I love the central conceit of the Jurassic Park movies. Let’s face it – they are, after all, nothing more than an updated Frankenstein, with more teeth and blood to suit a more bloodthirsty (at least on the screen) audience. All the central elements are there: mankind, though the power of science and his own intelligence, pridefully (and ultimately foolishly) screws around with nature and does something that reverses the natural order, whether that’s reanimating a collection of parts sewn together or fiddling with long extinct animals’ gene sequences. Of course, nature gets its revenge, usually quite messily, and the mad scientist in question (or at least the dude with money) usually ends up dead, or alone, or both.
The real cleverness of the two books was to pick up on public sentiment – for Shelley, the clever bit was making use of the idea of the ‘new science’- that is, galvanism, but also mixing it with some of the fears of science, and specifically anatomy. Taking her inspiration from the grave robbers and bodysnatchers that plagued cemeteries of Europe at around that time, Shelley managed to combine that squeamishness with the fear of a crazy scientist and, voila, we have Dr Frankenstein, gradually descending into madness as his creation exacts nature’s revenge on all those near and dear to him.
In Jurassic Park, Crichton and Spielberg (I’m going to include both of them here rather than get down to the nitty-gritty of creative visions and artistic licence) did something similar: of course, there was no grave robbing, but there were mad scientists recklessly playing with genes – and that terrible fear of the nineties (and the noughties, it must be said) of genetically modified organisms roared to life in the shape of giant man eating dinosaurs. So far, so good.
So what happened to the latest instalment? I watched Jurassic World on the weekend and, I must admit, I left feeling a little bit disappointed. As a visual spectacle, it was, I guess, incredible. But – and perhaps this is exactly the point – it was all a little bit ho-hum. Perhaps Spielberg was deliberately placing us in the same context as the hordes of tourists going to Jurassic World – we’ve lost the capacity to wonder, and instead, all we want to do is buy the t-shirt, and then see something bigger, uglier, and with more teeth.