Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Disentangling Jurassic World

My actual advice to film makers would be to figure out what story you really want to tell and tell that story.  I know what it's like when you've got seven thousand ideas but the fact is that in this world, and even with the best film budget, you just can't tell them all.

But what if you could?  What if the makers of Jurassic World really could tell the various stories they wanted to tell?  What if there were world enough and time?

What would that look like?

Table of contents for the post:
  • Movie 1: Running and Funding a Theme Park
  • Movie 2: Training Raptors
  • Movie 3: Uncovering the Conspiracy
  • Movie 4: The Character Story
  • Movie 5: The Disaster Movie
  • Movie 6: Monster in the woods
  • Movie 7: Hunting with Raptors
  • -

    The first two movies would take place concurrently.  They're very different movies.

    Movie 1: Running and the Park and Keeping it Funded. [top]

    One is a big budget effects extravaganza that pulls you into Jurassic World (the theme park) the same way Avatar pulled you into Pandora and Lord of the Rings pulled you into Middle Earth.

    It's about the park itself, running it, not having it go broke, the various problems with working with live animals some of which can kill you, so forth.

    The story would be principally told from three viewpoints.  Not three characters, three viewpoints.  One is the control room we see a fair amount in the actual movie.  They're overseeing the entire park park and they have their own politics and idiosyncrasies.  You get the barest hints of it in the actual movie.  Mostly what you see is the interplay between the guy who has his desk covered in toy dinosaurs and the boss lady, who is completely business, unemotional, and so forth.

    The perfect moment of what could have been is when Claire, boss lady, sees, several seconds before it happens, that Lowery, underling guy, going to knock his drink off his desk while he's distracted (and ignoring her) and silently uses her foot to slide a trashcan where it will need to be to catch the drink and stop it from spilling all over the floor.

    Claire and Lowery have disagreements about various things, he thinks the way she looks at the animals they manage is heartless, she thinks he's unprofessional (toys all over his work station) and has poor taste (he bought a Jurassic Park, the place where people died, shirt and wore it to work), but they've gotten to know each other work well as the control team, and in that moment you see that the working well is in part because because she's able to manage his shortcomings.

    Something that isn't gotten into in the movie is that while Claire likes things to be organized and wants things to run with mechanical smoothness, and prefers to think of things in terms of quantifiable figures instead of, say, populations of people and animals with their various dispositions, Claire allows her employees significant leeway in how they act.  She lets her underlings, such as Lowery, express their disagreements with her.  Until he showed up at work wearing disaster paraphernalia which apparently crossed a line for her, she was fine with his toy covered work area.  She may come off as emotionless, but she's clearly respecting her employees' need to be in a working environment that is comfortable to them.

    Vivian is another employee in the control room who is given basically no characterization beyond agreeing with Lowery's sentiments if not his style (her work station is clean.)  She basically serves as a stand in for the entire rest of the control room staff so that we know that that they're all reacting more or less the same way to this or that development and it's not just Lowery who feels whatever way Lowery is feeling.

    The one bit of characterization she does get is that she leaves her outside of work life outside of work which leads to Lowrey thinking she's single and assuming he's going to get to dramatically kiss her in a moment that's supposed to be comedic but ends up being, "I liked Lowrey until he was really fucking creepy."

    If we assume that the reason Lowery and Vivian are allowed names is because they're the top two employees under Claire, then the three of them would collectively be the main people in the park's nice neat "You can oversee everything from here," control room.

    That's one viewpoint.

    The second one is the people working behind the scenes in the park.  The ones who have to keep the animals fed, figure out ways to make sure that they're in places the visitors can see them, do check ups when the triceratops has a tummy ache, so forth.  The mechanics too.  There's a lot of technology that goes into Jurassic World that is entirely unrelated to the dinosaurs.

    The third would be, basically, executives.

    Simon Masrani, who owns the park after being given it by John Hammond, is trying to follow through on Hammond's dying wish (which doesn't involve profit), "Jurassic World exists to remind us how very small we are. How new."  His viewpoint, taken from the late John Hammond, is "Spare no expense."

    He's going to be looking around the park, usually as an anonymous guest, to make sure that the two things he considers important (Are the guests having fun? Are the animals enjoying life?) are happening.

    Other executives, apparently from Verizon per the actual movie, are going to be there to decide if they want to invest in a new exhibit.  They're going to be there as not remotely anonymous VIP guests.

    And that's going to be the conflict of the movie.  Masrani isn't taking the expense involved in a venture like this seriously enough, but Claire knows the park needs this new investment because they can't afford to do a new exhibit on their own and without the spike in attendance that always comes with a new exhibit in (insert unit of time here) they won't be able to keep above water, whereas if they can pull of a really good exhibit (which means a bigger investment) they've worked out enough of the problems and expenses that they should be able to avoid a recurrence of this financial crisis for the foreseeable future.

    The movie follows Claire as she tries to wow the Verizon executives into investing much needed money while dealing with all of the problems that go with running a theme park built around animals.  (This is where researching Disney's Animal Kingdom will come in handy, they had to overcome a lot of hurdles to make a theme park around animals.  Taking their problems and multiplying by dinosaur should be good for a fair amount of plot.)

    One can imagine all manner of things that end up distracting her from the task (sorry boss, rules say only you can authorize ... whatever) or making it harder (the hydraulics used used to move the entire seating area to the mosasaurus show, which is a wow-worthy feat she wanted to use, are being repaired.  Such and such dinosaur that she hoped to show off is in mating season and they're beating each other up.)

    Each thing that distracts from or detracts from wowing the executives is showing us the park behind the scenes, each thing that goes as planned is showing us the park from the view of park goers, and through this frame, you get the movie about running the park both in terms of operating it and keeping it funded.

    In the end, the executives agree to fund a new exhibit, the first of its kind.  Not a resurrected dinosaur, but a wholly new one that combines traits from various things and blah, blah, blah Indominus Rex.  ("We needed something scary and easy to pronounce. You should hear a four-year-old try to say 'Archaeornithomimus.'")


    Movie 2: I'm not training raptors so that you can use them as weapons [top]

    The second movie is about the training of the raptors.  It's much lower budget as the work is secluded in its own section of the island off limits to tourists and, notably, other dinosaurs.  Thus the only effects it needs are the raptors themselves which ... CGI is getting better all the time, but Jurassic World could really have benefited from using less of it and more practical effects.  We still haven't reached the point where animatronics can be replaced by CGI.

    This movie is going to be dealing with the raising and training the raptors.  The main characters will be Owen (raptor trainer from the movie), Barry (Owen's black friend, who I'm going to assume is raptor trainer, from the movie), and [Insert human female characters here].  Or genderqueer.  That's totally ok too.  I'm just saying that I'm not going to leave this plot as a movie where the only female characters are dinosaurs who don't talk and have been the villains of the last three films.

    At the start of this movie it seems like the only thing is trying to train the raptors, but there will be increasing hints that the people overseeing this want to use the raptors for something else.

    Worth noting that the funding for this project is not from Masrani but from InGen and there's a conflict in the movie between those two groups.  Masrani owns the park and his people operate it.  He seems to be a friend of the late John Hammond.  InGen ousted Hammond, replaced him with people who were less soul-having in previous movies, and now, while they don't own the park or the dinosaurs, they do own the technology and processes used to produce the dinosaurs.

    Thus Masrani's people have to work with InGen in spite of the fact that they're not always at ease with each other and, it turns out, have very different goals.

    The raptors are cloned using Masrani's facilities (I get the impression no one lets InGen have a cloning lab of their own anymore, they tend to create the conditions for lots of death) and the project is being run on Masrani's island, but it is an InGen project.

    It was sold (to Masrani's people and the actual workers) as testing the intelligence of the raptors, with the training being how they go about doing that.

    Also worth noting is that there was about one sentence of acknowledgement that actual dinosaurs don't look like Jurassic Park dinosaurs in the movie, but it seems to me like the intelligence testing premise would have allowed for a great way to show that fact.

    They could have raptors just like ones from the previous movies in one group, and feathered raptors that are created using more recently discovered more complete raptor DNA in another and the testing could be, in part, to see if actual raptors were as smart as the ones we've seen in previous films or if the intelligence was an unexpected product of the imperfect reconstruction.

    The two groups would both be subject to the same training and their progress would be compared.

    But that is neither here nor there, at issue is the stories that they tried to cram into one movie and this one is basically this:

    The team raises and trains the raptors believing they're working to test the extent of raptor intelligence, they learn that in fact their work is going to be used for military purposes.

    The movie would end with Owen, Barry, and [insert human female characters here] managing to secure control over the raptor project thus, for the moment, preventing it from being militarized.

    This could probably involve Masrani as it is his island and in the actual movie he's shown to have prior knowledge of Owen.

    In the grand cinematic tradition of aligning climaxes, securing the raptor project for non-military purposes only would happen at roughly the same time as some major breakthrough in the raptor training.


    Again we have two movies.  In fact, I think that until we get to the end, they all come in pairs.

    The movies take place later on, where the first movie was about getting the funding for Indominus Rex, now they're working on getting ready to unveil it.  As expected, most of the kinks are worked out of the park and it's all going smoothly.

    Movie 3: The Conspiracy [top]

    When Masrani first lays eyes on the new dinosaur, and when he learns the difficulty they're having in containing it he orders Owen to be brought in to provide a fresh perspective on their containment measures and see if he can spot any holes in the security.

    This is just as it was in the movie, but unlike the original movie this shouldn't coincide with the escape because that makes it very difficult to tell the investigation story.  That's why the story failed to go anywhere in the movie.  Good people do not try to find out who is to blame while there are people in need of helping.

    There needs to be a gap between finding out things are not right and "Oh my god, it's going to eat us," if there's to be a decent story of the investigation into what's really going on here.

    So we have that gap.  Masrani and Owen both investigate, maybe Claire does as well.  Definitely room for [insert human female characters here].

    Over the course of the movie layers of lies, inconsistencies, and whatnot will be uncovered.

    The movie has a secret lab.  A secret lab that's off to the side of the non-secret lab.  Even if no one noticed that there's this random empty space behind that wall when looking at the floorplan, probably its power usage has raised some eyebrows somewhere.

    As it's learned that there are things to Indominus that shouldn't be there, and various parties look into finding out how this happened, things will be revealed and the movie will ultimately culiminate in the discovery of the secret lab and the arrest of various people responsible.  Not of everyone responsible though, because the head guy at InGen and his concentrated stupid-evil is in fact useful for after the dinosaur escapes.

    Conspiracy uncovered, arrests made, guilty flown away to be punished, everyone can have a nice time thinking they've succeeded and it's all going to be alright.


    Movie 4: The Character Story [top]

    This is the first story that the actual movie started to tell.  Gray is 12ish and not-neurotypical.  He's presented as a watered down version of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.  He's on the autism spectrum but still capable of normal interaction, he's not a savant, he does memorize at least two groups of things he's fixated on down to minutia (dinosaurs and ... jeeps maybe?  I'm not sure the scope of the second fixation.)

    The biggest hurdle he has with ordinary social interaction is that he either can't read people to tell when they're not interested, or he doesn't care enough about them not being interested to stop from bombarding them with a never-ending stream of words (in this case related to his dinosaur fixation.)

    Zach is his older brother.  Zach's age is difficult to place.  Based on his actor we'd guess 19 or 20 and probably on the higher end of the range but the movie treats him as a not-yet legal adult who will be in the care of his parents for at least a while longer.

    Based on his portrayal in the movie I think Zach probably has dysthymia.  He's locked into a pretty solid state of indifference and it takes a fracking mosasaurus to put the first crack in it.  He appears to just want to be left alone and for things to be quiet (which leads to friction with his brother.)

    Again based on his portrayal in the movie, I'm thinking that maybe Zach is an asexual aromantic person who either doesn't know it or hasn't accepted himself.  He likes looking at smiling girls about his age, but his interest isn't really portrayed as different than someone looking at a sunset or a nice painting.  Which is to say, his aesthetic appreciation of the female form appears to be entirely without a sexual component and as for what little we see of him with his girlfriend, at best he seems baffled by the entire concept of their relationship.

    Zach's general disinterest has caused him to miss any signs that his parents might be splitting.  Gray, on the other hand, has taken note of the fact that each parent is exchanging mail with a different lawyer and used Google to discover that the lawyers are divorce lawyers.

    These two coming together such that they'll be able to support each other through whatever life in general and their parents' upcoming divorce throws their way is one of the stories the movie tried to tell.

    That story can be told anywhere, but it's against the backdrop of Jurassic World and it's shared wonder at the dinosaurs that starts them coming together.

    Again we have a story where the canon people involved are entirely male (Claire is their aunt but her work keeps her from being with them.)

    It's easy enough to fix.  Add in some other characters.  Maybe Zach ends up spending some time with a lesbian character that lets him know that:
    a) Being asexual is totally a thing, and
    b) There's nothing wrong with that.

    We could have the romance subplot that film makers always insist on throwing in between the lesbian and a love interest.

    As for why Claire can't be there with them for the whole time, this is happening at the same time as uncover the conspiracy movie.  Maybe she's following the money and asking questions about H. R. Haldeman.

    The movie ends with Zach and Grey having bonded the [insert human female characters here] having resolved their plot.  And Zach, Grey, and Claire might have some kind of improvement in their relationship because it's a character movie so, why not?

    The sheer coolness of the dinosaurs being what Zach and Grey bond over is important to the plot, but mostly Jurassic World features in the movie the way space ships, space ports, bases, floating cities, and assorted stuff like that feature in Star Wars: It surrounds the characters and penetrates the plot; it binds the movie together.

    Or, for an alternate description, it's like water in a fish's life if water were composed of pure concentrated awesome.


    The next pair of movies show things going wrong.

    Bad people have been arrested (see conspiracy movie) the secret lab has been uncovered, law enforcement of some kind is probably confiscating hard drives to be decrypted and see how deep the rot goes, but there's still this genetically modified thing in an exhibit that is supposed to open soon.

    Our good friend "Easy to Pronounce and Scary" escapes.

    Movie 5: Disaster movie [top]

    Initial attempts to contain the situation fail and things spiral out of control until all Hell is (that is: various types of dinosaurs are) being unleashed upon the park's patrons.

    There have been movies about floods, fires, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, meteors, asteroids, sharknadoes, avalanches, and so forth.  A disaster movie where the disaster is hungry angry dinosaurs is honestly the next logical step.  The truth is, I'm not sure why we got to the sharknadoes first.  (Also, most of Sharknado was about a sharkicane, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than a Sharknado.)

    The point is, what goes into making a disaster movie is well understood and does not need to be described in depth here, except for the part where I point out that Sharknado is NOT the example to follow.

    The key thing is that Invictus Rex (I know that's not its real name) smashes through the things used to keep the other dinosaurs restrained having the unintended (though I doubt she minds) consequence of unleashing them.

    Thus the dinosaurs are coming.

    There is a theme park/resort full of people that need to be evacuated or, somehow, safely sheltered in place.

    This movie is about doing that.

    You know that there'll be the doctor that the movie follows, and the rescue person that the movie follows, and the [whatever] person that the movie follows, and of course the people directing operations, and that some climactic thing will weave all of these people's stories together because that's how these movies work.


    Movie 6: Monster in the woods [top]

    When things move to emergency management situation Claire is no longer the one who ought to be in charge.  Her skill set is not emergency management.  They hired her to do the best job running the park under normal operating conditions.

    Presumably they have someone who knows how to deal with emergencies and she or he takes over.

    This frees up Claire to do exactly what she she did in canon: go out after her nephews, grabbing Owen on the way out the door.

    For a more plausible explanation for why they're the only one's that deep into not-safe land than "They're the only ones who don't come back when called," either:
    a) They're not the only ones.
    b) The security system was just updated (after the arrests that capped off the mystery/conspiracy movie) and not all the bugs are worked out.  Their super-special no-waiting-in-line pass Claire gave them is reading as, basically, administrator access, and so when manual controls are overridden to return all of those vehicles home, it doesn't happen to theirs.

    Regardless Claire, Owen, and maybe one of the [insert human female characters] from the raptor trainers go out looking for the brothers from the character movie who, since the character movie is over, have gotten their shit together in terms of their relationship but will quickly find themselves out of their depth in terms of not getting eaten.

    They're desperately trying to stay one step ahead of Scary and Easy to Pronounce, meanwhile team of adults (Claire, Owen, and [insert human female character] raptor trainer) are looking for them.

    The part where the boys find the ruins of the original Jurassic Park was honestly perfect.

    In fact, in many ways this story in general was the most well done, fully realized part of Jurassic World as a whole.  The boys trying to get to safety, Claire and Owen trying to get to the boys.

    The problem is that you can't fully realize this story when you're also trying to tell nine or ten other stories.  Even in this post, where I'm trying to separate out the stories into fully functioning stand alone bits, I'm only going to manage seven of them (of which this one is number six.)

    A major change to things would be to have leaving the original park not lead directly to reaching the non-safety of the current resort.  It simply doesn't make sense for a variety of reasons. A major one being that once all parties are there, they should be able to regroup, send the kids to shelter in place with the rest of the huddled masses, and generally not have the plot progress as it does in the movie.,

    They could reach an outpost or something and, given how the timing of things is going down, have that destroyed by the flying dinosaurs, and then meet up with the adults while taking shelter there.

    Then, the two groups together make the dash to safety.  But in this case safety would be where Owen and [insert human female character here] work with the raptors.  Given the reputation of raptors in the Jurassic Park universe, there's probably a fucking bunker there in case the things got loose.

    Plus, if they're smart and they know they're being followed by death incarnate, they probably don't want to lead it to where the huddled masses are all huddling.

    The movie would end not with them beating Scary and Easy to Pronounce but instead with them reaching shelter where there's solid walls, food, water, and generator driven power.


    Movie 7: The Vorpal Blade [top]

    Movie 1 covered getting funding for the Indominus Rex, Movie 2 covered training the raptors.  Movie 3 covered uncovering (eek! terrible unintended pun) the corruption behind Indominus Rex, Movie 4 set up the characters being rescued in 6 as well as the park that is turning from order to chaos in 5.

    5 covered protecting the people in the park as a whole.  6 was about rescuing the individual people who were in the most danger both because of where they were and because Indominus picked them to hunt.

    The one thing we have yet to cover is attempting to directly deal with Indominus. (Also the payoff for having trained raptors.)

    That's what Seven is about.  We'll see the events that set off 5 and 6 from a different perspective as initial attempts to contain it result in both killing the initial response team and driving Indominus, Scary and Easy to Pronounce, Rex into barriers in failed attempts to corner it (or just by accident) which leads to it smashing those barriers and thus setting free the other dinosaurs that threaten the park population in general necessitating the evacuation seen in movie 5.

    Again, this covers a time period we've already seen, just from a different perspective.

    And part of what we'd see in this different perspective is that while the regular park employees were working to protect the guests under the guidance of the emergency management staff in movie 5, and while the raptor trainers, head of normal park operations, and nephews were running for their lives in 6, a change was made in the hunting of the Scary but Easy to Pronounce.

    InGen used the confusion to have their security take over the hunt, and that is partially responsible for things going so horribly wrong (who cares if they break a wall and let predatory dinosaurs out?  That's Masrani's problem), even though things were going pretty badly before that, but is also allowing them to pressure people into giving access to things they shouldn't have (the secret labs that are sealed until law enforcement can thoroughly inspect them "If we want to save lives, we need to know exactly what we're up against.  Open the door," the raptor program that they were explicitly pushed away from at the end of movie 2 "We need all options on the table, People Are Dying," and such.)

    The situation is being used by InGen to recover data from their illegal project(s), remove evidence incriminating them and ... do a test run of their weapons programs.

    The Indominus is exceeding all expectations.  It was supposed to be a proof of concept on various things (adaptive camouflage in visible and infrared spectrum, whatever the hell else they stuck into the damned thing) that funneled money away from legal work by taking place under the guise of a park attraction and so had to be as big as the expected park attraction (they're actually more interested in smaller animals, for example ones that can enter buildings without bashing holes in them) but so far it's proving to be able to plow through infantry like a tank.

    Our heroes will appear when InGen shows up to take possession of the raptors (ostensibly to be used as weapons against the Indominus) and finds heroes already camped out at the raptor paddock.  (InGen assumed they were conveniently dead and is not altogether happy to find them alive)

    Raptor trainers will insist that if the raptors are to be taken out on a hunt (which they oppose but can't stop) they lead them.

    While they're doing that, Claire tries to take the boys to the resort because that's where the ongoing evacuation operation is going on and, say, InGen brought a nice armored truck with them.

    Scary but Easy to Pronounce could turn out to have been waiting outside the compound (Recall that she was chasing the boys) and, when various people go various ways, slaughter the people who stay behind at the base camp.

    If there is some crisis of loyalty amoung the raptors it would make more sense if InGen caused it (maybe intentionally to get rid of the people who might have incriminating testimony against them, maybe accidentally by using a means of control, say electric shocks, that screwed over the raptor's trust in the trainers.)

    Regardless, after taking out the InGen control camp, Scary but Easy to Pronounce follows Claire and the boys back to the resort.  Raptor trainers realize Scary is following the others and try to intercept and warn them.  You get the showdown in the resort just like the actual movie.

    You can even have the T-Rex to the rescue they used because that was one of the things that actually made sense.  She gave no signs of hunger, so she didn't try to eat the humans, instead she at first followed the pretty, pretty light (the flare) with curiosity and then, upon finding another sort-of adult sort of T-Rex in contested territory, she started a threat display and that jerk started fighting her so of course she fought back.

    All things considered, the T-Rex and surviving raptor working together to take down Scary but Easy to Pronounce was one of the cooler things in the movie.  And it made sense as well.  By the time the two noticed each other they were both out to kill their common enemy, so why mess things up by fighting each other?

    The raptor isn't a threat to the T-Rex's status because it's not a competing T-Rex, the T-Rex isn't a threat to the raptor because the T-Rex isn't being aggressive towards it.  And they complement each other really nicely.

    Things that I would change are that all but one of the raptors being wiped out is kind of ... uh.  Crappy.  Also, when the raptors were taken out it was generally, "I pick you up in my mouth and throw you against something," not once --NOT ONCE-- did someone run to one of the fallen raptors to see if was in need of medical attention in spite of the fact that at this point the raptors were knowingly fighting to defend them.

    Humans: heartless bastards.

    I have no problem with the ending of the unmodified dinosaurs not actually winning, but instead driving Scary but Easy to Pronounce back to where BOOM! mosasaurus eats it.

    There's always a bigger fish (no there isn't, but go with me here), said the Jedi master in the movie we pretend doesn't exist.  Scary but Easy to Pronounce wasn't even aquatic.  Never saw it coming.


    And, there, I've pulled apart the strange tangled ball of too many plots for one movie and attempted to make it into movies, seven of them, each with a movie's worth of plot.


    A formatting note: Blogger makes it literally impossible to test that same page links are working in the editor and I need to go to sleep now and thus won't be testing after posting, so if any of the links are borked, please do tell.


    1. That's a lot of movie for them to have tried to make in one movie. It sounds like an interesting miniseries the way you're describing it, now.

      (p.s. links seem to work.)

      1. I agree: miniseries (250ish minutes) or even full-on series (900-1000ish) would be the way to go here. That way you can sure you have funding for Hunting With Raptors when you're working the first episode and setting up things that will pay off later..

    2. I'm just saying that I'm not going to leave this plot as a movie where the only female characters are dinosaurs who don't talk and have been the villains of the last three films.

      Is this including JP3? I don't think you can argue the velociraptors are really villains in that. (And yes, I have watched it way too many times and read an alarming quantity of Alan/Billy fanfic. Also it's one of the few movies where a divorced couple are involved, and I don't hate everyone. Ant Man did ok with that too...)

    3. Also this post is amazing & you are really good at this stuff.