Steven Spielberg's iconic adventure film/backdoor commercial for a lucrative real-life theme park ride, Jurassic Park first came out over 25 years ago. Recently the timeless "dinosaur theme park plus carnage" premise was revived by the Jurassic World series, starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and a cavalcade of yet more imperiled children whose names and faces we've already totally forgotten. (Sorry, kids.)
When the first of these new blockbusters hit theatres back in 2015, it not only rebooted the franchise, but the park itself. John Hammond's plan for a dinosaur theme park may have been sidelined by a few pesky horribly violent deaths, but Jurassic World sees his vision finally come to fruition -- despite the fact that he totally changed his mind by the end of the original movie.
This new park isn't just open, it's thriving. And it's no wonder, Jurassic World has everything; genetically-modified dinosaurs, human hamster balls, and even a Starbucks -- because what barista wouldn't want to travel by helicopter to a remote island to make dinosaur-themed Frappuccinos for sweaty American tourists?
When Jurassic World was first released, this all seemed ... kind of weird. Would they really reopen Jurassic Park after the tragedies depicted in the first movie? Think about it; if the test run of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter resulted in multiple fatalities and several near child-disembowelings, presumably people wouldn't be sucking back Butterbeers like it was no big deal just a few years later. And the events of the first movie were well-known by the time of Jurassic World. So how could, for instance, Jimmy Buffett sanction building a Margaritaville location on Velociraptor Death Island? For all he knew, his customers would be enjoying their "Calypso Coconut Shrimp" on the same exact spot where Newman was horrifically disemboweled.
Well, it all makes a bit more sense now. As critic Matt Zoller Seitz and others on social media have pointed out, no one living through 2020's COVID-19 pandemic would ever question the believability of these events. Despite the fact that we're in the midst of a global emergency that has killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War, many leaders including the President are pushing to reopen this U.S. economy against the advice of experts. And we're already seeing people willing to risk their lives and the lives of others to simply or get a haircut, or watch Vin Diesel get injected with nanotechnology and go on a killing spree.
So in retrospect, it's laughable to think that the business world wouldn't push to reopen a dinosaur theme park two decades after it turned deadly. Some restaurants are already defying lockdown orders and people are showing up to eat -- and velociraptors are arguably a tad more exciting than breakfast burritos. In fact, it's sadly commendable that no one tried to open Jurassic Park during the actual emergency. Texas is re-opening businesses even as more than 1000 people a day are getting sick -- which is a little like if John Hammond started ferrying in tourists shortly after the electric fences crapped out and his grandchildren went missing.
The Jurassic Park series has always been, to some extent, about the moral failings of putting business interests ahead of human life. John Hammond is a kindly old man with a fondness for straw hats and white linen outfits, but his actions in the original Jurassic Park are pretty messed up. One of Hammond's workers dies like three minutes into the movie while helping transfer a raptor into its cell.
Hammond gives so few craps about this tragedy, he can't even "be bothered" to meet with his lawyer to discuss the matter. Nor does he want his park subjected to a proper inspection because they "slow everything down."
Even though his investors are justifiably concerned with the park's safety issues, Hammond just wants to press on with his project. Oddly, instead of an inspection, he opts to invite two small children and a handful of academics to "sign off" on the park -- which in no way should mollify his investors' worries that more employees might get eaten alive while on the job.
Hammond eventually realizes the error of his ways, but then in The Lost World: Jurassic Park we learn that Hammond has some moron nephew who's in charge of the company now. It seems that this new head of InGen, Peter Ludlow, also isn't terribly bothered by that employee's death ... or by any of the many other deaths that followed that death. We know this because Ludlow's solution to the company's financial problems, caused by the dangers posed by their dinosaur-based tourist attraction, is to create another dinosaur-based tourist attraction. But this one is, oddly, even more dangerous.
Ludlow's plan is to bring Jurassic Park to the people, by opening an attraction in San Diego. Which is kind of insane; the riskiest part of that island filled with cloned killing machines wasn't the commute. Ludlow's plan involves capturing the dinosaurs and exhibiting them in an amphitheater.
Ludlow's expedition to Isla Sorna, the second dinosaur-filled island, doesn't go so well. He brings a small army of heavily-armed men who, unlike the nerds in the first Jurassic Park, are actually trained in combat and expecting to fight a bunch of dinosaurs. This still results in several violent deaths. And still Ludlow is convinced that his business plan is rock solid, so he stashes a sedated Tyrannosaurus Rex on board a freighter and has it shipped to the U.S. Yeah, that doesn't go well, either. The T-Rex gets loose and terrorizes San Diego, leading to multiple people being eaten, and also however many deaths occur when a city bus smashes into a Blockbuster Video.
We're skipping Jurassic Park III because it took a break from the whole "fuck it, let's reopen Jurassic Park" storyline. So yeah, even after all of these various dinosaur-related calamities, Jurassic World opens. And boatloads of people go every year.
Jurassic World is full of references to another Steven Speiberg movie; Jaws, which some have pointed to as the film that best represents our current predicament. But unlike Jaws, which features heated debates with Amityville's dangerously obtuse Mayor, the problematic decision-making that leads to each iteration of the park reopening happens mostly behind the scenes. Even after the straight-up mass disaster of Jurassic World, a bunch of rich assholes think that there's still money to be made from these dinosaurs, and maybe we should keep a bunch of them in a goddamn house instead. There is no continuous villain throughout the Jurassic Park franchise, just the amorphous threat that authority figures will ignore reason in defense of economic collapse, and innocent people will die as a result. We should listen to scientists, even if they think an outfit composed entirely of black leather is the way to go in a tropical climate.
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Top Image: Universal Pictures