SPOILER WARNING: Jurassic World
As I was watching Jurassic World last night in the theater (opening day, as I promised in the comments in this post), seeing Nature enact sweet, sweet vengeance on most of the people who sought to bend her to their will, it struck me as I was watching that for obvious reasons, the most intense scenes involved the carnivorous dinosaurs, while everyone relaxed in most of the scenes that involved herbivorous dinosaurs. Indeed, many of the children’s attractions in the Jurassic World park involved herbivorous dinosaurs, like the baby Triceratops “pony rides.” Okay, I’m aware that the “petting zoo” also contained Compsognathus, and that Compys are carnivorous, but being small and presumably well-fed they appeared not to present any real danger to the small children who were running around with them.
There is something primal about the fear of losing our “rightful place” at the top of the food chain. It speaks to the most basic instinct buried within all known living things - survive. And Simon Masrani, who took ownership of the park and its inhabitants after the passing of John Hammond, even says that the whole point is to humble humanity, to remind them that there are things that are bigger and more toothy than they are. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though Masrani, the park laboratory or the park operations crew realized that this lesson also applied to them, and that nature is untameable and never truly under human control. As Ian Malcom said, “Life finds a way.”
The intentional genetic creation of Indominus Rex aside, to me one of the most astoundingly arrogant assumption of control was the idea, predominant in all of the Jurassic Park franchise, that herbivores, or “Veggie-sauruses”, are somehow “safer” than carnivores. Visitors to Jurassic World are secure and snug in an enclosure decorated like a large fallen log to observe the feeding of Tyrannosaurus Rex, but are able to roam freely among Triceratops and Apatosaurus, the latter of which easily outweigh Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yet the only protection in place to make this a “safe” activity is a small travel pod, which is demonstrated a few minutes later not to be dinosaur-proof at all.
Picture Africa. Think of all of the animals who live there that you would not want to meet without some kind of safety measure in place. Lions, leopards, crocodiles, hyenas - there are plenty of big predators to be wary of in that continent. But would you believe that the hippopotamus is considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa? It’s true. Almost 3,000 humans are killed by hippos every year, which is more than the deaths attributed to lions, leopards, crocodiles and hyenas combined. Hippopotamuses are extremely territorial and will aggressively defend their section of the river, and they are no less dangerous on land. They are actually quite fast, and will chase down a human if they perceive a threat. Elephants, too, are extremely dangerous to humans and account for approximately 500 deaths each year. And the Cape Buffalo claims about 200 lives annually.
And what do we see here? Jurassic World tourists peacefully kayaking down a river among Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus (an attraction called “Cretaceous Cruise”, according to the Jurassic World wiki). I suppose the argument can be made that the herbivorous dinosaurs that were born in the lab were made to be docile and “safe,” as Dr. Henry Wu explicitly states that if the live attractions of Jurassic World were “natural,” they would look (and presumably act) quite different. But it still seems foolish to believe that something that weighs 16.4 metric tons would basically be perfectly safe.
It’s strange that there are very few scenes in the Jurassic Park movies in which the humans are under any threat from “Veggie-sauruses,” and when they are, it’s made clear that the herbivorous dinosaurs are engaged and survival and defense against the carnivorous dinosaurs, just like the humans. Reviewing this list of on-screen deaths in the films, we see that every death-by-dinosaur is attributed to a carnivore.
Look at those chompers! Pretty scary, right? And yet you’re more likely to be killed by a “harmless” cow than you are to be a Great White Shark’s next meal. In the U.S. alone, cows kill approximately 20 people each year.
And if you ask anyone who regularly shares their space with large ungulates like moose and elk, you’ll be told that a moose will fuck you up without thinking twice about it - and there are more of them than there are wolves or bears.
Look, I can see the logic behind making carnivorous dinosaurs like the Velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Mosasaurus and Indominus Rex the main threat of Jurassic World, but I can’t see the logic in making them the only threatening dinosaurs. Mingled with the sense of awe and wonder you might feel in gazing 75 feet up to see an Apatosaurus towering over you should be the realistic fear that the thing just might decide to squish you. Just because a creature isn’t interested in eating you doesn’t mean that it can’t pose a threat, and I suppose that my main point here is just to remind you that there are lots of animals that are capable of killing you.
Have a nice day!