If you know me at all, and if not I hope you will get to know me, then you know I am a movie person. I love them. I studied and wrote about them in college. Movies are the medium that speaks to me the most, it is a place I often meet God more so than on Sunday mornings. The art of movies moves me. When anyone asks me what my favorite movie of all time is, it’s an easy answer, Jurassic Park.
Imagine being 8-years-old and having your dad take you to see dinosaurs come to life. Jurassic Park was my first and closest experience ever with magic. What Steven Spielberg and his team accomplished back in 1993 still echoes in the most interesting parts of my imagination. It was a movie that proved to me that anything is possible and is my measuring stick for all movies to come and in the many viewings since that special time with my dad my love for it still grows. Yes it was a blockbuster, but Jurassic Park is about so much more than sharp teeth and vibrating water glasses.
Then, the highly successful film did what almost all highly successful films do, it spawned sequels. I’m probably a little nicer to them than most and that is entirely because of my love of the first and how captivated I am with dinosaurs. However, even I can’t argue that, with The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, the franchise lost its magic. They didn’t seem as heavy and there seemed to be a lack of respect for the dinosaurs who consequently became giant slasher movie villains. They were just different, BUT now we have Jurassic World!
The magic of the original will probably never be duplicated but Jurassic World sure did come close. Returned are our claustrophobic encounters with our thundering friends. Back is a deep love and respect for the animals themselves. The boss of the theme park even says they were created to show us how small we are. And with that, the inspired, thoughtful storytelling of the original is revisited.
These movies with all of their terror, power, and destruction scream to me questions about our place in the grand story of the world. We see how big and perfect these beasts are and how can we not stop and wonder why is it that, in the bigger picture, they went extinct and still we roam free in this world. The answer may be found in the opening few scenes of Jurassic World where I didn’t count but am sure that word “control” was uttered over ten times. If the dinosaurs, or humanity for that matter, could control our own fate, they would still be making foot prints in our mud.
The horror of the Jurassic series only comes once humans attempt to assume the position of the one that does have control. The consequences are bloody. Jurassic Park asked all of these questions well through the bumbling, stuttering prowess of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm (who makes a small cameo in World via his book “God Creates Dinosaurs”). World continues to ask those questions of what kinds of creative power humans should play with but it asks a bigger question fans of the series have been asking since the first film, what would happen if the park actually opened? What if the creators of the park, the engineers of the dinosaurs were successful?
The answer takes us deeper down the humans-playing-God rabbit trail. We have Claire who will continue to be one of the most talked about roles due to recent headlines calling the film sexist. I never saw Claire as a stereotype, but the logical type of person it would take to assume the role of running Jurassic World. She is cold, harsh and sees everything around her as commoditized assets. Real relationships…with her family, with her love interest, with the creation itself seem foreign to her. This cold distant character is not unlike how some perceive God.
Then we have the business of Jurassic World. We have a culture that is failing to be impressed by the majesty and wonder of the dinosaurs. Kids are getting bored and are hard to impress. How often today do companies stress over holding the ever changing focus of our youth? How do you make money then? Let’s let sponsors name the dinosaurs as if they belong to them, as if like a scripted TV show they can control the outcome of their name being plastered across the display case. This picture of an overbearing master to which the animals must bear the image of seems to be another perception of God I encounter.
However, then we have Owen. He cradles the dinosaurs when they are young to form a bond, to gain their trust, to let them know he will never leave them. He names them because he loves them. His desire is to be their father figure, the alpha, someone that will help their community form and desires to see them flourish on the island. This is the picture of God I know. Our God that gave us his image, that calls us by name, that is sovereign, is our father but gives us the ability to choose him.
Being concerned with the flourishing of the entire world, contributing to the restoration of the relationships in our lives between us and others, between us and creation, between us and ourselves, and between us and God are impossible tasks. Still we are not that different from the curators of Jurassic World. Every day in thousands of different ways we try to assume God’s position. We try to take control in areas of life that we have none and sometimes the results are bloody. Thankfully God is always willing to call you by name, draw you near, and take his loving, powerful position back.