Jurassic Family

"Jurassic World" is more family oriented than one might expect, and has a subtle message about messing with the natural order

(Photo: Universal)

(Photo: Universal)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
USCCB Rating:
A-III
Reel Rating: (4 out of 5)

After two somewhat disappointing sequels, Jurassic World manages to be just as much fun as 1993’s Jurassic Park while also grappling with a host of new, 21st century ethical dilemmas. Director Colin Trevorrow, in just his second film at the helm, demonstrates a keen eye for action and an ear for witty dialogue, lovingly preserving the “Golly whiz!” atmosphere even while some pretty terrifying stuff goes down in terms of both gore and philosophy.

Twenty years after John Hammand’s first attempt at making a dinosaur theme park went sour, “Jurassic World” is now a fully functional and world famous attraction, featuring plenty of merchandise and corporate influence. In early scenes, the brothers Grey and Zach Mitchell are sent by their parents to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the career-driven, cell-phone obsessed executive who runs the park and gives them VIP passes so they will stay out of her hair. They visit the various attractions, including a Mosasaurus that splashes visitors like Sea World and an off road spherical vehicle that allows close access to sauropods.

Claire is concerned with getting Verizon Wireless to sponsor the newest “asset”, Indominus Rex, a completely hybrid dinosaur. “We thought genetic modification would up the ‘wow’ factor,” she gleefully announces. Her raptor trainer and former single date boyfriend Owen (the always enjoyable Chris Pratt) is not so impressed. “They’re dinosaurs,” he says, “Wow enough.” Of course, there are some unforeseen consequences and soon Indominus is wreaking havoc throughout the park. It’s going to take some old school wisdom rather than corporate strategery to fix the problem.

The first Jurassic Park dealt with the bioethical dilemma of cloning and “playing God,” a very Huxulian and Owellian theme. This film goes a step further into the new age, addressing the work of genetically engineering lifeforms to fit specific needs. Indominus is an entirely new creation, not simply the resurrection of an old one; it was made through human pride rather than divine evolution. Like the golem and Frankenstein’s monster, man’s creation is fallen not just in its nature but in its formation. Here, Indominus is made to be an exciting attraction but also, secretly, a weapon of war.

One scientist counters Owen’s skepticism by insisting, “We’ve always been doing this.” It true that technology has existed since the dawn of fire. The difference is that traditionally human ingenuity has cooperated with nature rather than simple changing it to fit human needs. It’s one thing to cross pea pods to get a sweeter and richer food; it’s quite another to inject them with firefly DNA to make them glow at night. It’s not unlike the difference between natural family planning and contraception.

One profound and unexpected aspect of Jurassic World is a strong affirmation of the necessity of familial relationships. The nephews are sent off due to an impending divorce. At the mention of this, Grey begins crying. “It will be fine,” Zach insists. “We’ll get two of everything. Two houses. Two cars. Two sets of presents.”

“I don’t want two of everything. I want one,” he affirms. Like Claire, their parents push them aside to focus on their own wants, putting their children in serious danger in the process. Owen, however, understands the importance of relationships. As the raptor trainer, he is the alpha of the pack, even entering the paddock unarmed to save a fellow worker.

“How do you control them?” someone asks bewildered. “It’s not about control. It’s a relationship based one respect.” Owen is perfectly content with the simple things: a motorcycle, a trailer, a good beer, and a nice laugh. He even has sympathy for Indominus Rex, noting that the poor creature was raised in isolation without any other animals, leading to bad “social skills”. He loves the dinosaurs but is willing to sacrifice them to save people, risking his life to kill Indominus and save Claire’s family, putting nature in its proper place in respect to the value of humans. He’s a man both St. Francis and St. George would admire.

In a very subtle and gentle way, Jurassic World gives society a little poke in its most sensitive area, reminding it that despite all the current talk surrounding same-sex marriage and transgenderism, nature cannot be changed. God’s way is the best way. Unfortunately, it seems like speculative fiction is the only place this thinking is appropriate.

About Nick Olszyk 89 Articles

Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.