Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Basic Problem With Jurassic World

By the way, this blog post discusses the movie Jurassic World. It does not commit any major spoilers, but it does give away a few story details.

You might wonder why I started this blog post with a picture of a helicopter. It so happens this particular helicopter is featured in the film as being used by an airborne security squad to go after an escaped genetically-engineered dinosaur.

And it illustrates my problem, indirectly. Don't get me wrong, I liked this movie. At its best it's visually stunning; it has interesting characters, interesting dinosaurs, and a fairly satisfying resolution. I think the very best of part of the movie is found in the beginning, with twenty thousand tourists crowded around to see dinosaur attractions. There are numerous small details in this section of the film that strike me as just right.

The Jurassic Park movies do an excellent job preparing the audience for the fact this level of control cannot be maintained forever. The story doesn't have a Dr. Malcolm equivalent lecturing on chaos and nature and doesn't need one.

The agent by which chaos escapes seems a bit weak--really, someone is going to deliberately try to engineer the most dangerous dinosaur possible? To bring in more guests? It seemed a bit improbable, but was not totally implausible to me.

But what was implausible to me was that such a dinosaur would be bred without the security guys knowing all about it. And being fully ready for it.

More broadly, I fought a major "suspension of disbelief" problem with the security guys in general. They were as a whole, woefully unprepared. Maybe it would not seem so to someone who has never been in security or military, but trust me, people who are responsible for preventing loss of life spend a lot of time thinking about the tools they need to do that. They would also train repeatedly on those tools. They would insist on a higher level of readiness than the security people showed in this film.

And if they didn't insist on it themselves, the board would insist on it. The general public would insist. Heck, the nation of Costa Rica would probably demand to have one of their military units on the Costa Rican island upon which the park of Jurassic World is located. Bear in mind this story is not some kind of alternate universe in which Jurassic Park never existed and people don't know that dinosaurs can kill. No, this is the same story line, only 20 years later. Can people forget about folks getting killed on a Costa Rican island--by dinosaurs? Not very likely in only twenty years. But maybe possible--but also bear in mind the original Jurassic Park II movie featured a T Rex loose in San Diego, killing dozens of people. Are people gonna forget that in twenty years--and be laissez-faire about security preparations? No way. I admit, humans are dumb often enough, but what I saw in this film is out of character even for our species. Once the Titanic sank, people became careful to watch out for icebergs.

The film features a corporate helicopter (photo above), with no dedicated pilot, being pressed into dinosaur-hunting duty. I'm sorry, but it really is true that this is more unbelievable to me than genetic engineering of dinosaurs in the first place. After what happened in the Jurassic Park films, the Costa Ricans would almost certainly have had their own military helicopters on the island. And the security guys would ensure (and the board would insist) on something like at least a pair of Apache attack helicopters on hand, just in case. With a bored set of helicopter crews playing cards all day, just waiting for the chance to pop a dinosaur. In fact, a pair of A10s would make an even better choice than Apaches. Why have any doubt if the dinos escape if you can kill them or not? There's nothing like the 30mm cannon mounted under the A10 to be absolutely sure.

Someone who's seen the film might think that my suggested realistic beefing up of security would ruin the plot, which of course involves a number of human beings finding themselves hopelessly outmatched by dinosaurs in various ways. But not necessarily. The film plays an angle of weapons manufacturers eager to get their hands on dinos--just play that angle even more, so they take control of the security apparatus sooner and more forcefully.

But one helicopter charging off--flown by a high-ranking corporate type, an inexperienced helicopter pilot to boot? It was pretty much nonsense. And this was a scene that had some pretty important consequences to what happened in the movie after that.

Even though the movie does show some reasonably well-prepared security types, they really should have been more so. Especially by having some form of air coverage.

And would somebody really want to breed the nastiest dinosaur anyone could imagine? And then not take any precautions to prevent it from getting out beyond building a wall? Um, I don't think so. The unintended and intended villainy don't quite make sense. A basic understanding of human motivations is lacking.

Too bad. The movie was good, but perhaps could have been great.