By Dr. Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
At the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the dinosaurs were finally set loose into the world. That was the moment we had been waiting decades to see. Unfortunately, giving the dinos the freedom to roam also exposes a problem at the core of the franchise. The denizens of Jurassic Park are not quite the threat that we expected.
In several movies and on a few other projects, we have been told time and again that dinosaurs are dangerous. We certainly know that at an individual level, dinosaurs are terrifying. Many people have been eaten after all. However, we are also told, usually by Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, that dinosaurs pose an existential threat to our species. Through the hubris of careless scientific endeavor, humans have returned an awesome natural power to the playing field of survival. We face competitors that we may not be equipped to deal with.
Except that we are equipped to deal with them. After all, we have things like M-1 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters. Dinosaurs simply lack the numbers of the other extinction level threats introduced by science fiction. Dinosaurs cannot reproduce as quickly as zombies nor do they arrive en masse as a horde of alien invaders. Simply put, in the battle of dinosaurs vs. humans, the dinosaurs are outgunned and outnumbered.
This is why after Fallen Kingdom, the Jurassic franchise has shown us smaller encounters in which people are (still) trapped in the zoo with the dinosaurs (for example, the animated series Camp Cretaceous) or in which small groups of people encounter dinosaurs in nature (as in the excellent short feature Battle at Big Rock).
If dinosaurs were dropped into the world, the large carnivores would suffer the fate of most other big predators that humans have encountered. As a species, we are terrifyingly gifted in the art of extinction. The T-Rexes, the raptors, and their kin will have no choice but to hunt domestic cattle and the industry will eventually call on the government to handle the situation. If any “meat-o-sauruses” survive, they will be pushed to edges of our world, menacing a hiker or mountain biker and sometimes wandering into town until driven off.
Herbivorous dinosaurs might fare better in the wild. But they too would be competitors for the land used by the cattle industry. Plus, these “veggie-sauruses” might prove to be delicious. After all, dinosaurs are the ancestors of birds, so we have every reason to expect they taste like chicken.
Oh, some dinosaurs might do alright. On land, the smaller they are the better. Composognathus would be fine. Those little compies will be the new racoons. In the air, we might have more small pterosaurs and pterodactyls flying around. In the ocean, well I don’t know what you do with mosasaurs. Those sea monsters will be like the shark from Jaws on steroids. That will make for an interesting Fourth of July on Amity Islands everywhere. However, I suspect that much as the whaling industry decimated the whale population, mosasaurs could be ruthlessly hunted down.
The Jurassic franchise has cloned itself into a narrative corner. Probably the only solution is the theme of conservation. It’s a message that a few of the movies have pushed, particularly the ending of Jurassic Park 3 (which at the time was thought to be the end). Otherwise, our dinosaurs will be pushed into the familiar spaces of other horror movie menaces: dinosaurs attacking camp counselors, dinosaurs at cabins in the woods, dinosaurs on a plane, dinosaurs in space, etc. That would be a fate worse than extinction.