If you’ve seen the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park a few times, you surely remember a line from Dr. Ian Malcolm, the pessimistic chaos theory expert played by the magnificently odd Jeff Goldblum. It is, more or less, the cautionary thesis of the film (and of the Michael Crichton book it’s based on, in which Malcolm delivers rather the same opinion): “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
That is, the dream of cloning dinosaurs from their preserved DNA for an island nature preserve and theme park was never interrogated on its own merits, and many of the risks went unforeseen as it became reality. A 25-year franchise later, we’ve seen the risks realized plenty of times: the only rule of the movies is that at some point, the dinosaurs will break loose and start eating people.
But despite this recycled warning — or perhaps because it’s been hammered into us — I’ve grown suspicious of Malcolm’s argument. When I now ask myself whether we should try to raise dinosaurs in captivity for a tourist attraction, the answer is clear: Yes, of course. Absofuckinglutely.
How dare Michael Crichton — and then Steven Spielberg — inflict this admittedly entertaining anti-Jurassic Park propaganda on the world? Humankind had barely heard of genomics before these chicken littles were shouting, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BIOENGINEER A BUNCH OF DINOSAURS! YOUR HUBRIS WILL COST LIVES!! With all due respect, sirs, get bent. Yes, I know Crichton is dead, but he can get bent all the same. He’s the reason I still can’t drop my life savings on an unforgettable vacation to a tropical island where I get to feed a brachiosaurus. What’s worse, I spent my dinosaur-obsessed childhood accepting his alarmism as well-founded; he and Goldblum easily brainwashed me into believing that the resurrection of extinct species was the height of folly.
It was plain fear-mongering. An actual Jurassic Park would rule.
Look, I get it. Crichton’s whole genre was “action-adventure resulting from science gone awry, with a dash of corporate greed and/or malfeasance.” Without a disaster, there is no story, no bestseller, no big-budget adaptation with cool special effects. He couldn’t very well write a novel about a dinosaur zoo where everyone has a great time and buys nice souvenirs — even though this is roughly a billion times more plausible.
You doubt it? Then ask yourself how Jurassic Park fell apart. One supposed issue was that some dinosaurs, though bred to be female, had spontaneously switched sex and were starting to mate. Who cares. Another: The velociraptors were too smart and more aggressive than expected. Well, if anyone had listened to Robert Muldoon, the game warden — a guy I’m fairly sure was drawing a decent salary for exactly this kind of advice — the raptors would have been destroyed. That leaves us with the character, motive and MacGuffin most responsible for the mayhem in Jurassic Park: Dennis Nedry, the employee who sabotages the security systems to steal embryos for a rival biogenetics company.
Nedry is a hilarious presence — unsurprising, as Wayne Knight is one of the finest comedic talents of his generation — but in terms of plot, it’s a wild stretch to suppose he’d ever have the opportunity to go rogue and bring down the whole enterprise. Even then, he might have the ounce of self-preservational instinct necessary to not release hordes of deadly animals throughout an island on which he is also currently trapped. Anyway, we’re led to think that John Hammond, the park’s jolly old financier, laid out a few billion dollars for his pet project (“Spared no expense!”) but got stingy when it came to hiring programmers to automate it, eventually winding up with only two guys in the control room on the dark and stormy night he’s running a proof of concept to assure his nervous investors that everything works just fine: an exhausted, chain-smoking Samuel L. Jackson, and Nedry, who snacks and whines that he’s underpaid.
Give me a goddamn break.
Why is Nedry still around at this stage in the game? Hammond doesn’t even like him! Also, dude can afford any coder in the known universe. “Oh, sure, Miles,” you protest, “it’s easy to see his mistake in hindsight, but the point of chaos theory…” No. Shut up. The only blunder more avoidable than giving complete control of the park to a selfish, not very bright asshole — something Hammond freely admits he did — was when the characters in Jurassic World thought their new giant killer dino had climbed out of its pen and decided to OPEN THE DOOR AND WALK INSIDE TO LOOK AROUND FOR IT, at which point it de-camouflaged and barreled straight out the exit.
Nonetheless, when Hammond starts to talk about how he could try to fix Jurassic Park and learn from a bad experience, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) tells him that’s dumb, that his vision was a sham, and basically, that he’s responsible for a slew of deaths. She’s right that he was blinded by ambition, but saying the concept could never be ironed out? Come on. Not even the characters of this fictional universe believe that — Jurassic World is the proof.
You’ll excuse me, then, if I don’t view the five Jurassic movies as evidence that we should never attempt to create the type of attraction doomed to fail in their tired narrative. If anything, we have the advantage of observing within them every potential idiotic human interaction with dinosaurs. We have glimpsed the worst-case scenarios, and we still want a Jurassic Park. Do a couple of accidents on roller coasters stop us from riding them? Of course not. And honestly, who are you going to trust — me, a professional shitposter, or Crichton, who spent his late career denying climate change?
By the way, he’s the reason we can’t have robot cowboys, either. I swear the guy never wanted us to have any amusement parks besides Disneyland. So let us break free of his tyrannical imagination and bring dinosaurs back to life. Assuming, uh, we can figure out how.