What Does “Jurassic World” Say About Cynicism and Spectacle?


A Brachiosaurus rearing up on its hind legs. Dr. Alan Grant stumbling to his knees. John Hammond welcoming his guests to Jurassic Park. Cue the John Williams music, close up of Grant’s face, and bam, reveal the assorted dinosaurs congregating around a pond. It’s one of the most famous movie scenes of all time, and if you could sum it up with one word, you’d probably pick “wonder.”

Every single Jurassic Park movie has tried to impress audiences with amazing visuals and bigger creatures. In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Steven Spielberg wowed us with a herd of Stegosauruses. In Jurassic Park III (2001), admittedly the worst film in the franchise, Joe Johnston at least gave us a cool looking Spinosaurus. But by the time we arrive at Jurassic World (2015), the awe has kind of worn away….at least in the movie’s universe anyway.

This new park, owned by Simon Masrani and managed by Claire Dearing, has been running for quite some time without any major setbacks, only there’s one big problem: visitors are bored. Sure, buses drive alongside a Gallimimus flock, and guests can watch the Mososaurus leap out of the water like a prehistoric Shamu, but in Jurassic World, people are tired of the same old-same old. One teen can’t even stop playing with his iPhone long enough to admire a living, breathing Godzilla. He’s seen it all before. T. rex? Yawn.

Desperate to please the crowd and draw in more customers, the stuffed shirts at Jurassic World decide it’s a good idea to create a hybrid monster. (Spoiler alert: It’s not a good idea.) By creating something that’s bigger, badder, and “cooler,” people will flock to the park in droves. After all, this isn’t a boring Apatosaurus or some stupid Triceratops. This is a creature with the brains of Hannibal Lecter and the cloaking abilities of the Predator. In a world full of jaded customers, it’s a surefire way to sell tickets. It all makes for a pretty exciting movie…and in a way, it’s a commentary on the concept of summer blockbusters.

When Colin Treverrow was offered the job of directing Jurassic World, he wanted to tell a story that commented on our “upgrade culture.” In an interview with io9, Treverrow explained we live in a world “where we feel very entitled to be entertained and pleased all the time. ‘Give me something more, and then I’m going to hate it. Then give me something else, and I’ll hate that.’” When it isn’t showcasing man-eating monsters, Jurassic World is taking dead aim at a society where we can look at something as grand as a dinosaur and say, “Eh, not impressed. I want something bigger.” It’s complaining that we’ve grown too cynical, and our entertainment has grown too bloated for its own good.

And in a way, Jurassic World is actually commenting on itself. Whether you love or hate Jurassic World, you’ve got to admit the concept is pretty ironic. Here we have a film that’s critiquing indifferent audiences that are only interested in flashier, scarier creatures…while pandering to indifferent audiences that are only interested in flashier, scarier creatures. After all, this is a movie about a dinosaur with super powers who fights two of the park’s most iconic creatures in a knockdown-dragout kaiju battle. In an era full of CGI-laden reboots and sequels, is Jurassic World part of the very problem it’s talking about?

Well, quite a few critics seem to think so. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone (who enjoyed the movie) pointed out, “The fans want danger—bigger, faster dinos with more teeth. If that’s not Hollywood in a nutshell, I don’t know my inflated, degraded CGI epics, in 3D and IMAX, from Transformers (2007) to San Andreas (2015).” Devin Faraci of Birth Movies Death (who didn’t enjoy the movie) commented, “Jurassic World is, to put it bluntly, the thing it is criticizing. The film satirically presents a world where transcendent spectacle isn’t enough, and where audiences have moreness, but the movie makes the fatal mistake of being those very things it is calling out.”

Michael Arbeiter of Bustle even goes so far as to say Jurassic World totally knows what it’s doing and is actually embarrassed of itself. According to Arbeiter, Claire Dearing symbolizes a “studio stooge,” Indominus rex is a reference to Hollywood’s obsession with CGI, and Jake Johnson’s dino nerd is the nostalgic audience member, longing for the good old days of practical effects.

Whether or not Jurassic World is intentionally commenting on itself is a matter for debate. However, it’s hard to miss the obvious parallels. The special effects films of old just won’t cut it anymore. We need giant robots duking it out, superheroes knocking down massive towers, and genetically modified dinosaurs that kill everything in sight. Audiences certainly love a good spectacle, and if Jurassic World has taught us anything, it’s the bigger your beasts, the bigger your box office.