Jurassic World recycles the theme-park setting of the first Jurassic Park film, but on a grander scale and this time we see thousands of visitors there experiencing it. Every aspect of the theme-park experience is so relentlessly kitsch that I couldn’t wait for the dinosaurs to start demolishing the place.
The fact there are thousands of visitors, and hundreds of staff, gives scope for a very high body count. The killings are presented with impeccable good humour to provide wholesome family entertainment. They tie in also with a stronger military dimension than in the previous films. The main protagonist is an ex-navy action hero rather than a palaeontologist and the premise of the story is a secret military scheme to weaponise some of the dinosaurs.
The dinosaurs themselves are magnificent. I have a suspicion the way the quadrupedal ones move may be too mammalishly smooth, and the velociraptors and gallimimus need feathers, but this is quibbling. When you’re watching the film the dinosaurs seem as real as real animals in a wildlife documentary.
The prominence of the Jurassic Park franchise has been a double-edged thing for Deep Time. It created an expectation in publishers that because my novel features prehistoric animals (including dinosaurs) it must be an action thriller, whereas it’s in fact a much more expansive and thoughtful novel that happens to contain some action sequences. On the other hand, the films demonstrate the perennial appeal of prehistoric animals and share with Deep Time the impulse to bring such creatures back to life.
I use that term ‘prehistoric animals’ deliberately. Dinosaurs have got so sexed up in popular media, partly because of the Jurassic Park films, that other kinds of prehistoric animals don’t get a look-in. Jurassic World does include pterosaurs and one of the marine reptiles, which I guess are seen as, respectively, ‘air dinosaurs’ and ‘sea dinosaurs’ because they’re reptilian and lived in the same era, even though they’re not in fact dinosaurs. But what seems forgotten – except in the BBC’s Walking with Beasts – are the 65 million years’ worth of funky mammals that were strongly represented in most of the books about prehistoric animals I had as a boy. Go to a bookshop today and you just see books about dinosaurs. In Deep Time I made sure they get their due.