"What If Jurassic World Was Good"
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What If Jurassic World was Good?
What if Jurassic World was good, like really good? With apologies to Michael Barryt and his invaluable Belated Media, I'm going to steal the idea behind his immensely popular, soon-to-be-three-part series about the Star Wars prequels, "What If Star Wars Episode X Was Good?" (Part 1, Part 2)Which is: suppose I'm a story editor who has just been handed Jurassic World, let's go through what works and doesn't work and rework it, bearing in mind what was presented. So it's not my script for Jurassic World, because I have no clue on that, but my version based on the movie that was made.
A fair question at this point is "Why? Isn't Jurassic World an extremely popular movie that made $500 million in a weekend, you critical Poindexter?" And while it's true that Jurassic World did very well at the box office, that is a hurtful way to put it; and furthermore, I know from numerous conversations I wasn't alone in coming away disappointed. Even people I've talked to who liked it reference that it was a "popcorn movie" that's allowed to be light on plot and thought if it delivers a spectacle. I have nothing against that, but I think Jurassic Park delivered both spectacle and a thought provoking movie, and with a little work, so could Jurassic World.
The movie starts with some raptors hatching from eggs, which is cool and just fine. The problems start with the first scene. The Mitchells are getting Zach and Gray to the airport and then the dad makes a snarky comment alluding to their impending divorce. In theory this sets the stage for the action to come and introduce the characters, but you don't actually get any information about either. On top of which, it DOES introduce the divorce subplot, which is kind of bizarrely conceived and unnecessary. The movie should start with them taking the boat to the island, discussing how they haven't seen their Aunt Claire in years, Gray is excited, Zach is blase, and we haven't lost anything.
When they arrive on the island and are looking for Aunt Claire, instead of being met by her assistant, who does almost nothing in the movie until her ridiculous death scene, they should instead be met by Owen's assistant, Barry. It makes sense and shows some awareness of what a couple of young visitors to a theme park would enjoy on Claire's part, which she should have since she ostensibly runs a successful theme park. More importantly, this way, the boys can be present when Owen Grady interacts with the velociraptors and generally be a swaggering cool dude, and later when they're saying they want to stay with him, it's based on more than thirty seconds of shooting pterosaurs. But that's all later. They meet Barry, sheepishly holding a sign at the docks, and we cut to Claire prepping for her meeting.
To me, the tenor of this meeting in the movie is one of the super objectionable things that lead to me thinking way too long and hard about how to save it. First, it doesn't make sense that she's discussing rising costs and decreasing interest in her park to potential sponsors. Second, and more importantly, there's no room in a movie premised on dinosaurs being brought back to life for the idea that "nobody is impressed by a dinosaur anymore." Frankly, it's insulting to the audience watching a movie because they are impressed by dinosaurs.
Instead, paint the park as very successful, but with Claire providing reassurance that scientists will continue to push the envelope and innovate. Maybe draw an analogy between the park and a dinosaur and talk about how the park has to continue to evolve to survive. A change I would make here introducing the idea that first the first several years of Jurassic World, they only displayed herbivores to the public, and kept any carnivores sequestered, only for observation and study. Mention that the T-Rex was successful reintegrated into the park last year, their "chief dinosaur behaviorist" was working on a velociraptor exhibit was opening now (thus providing a reason why the boys were there that weekend), and then discuss the sponsorship of the Indominus Rex, which would open in the near future.
So Claire meets the boys, we see the control room, we meet Masrani, and head off to meet the new dinosaur. Building the walls higher, broken glass in the observation room - these things create the impression that the characters, who are supposed to be running this park, are idiots who are bad at their jobs. And having Owen Grady inspect the paddock because he's a navy man makes no sense. He should be a dinosaur trainer or behaviorist or something with dinosaur in his title, because that's what he does, as we and the boys are about see. Instead, have the dinosaur appear to be listless and sick.
The scene at the raptor pen can stay pretty much as it is, but with the boys present. Instead of ditching out, Barry can excuse himself as having a lot to do in light of the incident with the worker falling in the pen, and then the boys are off to explore the park on their own, before a private tour of brachiosaur meadow in the afternoon.
I don't love the "they used to date" aspect of Claire meeting with Owen, but its fine. It gets us to Owen talking about the psychological needs of the dinosaurs, which explains now why their new "asset" is so lethargic - it's depressed because it's isolated and unstimulated. Claire can make some snarky remark about dinosaur therapy and they're off to the paddock. The dinosaur hasn't disappeared, and there aren't claw marks heretofore unnoticed on the enclosure wall, because again, the impression should not be that the park is operated by morons. In Jurassic Park, we are presented with extremely smart people whose expertise causes them to hubristically believe they can control nature. "Dumb people fuck up" is not a compelling sequel. There's a reason why "When Genius Failed" is the title of a famous book and "When Idiots Failed" is not. We expect idiots to fail. Additionally, the Indominus Rex doesn't disappear because in this version, it can't. It doesn't change color or have the ability to cloak its thermal signature. It is larger than a T. Rex and smarter than Velociraptor. Shouldn't that be enough?
Anyway, there should be some sort of dinosaur vet also on the scene, and as they discuss the situation and the Indominus' condition, the vet decides he needs to inspect it. Owen tries to convince the vet that this is a terrible idea, but ultimately decides to accompany the vet into the paddock, because he's swaggering bad ass. Things naturally go awry. The Indominus was playing possum, eats the vet, and escapes, with Owen making his own narrow escape from the beast.
Just like in the original version, the decision is made to try to capture the Indominus using non-lethal methods, which Owen says is a mistake, and just like in the original, it quickly goes wrong as the beast is willing to shrug of the pain. Owen asserts that no one knows what they're dealing with and they need to kill the Indominus before the situation gets further out of hand. Masrani has his conversation with Wu, which I think gets to the heart of what conflict of Jurassic World wants to be and the best scene in the movie - how unrestrained science without ethics is destructive rather than creative force. Wu gets to play the best kind of villain, who takes something that's true - that nothing in the park is "natural", and twists it to justify his actions even as their consequences are playing out disastrously. One minor change here; the Indominus never removes its tracker. The issue with a giant, super-intelligent dinosaur shouldn't be finding it and this just kind of strains credulity.
Getting the boys out into the wild with the Indominus doesn't really work in the original. It doesn't really make any sense that the park wouldn't have a method of controlling and returning the gyrospheres to the base station in the event of emergency. And again, it makes our protagonists seem like idiots to ignore emergency warning in a dinosaur park. And I've watched this movie several more times than I would like to and I don't know why there's a hole in the fence. But we've established that the boys were going on a private tour of the brachiosaur field. The call comes in that they need to get inside the fences, but before their guide can get them out, the Indominus is already on them. He knocks around their vehicle and eats the guide, but the boys manage to escape, but are lost in a jungle full of dinosaurs.
We get back to the original timeline for a bit. Meanwhile, Masrani has finally faced facts that the situation is out of control and evacuating the park and Hoskins slimily advocating that the Velociraptors be set against the Indominus. Colin Trevorrow has said one of the themes he was trying to establish is corporate excess, so Masrani's cocksure belief that he's the best candidate to fix this actually makes sense even though I've been railing against the dumbness of the characters. Anyway, it goes to hell and Masrani dies and the boys get back inside the walls just as that's going to hell. Jimmy Buffett drinks his margarita amid the dinosaur chaos that convinced people that they liked this movie. Owen and Claire are reunited with the boys, who are once again impressed by Owen's adept handling of dinosaur situations.
Hoskins has assumed power, but Owen is forced to agree that the raptors represent the best option at this point. They engage the Indominus, but eventually a raptor is hit non-fatally by a stray bullet. This harkens back to the first scene with the raptors when Owen implored the guards not to shoot the raptors as he'd lose their trust he'd worked so hard to build. The pack turns on the humans but is not necessarily in league with the Indominus, who doesn't get a stirring monolog in raptorese - it's a misfit that was raised in isolation. The humans are forced to turned their attention away from engaging the the fleeing Indominus to deal with the immediate threat of the raptors, although they show hesitance to attack Owen. Unfortunately Barry isn't so lucky, and since we've spent more time with him, dinosaurs have claimed someone we care about.
Claire, Owen, and the boys head to the control center, which has been evacuated. Hoskins makes his grandstanding soliloquy and gets eaten when the raptors arrive on the scene. The raptors chase our heros, when the Indominus Rex arrives on the scene. Since they have no alliance with the Indominus, the decision here isn't to change sides again, it's to fall in behind their alpha in the face of a mutual threat.
I think people like this fight but there are two things I really want to change about it. First, I think they should lead to the Indominus to the Tyrannosaurus, rather that the reverse. They have vehicles at the control center and it makes more sense than leaving and coming back on foot with a dinosaur in pursuit. The second is cut out the Mosasaur. The Indominus has been fighting dinosaurs and getting shot the whole movie. Let the T. Rex and Velociraptor, which are actual characters in the movie in some regard, wear it down and get the better of it, rather than giving the moment of triumph to a deus ex machina monster.
This can wrap pretty much the same. The romance angle can be left in if that's what people like. I dunno. But the important thing, to me, is that the themes of Jurassic Park, of man's hubris in the face of nature and the illusion of control and the inadequacy of intelligence when wisdom are lacking, be preserved. And dinosaurs smashing things. But that's the easy part.