Friday, June 12, 2015

Jurassic World: Iraq Metaphor

Twenty-two years after the original, the dinosaur series has been dusted off for a new generation of summer teenage theater goers.

What was notable about the first Jurrasic Park was the theme: that chaos is indomitable, and all our science is merely an artificial construct around a world of disorder and death, and it's hubris to think we can create a completely safe and orderly existence. In other words, as Jeff Goldbum says in the original, "God help us, we're in the hands of engineers."

This go-around the movie mercifully skips the shenanigans of Parts 2 and 3 and returns to its roots: a theme park for shiny international tourists nicely encapsulated, with the potential to go awry. What's different is the theme. This time, the star is Chris Pratt, who is a kind of Cesar Milan of the dino world - he's got his rapters obeying commands from clicker training - facing off against the forces of aggression and hubris in the form of Vincent D'Onofrio, a gun-happy military dude who wants to turn the raptors loose as military "assets" designed to capture the even badder-ass, artificially created Indominous Rex that is running lose on the island.

Pratt is like that guy who goes in-country to train the indigenous tribes on how to play softball. Only in this case the locals are your DNA-manipulated dinosaurs. He's got a crack team of raptors standing at attention and taking his commands. "Seek and fetch," he calls it, or some such. Occasionally, they have a slip-up. "Blue - you shouldn't have eaten the ref. We'll never make it to the big leagues that way." Admonished raptor gives the camera an "awe-shucks" look.

I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out what the metaphor means in our present-day world. And this may sound completely off the deep end, but this movie is totally Iraq inspired. Let me paint the parallels.

You have the I-Rex - artificially created by American intervention in the natural order of the "country" of Isla Nubar, the island the dinos inhabit. I-Rex has "captured" the northern part of the island and is moving south, "killing for sport," especially the meek vegeterian dinosaurs on its route to American headquarters, e.g., the themepark hotels. The viciousness here can be equated with ISIS in the north of Iraq.

Vincent - military genius - wants to train up and unleash the Raptors as a kind of in-country counter-insurgency force, to hunt down I-Rex.  On the other hand, the park's owner, the squishy Mr. Simon Marsani, wants a safer fly-over from a distance. We see where relying on no one but himself can lead.

Naturally, our hero, Pratt, survives by combining both empathy for the natives and the discipline of being a proper alpha. He's part trainer, part parent, sensitive to the natives, and apparently more worthy, in the eyes of the dinos, of true loyalty.

So, unlike the original - so concerned with science gone amok - this remake is more concerned about whose a better alpha, and what's the real nature of loyalty in the animal kingdom. When animals need to hunt in packs, killing for sport and putting the individual ahead of all else leaves one vulnerable when real inter-species (or inter-cultural) teams develop trust.

It seems a lesson we could learn in our middle east adventures, as much as in the dino theme park.