All kids love dinosaurs, and I was no exception. Even when I saw the original Jurassic Park movie, I felt sorry for the raptor locked away as paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern) escaped from the remote communication facility. The poor living creature would starve to death, unrescued. The raptor was simply doing what it was designed to do – attack and feed on other creatures – and it hadn’t chosen to be born 65 million years after its species originally inhabited the planet.
My husband Dave and I love to go to movies at our local AMC theaters, because the audiences are respectful and often the crowds are small if we wait a couple of weeks to see the new releases. We were eager to see Jurassic World, and though the story line was a bit thinner than the original – and I have less fondness for Chris Pratt since his appearance on a Spike TV awards show crowing about having shot the elk whose parts were displayed on the wall – it was still a story with a great moral. Don’t mess around with nature.
The original Jurassic Park was the dream of John Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough), a well-meaning elderly gentleman who loved dinosaurs and was thrilled to bring them back to life through the genius of his lab technicians. Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician and chaos theory proponent, warns him of the consequences. The same ethical question is very real today as geneticists advance into areas formerly unattainable: Just because we can create or alter living things, doesn’t mean we should choose to do so. Malcolm also cautions Henry Wu (actor B.D. Wong from the original Jurassic Park), the lab director – who smugly assures everyone that the dinosaurs can’t reproduce because they are all female and are denied the necessary amino acid lysine – that life finds a way.
In the original movie, the raptors are villains, but Jurassic World has injected a new evildoer into the mix – Vic Hoskins (Vincent Donofrio), a security specialist who wants to use the raptors to replace human infantry. Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, has successfully “trained” a group of four raptors to execute maneuvers under his leadership. He has a relationship with them, and cares about their welfare. As he reminds the park executive Claire Dearing (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), they are living things, not just amusements. I won’t speculate on Claire’s intelligence level, but you’d think someone working in Jurassic World would keep a chambray shirt, pair of cargo pants, and some sensible shoes available instead of running around the jungle in high heels and a skirt when chaos ensues.
Why did the raptors win my heart? It’s simple. They stepped up and made honorable choices. The new creation, a more terrifying and larger version of the original T-Rex, escapes from its enclosure, and Owen takes his raptor crew on the hunt. The raptors begin to follow the new dinosaur, but at the critical moment, the last one alive sacrifices itself for Owen. This happens in many movies, and frequently in real life situations – the dogs who search for explosives in war zones, the dolphins who save humans who are drowning or under attack by sharks, and even the housefly who buzzes around inside the car and keeps the sleepy driver awake long enough to get home safely.
My heart strings are always plucked by these seeming acts of compassion or even self-sacrifice, and the wonder of inter-species cooperation. My ethics alarm is triggered by the situations in which the animals have no choice in the matter, and are simply used for the benefit of people. By what peculiar reasoning, misinterpretation of religious text, or sheer arrogance, do humans presume that all living things are created only to serve our needs? Always, I feel empathy for the animal left to starve, or blown apart by heavy ammunition by people who are trying to escape the natural unfolding of predator-prey relationships in the food webs of our ecosystems. It’s not their fault. And once again, humans seem to be the ones who cannot find a better way to co-exist. In the long run, no matter how stupidly our species insists on acting, the balance of nature will be reestablished, and, like Malcolm predicted, life will find a way. And I’m less certain than ever that the raptors are the real villains in Jurassic World.
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