Last weekend, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” finally reached American theaters after opening internationally to big box offices the previous two weeks. The movie continues the series that, as character John Hammond hoped, has “captured the imagination of the entire world,” although admittedly less with each entry after the first.
Part of the allure, in addition to the visceral thrill of seeing dinosaurs munch on people, is the way the movies communicate a very human message with a conservative temperament.
Now, it is very easy to read too much into fiction, especially when it is primarily entertainment. We should not give the creators too much credit or blame for their decisions. The character Nick Owen frees dinosaurs from being shipped from the islands to a mainland zoo, and one may think this a reference to the historical Jesuit Nick Owens, who freed Catholics in Elizabethan England. However, in an interview, the creator said he named the character after one of his favorite songs.
Yet it is possible for a piece of art to communicate additional meaning, consciously or subconsciously. One of the most quoted lines of the series is Ian Malcolm’s: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The line first gets to a subtle truth that science isn’t about “should,” as it can’t answer the deep philosophical questions of “why” but only “how” and “what.”
Scientists, as opposed to science, are people, however, and can ponder these questions. So they have a responsibility to mull over the question of “should.” In these movies, as in reality, people often defer to concerns of money, pleasure, prestige, and power rather than to what is right and natural, often to the peril of themselves and their fellow men.
Malcolm’s quote and the ensuing carnage, which the new movie bookends with Malcolm’s congressional testimony about the ravages reintroducing dinosaurs will have, also succinctly posits the lesson from G.K. Chesterton’s parable of the fence. Paraphrased, he tells of two men walking along a path. They reach a fence. The progressive says, “Why is that here? We should remove it.” The conservative responds, “Find out why it is here, then you have my agreement to remove it.” A conservative temperament allows tradition and the status quo to operate as the default, as it more likely has a connection to the natural state of things.
Once a fence is dislodged, it can’t easily be put back. Using the Jurassic Park movies as a further analogy, the natural state of dinosaurs is to be extinct, scary animals that kill equally scary animals to survive. The scientists in the movies decouple that natural state, bringing dinosaurs back to life. The dinosaurs are faster, bigger, and scarier than before, all in pursuit of more money in the corporate coffers or more power in whatever military endeavor B.D. Wong’s character is engrossed.
We may question why we would unharness such incredible power, but we have done it already. The most significant fence that has been dislodged, and one the Jurassic Park movies wink at, is the one broken by the sexual revolution. Every movie has a connection to family breakdown and the dual nature of love and creation.
In “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World,” the children are only on their dinosaur vacations because their parents are going through nasty divorces. In “The Lost World,” Malcolm, as a man in perpetual search of a “future ex-Mrs. Malcolm,” has lost all authority in his family. His daughter uses that to justify stowing away to be in danger of dinosaur consumption.
The events of “Jurassic World III” are set off by a boyfriend of a young boy’s mom trying to impress the boy with a dangerous trip, then getting killed by murderous Pteranodons. With typical Hollywood hyperbole, breaking the unitive side of marriage leads to danger.
On the other side, the dinosaurs throughout the movies show the risks of meddling with the procreative side of life. The life finds a way in the first movie, with all female dinosaurs changing to hatch eggs. The second and third movies explore dinosaurs’ family and clan connections, with first the T-Rexes then the Raptors showing the necessity and benefit of real structure. “Jurassic World” exhibits the Indominus Rex, which is driven mad by being raised alone and created without love for a commercial and military purpose.
However, as in the sexual revolution, once the natural state has been broken and its base assumptions ignored, it does make logical sense to go down the paths taken. If a dinosaur is supposed to be extinct but is not, then it only exists because science has made it. As an un-extinct creation, it has no rights. It can be controlled, bought, sold, manipulated, and changed to please the demands of a military or a hungry audience.
On the other end, “The Lost World” and the new movie react according to the natural state of the dinosaurs as animals, working to preserve the rights of these newly endangered creatures but forgetting that these beasts were made for a different world. The “rescued” animals wreak havoc on their surroundings and end up, again, killing people.
In the same way, if marriage has been changed from an eternal union ordered towards raising children and instead is about actualization, pleasure, or sexualized friendships, the results can be used to logically justify further change. If marriage is about happiness, then once happiness is gone, so should the marriage be, without regards to the well-being of any children produced. If kids are a commodity and not a result of a loving marriage, then you can logically end up with designer children, or at least the tragedy of 4,000 lives lost after an accident at an invitro clinic.
The benefit of pausing to evaluate the natural state of things and heed the lesson of the Chesterton fence is that we avoid unintended consequences. I would love to see real dinosaurs, but for reasons beyond me they are long extinct. The movies show how people may react to the introduction of an unnatural thing, and we have seen that in our society’s decision to destroy the nature of marriage. In both, we see the awesome power of creation reduced to entertainment, monetary gain, and ultimately boredom, necessitating innovation toward unnatural ends.
Many reviews of the two recent movies question whether it’s realistic that a dinosaur park would really need to create new chimeras when the legitimate article is clearly available. Unfortunately, we have the real examples of married couples in which each spouse has proclaimed loudly to the world that the other is everything they will ever need, yet one or the other looks elsewhere for satisfaction. Those struggling with porn or infidelity may show the fantastic movies are closer to the truth than we would like to admit.
These works of fiction show that science in and of itself cannot answer questions of purpose, and science applied without purpose can be dangerous and destructive. These first principles should take a cue from nature. Unlike the dangers a T-Rex presents, the risks inherent in disrupting the real state of nature come without warning tremors.