I think I could be described as a ‘pragmatic optimist’. If you ask me if glass is half-full or half-empty, my response is likely to be that it’s the wrong size. So having lashed out my £13.99 on iTunes to download ‘Jurassic World’ (it’ll be cheaper here when it comes out on DVD in a week or so), I wasn’t really expecting much more than a couple of hours of dinosaur-based thrills and spills, not unlike the previous entries in the ‘Jurassic…’ genre.
Which turned out to be a wise thing.
(Do be aware that there are some – sort of – spoilers down below)
You can sort of imagine the script conference at the Steven Spielberg Jurassic Division offices on a smoggy LA Monday morning just before principal photography started. There’d be a long conference table, strewn with dog-eared copies of the script and those irritating take-out coffee cups with lids, and perhaps the odd 500ml Evian bottle for the more health conscious. Sitting slumped around the table is a small gaggle of casually dressed movie execs, some of whom are wearing baseball caps and at least one of whom – who has a beard – is wearing his cap backwards. There’s a small flurry of activity as two men arrive and set up a big flip-chart thing on an easel at the head of the table. Then Steven Spielberg himself comes in and they all kind of sit-up a bit.
Steven: OK guys, we’re about to start shooting so let’s just check that this script is ready to go.
He flips up the cover of the pad to reveal ‘Check List’ written at the top in black sharpie.
Steven: We’ll just go through the list of script elements. Sing out if you have the answer. First: hunky hero?
Exec 1: Yup, Chris Pratt.
Steven: Great. Spunky but quirky heroine?
Exec 2: Bryce Dallas Howard: she’s ginger and she wears high heels while running through the jungle.
Steven: Brilliant. Evil corporate mo’fo?
Exec 3: Vincent d’Onofrio. He gets eaten by a Velociraptor
Steven: Fantastic – great casting by the way! Corrupted clever guy?
Exec 1: We went with that Chinese-American geneticist from Jurassic Park 1.
Steven: Wasn’t he a good guy then?
Exec 1: He did some sympathetic eyebrow work in Act 1 but it was kind of undeveloped.
Steven: OK, well let’s see how it goes. What about annoying kids?
Exec 4: Yup.
Steven: How many?
Exec 4: We went with two: both boys.
Steven: Great, well that’s new. Anyone I’ve missed?
Exec 5 (with hat on backwards): Yeah, we got an Indian billionaire who seems to own the Park and flies a helicopter; and we got the annoying kids’ parents who may or may not be getting divorced.
Steven: I like the sound of the billionaire, what does he do?
Exec 5: He crashes the helicopter and dies in the middle of Act 2.
Steven: That’s a shame.
Exec 5: Yeah but it was hard to see where we’d take him. We’ve left him there as ‘lead token ethnic’.
Steven: So we got some other ethnic minorities?
Exec 5: Yeah, Chris Pratt has a black assistant: he’s a good guy.
Steven: Does he make it?
Exec 5: No idea: we don’t see a lot of him after he’s made his point.
Steven: OK, what about the annoying kids’ parents? What’s the story?
Exec 6: We kind of left that hanging. The audience can kind of fill it in for themselves.
Steven: OK. How about new dinos?
Exec 7: We got two: a T-Rex/Velociraptor genetically-engineered hybrid – he’s a bad dinosaur, representing global capitalism and the military-industrial complex – and a great big aquatic one which eats the bad dino and represents the awesome power of mother nature. It eats a Great White Shark too – it’s pretty cool.
Steven: Love it! So what’s the story?
Exec 1: We wanted to turn the franchise around. So we asked the question, what happens when the military industrial complex gets interested in astonishing possibilities offered by the science of genetics, and what would the sociological impacts be, at both the macro- and micro-levels?
Steven: So what’s the answer?
Exec 1: It turns out it’s the same as before. The dinosaurs escape and eat a bunch of people while the hunky hero saves the annoying kids.
Steven: Damn right! Let’s roll.