Last month, at San Diego’s uber-nerdy Comic Con, director Colin Trevorrow unveiled the first teaser poster for next year’s Jurassic World. Die-hard dinosaur fans were disappointed with what they saw.
Despite dino discoveries made in the 21 years since the first Jurassic Park roared onto the screen, the poster revealed that the upcoming sequel’s dinosaurs are keeping a retro-scaly vibe.
The teaser’s Velociraptor, perched atop a wrecked park tour vehicle, is totally nude. We know that this dinosaur – and closely-related ‘raptors‘ – were covered in complex plumage. Not to mention that the poor dinosaur has a bad case of ‘bunny hands’, with palms facing downwards. A real Velociraptor wouldn’t be able to do this. The wrists of dinosaurs were arranged more like those of chickens, with palms facing inward. In other words, Velociraptor was a clapper, not a slapper.
Trevorrow had warned us that Jurassic World’s dinosaurs would be plucked, but the reality of seeing the teaser sent frustrated fossil fans and paleontologists to Facebook and other forums to vent their displeasure. Instead of working with paleontologists to create the best dinosaurs possible, the poster confirmed, Hollywood was set on portraying Velociraptor and company as scaly monsters.
But I feel cautiously optimistic about Jurassic World’s vision. It all depends on how it’s played out.
Like other dinomaniacs, I was disappointed by Trevorrow’s announcement that Jurassic World would lack fluffy and feathery dinosaurs. I was saddened that a movie with so much potential to interest and inspire a new generation of dinosaur fans would thoroughly disregard some of the most important developments in dinosaurology. As Jurassic World details started to bubble up to the surface, however, Trevorrow’s choice started to make more sense.
So far as anyone knows right now, Jurassic World is going to hinge on an operating, successful Jurassic Park. The attraction has done so well, in fact, that visitors start yawning rather than screaming, and so the tourist trap’s bigwigs decide to engineer a monstrous dinosaurian chimera to boost ticket sales. Surprising no one, this does not go well. Exit, pursued by a tyrannosaur.
Rather than act like Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs are authentic, accurate representations of their Mesozoic counterparts, Jurassic World is digging into the illusion that has been front-and-center the entire time. After all, in the stinker of the third installment, Alan Grant reminded Jurassic Park fans “What John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park is create genetically-engineered theme park monsters. Nothing more and nothing less.”
That same point was present in the source material. As paleontologist Joe Peterson pointed out to me, Michael Crichton’s original novel included a scene where Jurassic Park scientist Henry Wu mentions that he could wipe out all the “real dinosaurs” he had created and replace them with slower, safer facsimiles that would better match visitor expectations. “You said yourself, John, this park is entertainment,” Wu reminds his boss, “And entertainment has nothing to do with reality.”
So if Jurassic World announces, in big flashing letters, that their dinosaurs are primarily-designed to please crowds, I have no qualms about that. It sounds like a great premise for a new breed of monster movie.
Granted, I’m a little disappointed that I’ll have to wait that much longer for special effects artists to put all their effort into creating an accurate, fluffy Tyrannosaurus, but that may simply be a matter of waiting for the price of creating such spectacular dinosaurs to come down. It’s too early to tell whether Jurassic World will revitalize the franchise, but, for now, I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with the scabrous monsters that enthralled me two decades ago.