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Jurassic World: the dinosaur manifesto

19 October, 2015 — by Ted Wilkes0


Jurassic World is nothing to do with dinosaurs. It’s the greatest critique of modern corporatism since Karl Marx sat down to pen his revolutionary work that would inspire uprisings around the world. 

It also has a lot to do with feminism, has plenty of interesting insights into film cycles and our hunger for nostalgia, and is a great showcase for how good Chris Pratt looks in a vest, but ultimately it shows us how broken the modern world is.

Now, before all you Wall Street sympathisers start bashing a cynical leftist for hating on capitalism with the usual retorts (“it built the world today,” “the west won the Cold War” and my favourite, “America! Fuck yeah!”) I am all for a free market system of capital where money is exchanged for goods and services, just not the crony capitalism we’ve sleepwalked into, and which Jurassic World aptly highlights.

In Jurassic World, a form of capital, the dinosaurs themselves, are both the driving force of the story and the creators of the conflict within it. They are the only reason why the story progresses, they bring the characters to the island in the first place and they are the reason the characters are separated so that they can grow and develop.

Although the dinosaurs once roamed the Earth they are now an artificial product that man has created, but for the most part the geologically pure versions of the beasts are safe for humans to interact with should there be a barrier between them (read regulations).

We see very early on, as a young handler is dragged into the raptor enclosure, that product and subject are at odds in this world and the consequences of being exposed to their true nature is dangerous. Though with the help of a weathered yet handsome hero Owen (Chris Pratt) we may be able to survive a future encounter with them. In this we see that one could be rescued from direct exposure to the ills of traditional free market capitalism (debt, default etc…) by those who know the system and are able to navigate it should you need help. Owen (played by Pratt) becomes something akin to a noble bank manager, the one sat behind the desk of a branch that would assist his clients in making sure their money was managed well and left his branch happy.

Dinosaur whisperer Chris Pratt
Nice waistcoat, Andy Dwyer

We are then introduced to the Indominus Rex, an entirely artificial dinosaur that will make the park more and more money. The sole purpose of it seems to be the creation of relentless profit with much greater risks and has no other reason to exist, as the raptors under the care of Pratt do. The expert Pratt laments at its creation, as it is too dangerous, with features that are too far removed from that of the original creations in the park.

Clare goes to great lengths to insist that the park has taken extra precautions to ensure that the Indominus Rex stays in its pen and will be unable to get out onto the rest of the island to cause havoc (foreshadowed much?) insisting that it is safe. Simple parallels could be drawn to the housing bubble that burst in America during 2012 when sub-prime mortgages were packaged to homeowners as an incredibly secure and wise investment that would make them a killing, when it turned out that they were anything but; assisting in the decline of markets across the world when the bubble popped. However, the analogy could go further for our new super dinosaur.

It is made apparent that this creature will be the enemy to Pratt’s hero. In the closing scenes of the film Pratt is sent to hunt down the Indominus Rex with the raptors that he has been training throughout the film at the insistence of Vincent D’Onofrio who sees this as an opportunity to test the animals capability as a weapon of war. He has deliberately manipulated a product against the better judgment of the expert (Pratt) for means that it has not been directly designed for.

In our analogy he has corrupted a market for his own purposes of greed and ambition (conducted insider trading, as a crude example). In the end this does not bring about the desired conclusion, rather it ends up further feeding the destructive power of the Indominus as it takes the raptors under its tiny arms. D’Onofrio, in this reading of the film, tried to solve a problem by replicating the thing that created the initial disaster, a practice that was tried on Wall Street during its most recent history of blind fumbling in the dark to restore the economy.

In the end it’s time for the final showdown. Who is it that should appear to save the day? The Tyrannosaurus Rex stumbles in as it is released from its enclosure. Geologically pure (it hasn’t been tampered with by meddling scientists) and a representation of nostalgia both in the mise-en-scene of the film and in our ideological reading as a simpler economic system, it is signposted as free market economics, an old version of capitalism.

Its initial target is the flare wielding Clare, as it is now free from its cage and free of regulation; it is now out to ruin lives. However, it soon turns its attention to the Indominus, able to smite the monstrous creation after a cinematic struggle worthy of any B-movie. A more conservative reading of such an encounter could be how the current European policy of austerity might be a way to undo the current economic crisis. Although, to be ideologically consistent with this reading of the film, the T-rex is to represent a truly free market that, unhindered from manipulation, could restore stability if let loose before being returned to its cage of regulation.

The larger message of Jurassic World, if one is to believe that they are representations of capitalism, is that we believe that because we have created these economic systems that we are in charge of them. However as China is discovering at this very moment, it is really the market as a force that controls us. Able to shepherd us into further feeding it, while we focus on the returns we may make should we believe that we are manipulating it for our own good, then we run screaming from it once the regulations we have put in place fail. It is an ode to how mismanagement of a system can cause catastrophic damage when the only care is for the chasing of profits at all costs. As Marx aptly put it:

“All our inventions have endowed material forces with intellectual life, and degraded human life into a material force.”

Although as Zizek rebuts, before you all go digging out your Friedman, Hayek or Ford to heap right-wing scorn on my little ditty…

“We all silently accept that global capitalism is here to stay.”

I just hope that when the Indominus finally comes for us all, there’s a Chris Pratt knocking around in his beautifully fitted vest to put it back in its cage where it belongs.

For more in-depth and slightly wayward film analysis, check out our movie features section including this affectionate look back at the triple life of Charlie Chaplin.

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