’t really the big bad monsters in this film… the men who created them were. Jurassic Park is a great monster movie, but scratch beneath the surface and you find the backbone of a fossilized feminist sub-text (check out Daniel Dalton’s entertaining run-through of how this works in the film). Like all the other dinosaurs in the park, the female raptors are created and held captive by men. Intrinsically misunderstood by their captors, they are objects of fear who are kept in cramped cages and suffer electrocutions to keep them in check. Everything about their existence is controlled – what they eat, where they go, their inability to breed. Due to a lack of interest or consideration for their innate characteristics or behaviour, they are not allowed to develop a social hierarchy or realise their place in the world. They have no identities and no names… except “clever girl”. In Jurassic Park the raptors are highly intelligent and powerful pack animals who are mistreated by their owners. Denied the opportunity to live their lives as nature intended, they are not exactly well-adjusted individuals. And when they get out of their cages, they’re not happy campers. Jurassic World shows us a completely different perspective on how to look after a raptor pack. Aware of their instincts and need to be in a pack, Owen Gill (head of the “Raptor Squad”) raises his raptors as a pack, with him as alpha. Living alongside humans in a spacious and enriched enclosure, the raptors accept their handlers as pack members and have meaningful social relationships with their male keepers. This bond is most affectionately expressed by the raptors in their refusal to kill their keeper outright… you can’t ask for better than that, can you? The velociraptors are treated as individuals and are even given names: Blue, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. Their keepers allow the raptors to be a pack and they engage with the animals on the raptors’ terms, not theirs. It is a relationship based on mutual respect. Contrast this with the existence of the Indominus Rex – kept in total isolation without stimulation of any kind for her whole life in a tiny enclosure, despite being highly intelligent, and you can see why she is driven to madness and goes on the killing spree which dominates most of the film. For me, her maladjusted and mistreated character represents how the abused velociraptors were portrayed as the “bad guys” in the first Jurassic Park film. Perhaps the Indominus Rex would not be such a basket case if she had been brought up in the same way as the velociraptors and taken on the occasional motorbike walk: Owen Gill and his team treat raptors with respect and have a pack relationship with them. They are a team, and that bond is fed by the compassion with which they treat each other. So what can we learn from Jurassic World? I think we can take away from this film that we can all enjoy freedom from fear through understanding, respecting, and acting with compassion for our fellow beings.