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Plotting out ‘Jurassic Park 5’

The first Jurassic Park movie should never have spawned a sequel, let alone four. The films have steadily declined in quality, and if the rumors hold true (raptors as WMDs?), the already-greenlit fifth film won’t reverse that trend.

But I know what direction the franchise should take. I even have a title: Jurassic Parks. Here’s a synopsis:

Soon after the events of Jurassic World, dinos escape from InGen’s research facility in the remote American West. Within a few years, the multiplying dinosaurs have completely overrun every wilderness area in the continental U.S. The government has abandoned its National Park system; America’s crown jewels—Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier—are overgrown and infested. Hundreds of tourists have been savagely killed by the unchecked dinosaurs (we’d get a flashback montage of dinosaur mayhem in iconic settings). The public now refers to these no-man lands as the “Jurassic Parks.”

After laying this groundwork, Jurassic Parks would follow a crack dino-hunter team, tasked with reclaiming the frontier for the public. They infiltrate Yellowstone, America’s first national park, as a symbolic beachhead. Havoc inevitably ensues, and, in a twist ending, the mission completely fails. For the first time since the Wild West era, America cedes its wilderness to other species.

Here’s why this approach could work:

  1. It sidesteps the “Why not just nuke the island?” question. After two horrific disasters (and two films) centered on Isla Nublar, it would make no sense to return there again. After all, Jurassic Park itself would likely be firebombed. But the U.S. government couldn’t justify destroying the beloved National Parks.
  2. At its best, the Jurassic franchise celebrated the park more than the dinosaurs themselves. The first film’s most memorable scenes captured the Disneyesque wonder of a primeval fantasy world. But that card has long since been played; there are only so many new dino-rides we’re interested in seeing on film. But by transplanting the creatures to iconic wilderness locations, the fifth film can recapture this touristy magic. Imagine raptors, swarming across the prairie and hunting down a thundering bison herd. Or picture a T-Rex, emerging from behind Old Faithful with a bellow. Maybe the Yellowstonian supervolcano would pick just the wrong time to erupt and add a dash of chaos to the mix.
  3. This Jurassic Parks concept ditches the fourth film’s silliest plot line: the dino WMDs. Dinosaurs are interesting because they can’t be controlled or tamed. Training velociraptors flirts dangerously close to parody; think “sharks with frickin’ laser beams mounted to their heads.”
  4. This plot makes room for Chris Pratt, now apparently a fan favorite, to reappear. Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, understands raptor behavior, and he’s already battled the beasties. So it makes sense that the dino hunter team would recruit Grady as a consultant.
  5. Finally, done right, Jurassic Parks would have something to say. If Jurassic World critiqued our thirst for spectacle, Parks would explore the theme of our relationship to the wild.

In recent years, efforts to repopulate the wilderness with apex predators like mountain lions and wolves have stirred controversy. On the one hand, we want to restore the ecosystem to balance; on the other, we struggle to relate to a natural world in which we can’t exercise absolute control. Jurassic Parks might make the case that our attempts to micro-manage nature are futile. That we’re better off approaching the dark wilderness with humility and fear.

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Jurassic VR

You will always have a soft spot for the films you loved when you were twelve. For me, 1993 was the golden era of film-making. The Fugitive, released that year, remains my favorite Harrison Ford movie—even besting my beloved Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. Similarly, I could watch Groundhog Day a thousand times and still laugh out loud.

But one 1993 film had a bigger impact on me than any other: Jurassic Park. Unlike most movies, I can remember seeing it in the theater with my older brother. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; how had they created such believable monsters? Afterwards, I bought (and nearly out-wore) the all-symphonic soundtrack on cassette tape. The newly-released sequel, Jurassic World, even intrigues me, though the reviews say it’s middling at best. I still day-dream about the “science” cited in Park—whether geneticists might clone dinosaurs within my lifetime.

Spoiler alert: they won’t. Not in my lifetime—not ever. DNA degrades too quickly to survive sixty-plus million years. And even if we could somehow sequence a species’ DNA, we have no way to bring that animal to term. A real-life Jurassic Park will never happen.

So… what about “un-real” life? The film may provide the blueprint for a convincing dinosaur experience—in virtual reality. As technology advances, VR’s limitations become more apparent. Moving our material bodies around a digital landscape is awkward. There’s no convincing, seamless way to interact physically with these virtual environments, no “Holodeck” tech that could convince us that a freely-explorable Mesozoic landscape is real.[1]

But Jurassic Park’s marquee theme ride—the automated Jeep safari—provides the perfect constraints for a fully-engaging dinosaur experience in VR.

Of course, it wouldn’t be so much a game as a themed experience. Imagine climbing into the familiar jungle-painted SUV, then donning a set of VR goggles. Then you’d experience an on-the-rails ride through of Jurassic Park itself. You’d be locked inside the car—not for your safety, but to preserve the illusion. Within the constraints of the Jeep, you’d be free to customize your experience. You choose which window to gaze through. You could crane your head to gape up at a brachiosaur through the sunroof. You could peer through the rain to catch a glimpse of a feasting T-Rex. You could track a pterodactyl’s soaring flight across the sky through the windshield.

It’s a far cry from actual, living, roaring dinos. But it’s also the closest we’ll ever get to seeing them with our own eyes. If Steven Spielberg could create convincing dinosaurs on-screen twenty-two years ago, surely today’s visual effects wizards could do the same in VR.

One last bonus? Virtual dinosaurs always show up and perform on cue.

  1. Is Mesozoic still a thing?  ↩