‘Jurassic World’ shows bigger is not necessarily better

“Jurassic World” shows us that bigger isn’t better and the movie just screams: “Why did anyone think this would be a good idea?” If you can get past that, you might enjoy it although we only attended because it was part of a special Los Angeles Natural History Museum event featuring a life-sized baby T-Rex puppet and a Q&A panel with paleontologist Michael Habib, special effects expert David Krentz, and science writer Kyle Hill, and moderated by Nerd Brigade’s Cara Santa Maria.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed” 2012), this science fiction adventure movie is the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series which includes:

  1. “Jurassic Park” (1993)
  2. “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997)
  3. “Jurassic Park III” (2001)
  4. “Jurassic World” (2015)

“Jurassic Park” was based on Michael Crichton’s book and was about the Jurassic Park owner John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) brings on scientists paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to calm his investors after the death of an employee. The threesome are surprised to see the living examples of dinosaurs brought back from extinction or de-extinction. When programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne  Knight) shuts down the park’s power to smuggle dinosaur embryos to sell to a rival company, the dinosaurs escape and the people trapped on the island must find a way to turn the power back on.

“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” takes place on the Isla Sorna which served as a dinosaur nursery for the park. A vacationing family stumbles upon it and Jack Hammond calls in Ian Malcolm to perform research with the hopes of turning it into a reserve. Malcolm joins his girlfriend paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) on the island at the same time Hammond’s nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is leading hunters to capture some dinosaurs to help start a theme park in San Diego. There is a predator on the loose and the two teams eventually have to work together to survive.

“Jurassic Park III” begins when a boy goes missing while parasailing on Isla Sorna and the parents (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) hire Alan Grant to help them find their son. The group is threatened by the Velociraptors.

This new movie was actually being developed by Steven Spielberg during the production of “Jurassic Park III.” The old park has fallen into ruins, but a new park has been built on the Isla Nubar just off of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government has not formally protested the constant endangerment to its world by WMD–Wildlife of Mass Destruction and no UN sanctions have been placed.

This new park Jurassic World is owned by Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and  his Masrani Corp. People do forget about the past, apparently, and it is 22 years after the Isla Nublar tragedy. Seeing dinosaurs returning from de-extinction has become so blasé that the park needs to introduce new species every so often to bring the numbers back up.

Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) are being sent by their possibly divorcing parents to visit their career woman aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is the park operations manager. Dearing is a woman who doesn’t manage to put together a practical power ensemble and also can’t find time for her nephews. Her nephews are dumped on her assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath).

Claire must attend to Masrani’s arrival and the preparation to introduce their new genetically modified dinosaur: Indominus rex. Masrani wants Claire to approach the Velociraptor whisperer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to work with the new creature. Owen has been training a team of raptors (Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo) to accept him as their alpha and work off of certain commands.

In the shadows, the InGen security head guy, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onogrio at his hissable best) plots to get those raptors into a military service of hunt and destroy the world’s enemies. Yes…that’s why I’m thinking Wildlife of Mass Destruction. Instead of mad scientist, we have mad military dictator-in-the-making. There is a mad scientist, Dr.  Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) who won’t tell us exactly what ingredients he used to make the Indominus stew, a brew so strongly evil that while there were two, there is now only one because the stronger one ate the other. This is their new attraction, a dinosaur that bigger, better, smarter and more vicious than our beloved king of the dinosaurs, T-rex.

Raising kids isn’t easy, but raising Indominus isn’t either. It has been raised in isolation without any imprinting on humans. It just ate its only friend and fellow sibling. Now that’s a dysfunctional family and poor meal planning. Part of the genetic stew that made Indominus included cuttlefish and then there’s a bit of tree frogs plus a mysterious secret ingredient that will be less a secret than the recipe for Coca Cola by the end of the movie.

As you can guess, Indominus gets loose and our dinosaur whisperer  Owen Grady will save the day with the help of his raptors. Zach will learn to be a better brother to Gray. Asian guys will die–no not B.D. Wong, but Brian Tee as Katashi Hamada, the leader of the Asset Containment Unit and Irrfan Khan as the crazy Masrani who spent $26 million on Indominus. That Mosasaur plays an important part in the plot.

Here’s one spoiler: T-Rex announces there will be a sequel in the end. Or that’s at least what I understood him to say. I don’t get much opportunity to speak T-Rex.

Pratt worked better as a brash guy with a chip on his shoulder and a sense of humor in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Here his humor is mostly in his poor attempts at flirtation. Wardrobe saw fit to have poor Bryce Dallas Howard running around in heels throughout the film. She deserves an award, but for swollen feet and not necessarily acting. The script doesn’t give her much more respect than her costuming.

So what’s science fiction and what’s science fact?

At the Q&A panel with paleontologist Michael Habib, special effects expert David Krentz, and science writer Kyle Hill, and moderated by Nerd Brigade’s Cara Santa Maria, we learned a few things.

Not all the animals in “Jurassic World” are dinosaurs (Mososaur, Dimorphodons and the Pteranodons).

Dimorphodons and the Pteranodons  would not be in an aviary. We wondered on the way home if those animals could really fly in that manner presented because we thought they soar so some of the maneuvers are unlikely.

Habib noted there were some anatomical features that weren’t correct. That “diva hand” thing isn’t correct.

Of course, the dinosaurs we see on the screen also have to service the story.  Krentz said that is the most important thing for him. He may be asked to make the eyes bigger or the lips so it can make a “kissy face.”

Some other cinematic touches include making the herbivores very friendly like the sad sauropod. Triceratops are always rhino-like. Triceratops and Stegosaurus have elephant or rhino feet.

Hill stated that because “DNA has a half-life that decays and half of it becomes unusable that makes a firm limit on how far we can reach back and pull an animal out of the grave.” He did not that experiments were made with an ibyx using the closest living relative, but only one embryo survived to birth and then died after ten minutes.

Santa Maria noted that even if we were able to the dinosaur would be a GMO and questioned would it be ethical to do so. An audience member later noted that we have so many contemporary animals that are endangered why would we bring dinosaurs back instead.

Scientists have been able to find “ancient traits” that have been genetically “silenced” and bring them back such as giving birds teeth, Habib noted movies have a “tendency to verbally exaggerate.” That roar? Would more likely be a hiss. While we have no direct evidence of how dinosaur communicated, we know that birds are “good communicators and quite social” and scientists can draw theories about dinosaurs from them.

Habib also noted that the Mososaur would not likely be that large and even so, to get a specimen that large one would need about 50 years of growth time. I wondered about the basic feeding schedule and where they were raising the food sources. And what about the native species on the island?

“Jurassic World” features great CGI, but not a great story. If not for the visit by Hunter, the life-size T-rex puppet and the panel discussion, I would have given this a pass.


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