[This first appeared at The Jagged Word on July 27.]
[SPOILERS, BUT YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS THEM ANYWAY]
That seems like far too important a title for thoughts about a dinosaur movie, but underneath the fantastic and seamless CGI, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is claiming to be far more than simply an adventure movie with dangerous animals. The tired part of the movie is that people always do stupid things when it comes to dangerous animals about which they really know nothing. Yeah, we get it: if you’re ever in a room with a caged dinosaur, do not open the cage, no matter how much you want a trophy or a closer look. Don’t pretend to be Chris Pratt if you’re not.
I’ve always appreciated Michael Crichton’s books for the same reason I appreciate Dean Koontz: neither of them are afraid to look clear-eyed at the human propensity to use technology to exercise evil wills while claiming the best motivations. JW: FK doesn’t seem to recognize Crichton’s full point, though, and it is confused about what it actually wants to say. It preserves the “humans misusing technology to go beyond wise boundaries” theme, but it also has to say something new since the former is the theme of all the Jurassic Park movies.
So it drifts into a confusing set-up for another sequel by letting a human clone choose to essentially destroy humanity. I suppose the world (which now, like a planet that belongs to apes, belongs to dinosaurs) will be saved just in the nick of time by Chris Pratt in the inevitable sequel, but this movie is skeptical about who should be saved.
The key moment is when Claire, Owen, Maisie, Franklin, and Zia are trapped in the control room, trying to decide whether to let the dinosaurs all die or let them free to wreak havoc outside Lockwood’s mansion. Claire can’t bring herself to push the button, as hard as she’s fought to save the dinosaurs from the volcanic island where they were trapped. But then the door opens, and we see that Maisie has pushed the button anyway. Why? Because the dinosaurs deserve to live, too, since they are just like her—that is, all of them were created by people, Maisie being a clone of her mother.
This is where the movie becomes equivocating and preachy, and loses its connection to the original point of Crichton’s book. The original story has to do with people crossing their natural (God-given?) boundaries into attempting to control created things. But, Crichton seems to say, we are not gods, and therefore the weight of creation is too much for creatures.
Whether or not Crichton had any religious faith, this is the same message that Genesis gives. There is a firm line, marked off by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, between Creator and creature. It’s not about fruit; it’s about the hubristic denial of the Word of the Creator, and listening to the voice of some other who is not God (whether serpent or woman or self). We cross that line at our eternal peril, and the way back is closed to us. Thus, we cannot be our own saviors.
Not so in the Jurassic world. Not only shall we be our own saviors, but we will be the saviors of creatures that may, in the end, destroy us. This is the contradiction at the heart of Maisie’s action: she saves the dinosaurs because they are “like her,” but her saving of them will likely lead to the deaths of those who are actually like her. She is like the dinosaurs in that people created her outside of the usual ways that people are created. She is “unnatural,” just like the presence of dinosaurs in the modern world. This is a point that is barely even stated in the movie, unfortunately. You might even miss it in the midst of all the crashing around and sharp teeth.
But now the dinosaurs and the clones are here. What should we do? The fact is, however, that Maisie, regardless of her genesis, is not like the dinosaurs. As intelligent as any non-human animal may be, it is not a human. This remains true no matter how hotly it is debated whether or not the line between humans and other creatures is firm or fluid. It is debated not only in the movie but in the world. JW: FK reflects this debate, but apparently chooses (at least for now) to side with a very permeable boundary between humans and others.
A Scriptural account of creation opposes this equivalence at every point. Humans, and no other creatures, are created in the Image of the living God. All creation is good, and every part of it, but not all creation is fundamentally related in the same way to its Creator. All creation is redeemed in Christ, but Christ did not assume the form of a plant, ocean, chimpanzee, or velociraptor.
So there are two errors into which we are prone to fall: one is the equivalence among all created things; i.e., people occupy exactly the same place in creation as a dinosaur or tree, and if humans have to give way to other creatures, that is probably for the best. In fact, this elevates the rest of creation over humanity, since humans are often the evil oppressors of other creatures. (No argument from me on the latter point.)
But the other error is one to which Christians are more inclined. And that is that the rest of creation doesn’t matter as long as humans are saved. That the Son of God became a man means that everything that is not people doesn’t count for much. This is as false as the equating of humans and other creatures. It is not only humans who groan under the burden of sin and death; the whole creation groans, waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.
In this relationship, humans are actually acting fundamentally in the Image in which they have been re-created by Christ. Humans brought a curse upon God’s good creation, and it is as a man that Christ becomes that curse in order to save humans. Likewise, humans are the cause of the cursing of all creation, and it is through them—as Christ restores man and woman—that the rest of creation will also be restored.
We are, in both creation and redemption, joined together with all creatures, just not in the way that Jurassic World (and many others) think.
I enjoy an adventure movie in the summer as much as anyone else, but my enjoyment is dampened by using what could be mindless entertainment to promote an ideological point about our environment. Since dinosaurs do not currently exist with us on this planet, the question is whether the point being made in a fantastical way coincides with reality. In Jurassic World, the reality is upside down, and not just because of the ancient creatures.