Monday, 11 June 2018

Jurassic World 2 - Fallen standards

I, like many people, love Jurassic Park (the original one). I must say I did not see it in the cinema when it released 25 years ago, mainly due to being quite young at the time (and would have been scared senseless of the dinosaurs, and maybe never have become a palaeontologist). In fact the first one I remember seeing in cinema was Jurassic Park 3. This weekend I saw the most recent one, Jurassic World 2.

I remember being enthralled by the dinosaurs and loving seeing my favourite animals alive on the big screen. Walking With Dinosaurs had much the same effect. How can you not love it? And the sound effects/music! The original still looks great, but sadly the love for the franchise and the recent film is not there. Don't get me wrong, I still like seeing the dinosaurs on the big screen, and there is a sort of nostalgia about it. It does show the science of palaeontology from 25 years ago with the dynamic scaly monsters rampaging around reclaiming the Earth (or at least a few islands off the coast of Costa Rica) from humans. But where to begin? Spoilers ahead (although mostly science/dino rather than major plot related, but don't say you weren't warned).

Feathered dinosaurs
We know now most later theropods had feathers (and some of the other lines too), and things like Velociraptor were mostly feathered. If you want to blow someone's mind who has never heard about feathered dinosaurs, google Microraptor. It is a close relative of Velociraptor and displays truly amazing feather preservation across its body, arms, legs and tail. I won't belabour any of the points here, it has been discussed in depth by many others before me. Jurassic Park 3 even gave a very gentle acknowledgement of feathers on the raptors by giving them some sort of filaments on the top of their heads. These reappear in the new "Indo raptor" but are more porcupine quills than feather as most know them.

The hands
Also a common gripe for palaeontologists is the "bunny" hands of T. rex. The sort of thing you can imagine them doing the air quotes at people.

T. rex in Kings Cross, London as promotional material for Jurassic World showing off the wrong hand positions.
The reason we imagine this and see it reconstructed is that mammals are able to do it easily, this pronation of our hands (as opposed to supination - like you do holding a bowl of soup).
Velociraptor in Kings Cross, London as promotional material for Jurassic World showing off the correct hand positions.
Dinosaurs generally don't have this ability to pronate their hands, and there remains debate even about some of the large ones walking on all fours exactly what extent they could rotate their hands, which is some of the the research we are doing with computers.
The walking/running
Debate still rages and hits many news headlines over T. rex walking and running. I won't get into it, but chances are they could still manage a good speed (at least compared to human sprinters) no matter what they did. However, one think I can almost certainly guarantee, even if you created a new dinosaur hybrid from a T. rex and Velociraptor, it would definitely not walk around on 4 legs for periods of time. Another thing that is almost certainly not possible will be galloping ankylosaurs (those big armoured dinosaurs).

Lava
I may be a palaeontologist by trade, but I have spent some time with geologists and learnt some things about volcanoes. Lava is hot. There, I admit I know something about geology that doesn't usually involve fossils. In fact lava is usually above 700C, and the lava in Hawaii in the eruptions at the minute is about 1100-1200C according to the USGS. What that means is it causes things to burn, and because it is so hot it doesn't even have to touch them to burn. Like Chris Pratt when he is inches from a lava flow. Worse yet is the scene where lava lands on a Baryonyx head and it roars, shakes it off and continues hunting people.

Pyroclastic flows
This stuff is searingly hot, and moves quickly. Pyroclastic flows are one of the main causes of death in volcanic eruptions. Lava is usually slow and can be outrun but pyroclastic flows are superheated, volcanic ash clouds that rolls down the slopes at hundreds of miles an hour incinerating everything in its path. Famous examples from history include ones at Mt. Saint Helens, Monteserrat, Vesuvius (the things that did in Pompeii), and tragically just over a week ago in Guatemala where hundreds of people have lost their lives. You don't run in/through one of these. You definitely don't somehow catch and carry off a T. rex within 1 minute of it arriving.

Brachiosaurus rearing
God, it was possibly the most cinematic/heart wrenching scene in the film as one gets overrun by a pyroclastic flow with the audience all flashing back to one of the most incredible scenes where we first meet the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park 1. There is a lot of evidence suggesting that no, they cannot rear, or at least not for long periods of time (I will not open the can of worms that is dinosaur reproduction).

The story
Jurassic Park 1 - Park opens for some guests, someone messes up the systems, dinosaurs get out, havoc ensues.
Jurassic World 1 - Park opens for guests, someone messes up, dinosaur gets out, havoc ensues.

Jurassic Park 2 - Go to the island for research reasons, bad guys get involved and catch all the dinosaurs to take them to mainland for money, dinosaurs get out and cause rampage. Shout-out to the pachycephalosaur involved in breaking out dinosaurs.
Jurassic World 2 - Go to island to save dinosaurs from volcano, bad guys get involved to catch all the dinosaurs, take them to mainland, auction, dinosaurs get out and rampage.  Shout-out to the pachycephalosaur involved in breaking out dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park 3 - Crazy parasailing/gliding accident, plane crash, Spinosaurus rampage.
Jurassic World 3 - PLEASE NO!

Things I liked
Actually first half was decent for the dinosaurs once you get past the above criticisms.
Rex biting the neck of another meat eating dinosaur actually does damage - Jurassic Park 3 take note.

Final notes
Would I go see it again? Nope.

Would I encourage palaeontologists to see it, probably, but not to pay for the privilege.

If you like CGI dinos running around, causing PG-13 levels of violence with minimal blood and a thin rehashed story, it is mindless fun, but a lot darker than the previous ones.

4.5/10. Worst yet.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these comments, which tend to validate my lack of excitement about seeing this. As a brachiosaur specialist, I have to ask one thing: "There is a lot of evidence suggesting that no, they cannot rear, or at least not for long periods of time". What do you have in mind here? Is there recent research that I somehow missed?

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