The Life Jurassic With Steven Ray Morris
Someone recently asked me why I find dinosaurs compelling and I was honestly taken aback. I sputtered and stammered, my love of dinosaurs put blast for the first time ever. I have loved dinosaurs my entire life since the days when I would fall asleep with The Dinosaur Society’s Dinosaur Encyclopedia tucked under my pillow as a small child. Seeing the 1993 film Jurassic Park soon after at the tender age of six only cemented this love even further. Dinosaurs and that film became inextricably intertwined in my mind and my heart. Director Steven Spielberg’s bravura take on Michael Crichton’s more number-crunching obsessed book captured the feeling of what it would be like to actually meet a dinosaur: a sense of wonder mixed with undeniable terror (my exact reaction to seeing the film for the first time). If we were ever faced with the opportunity to bring dinosaurs back from the grave, most people (yes, I am going to make this bold claim) would say yes in a heartbeat. The theme of ‘when will mankind learn not to meddle with nature’ is repeated again and again for a reason. Enter Jurassic World.
“I don’t care if I like it, but I hope you do,” a buddy mentioned to me. Jurassic World (the fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise and the first since 2001’s Jurassic Park III) was released on June 12th, 2015. I went to a Thursday night screening with twenty of my closest friends to watch this dormant franchise come back to life. As the lights dimmed and the film began, I suddenly felt the hands of my friends metaphorically outstretched in support. Not only were they there to watch the film with me, but they wanted to it watch it for me. This film was my jaguar shark; I had been waiting all my life for this moment. Just as Steve Zissou (the titular character in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic as portrayed by Bill Murray) perilously tracked this elusive and fantastical sea creature to the detriment of his family, friends, health, and soul so to did I dream one day of a Jurassic sequel that fulfilled all my childhood fantasies (and teenage fan-fiction). Sure, nobody died in my quest to see another Jurassic adventure realized on the big screen, but I sure as hell wrote a book about it.
Celebrating its one-year anniversary today, Molding A Jurassic Universe was released by Thought Catalog Books about a month before Jurassic World hit cinemas. The book serves as a primer to the franchise, but functions more as a collection of personal and critical essays born out of fandom, film school classes, and time in the industry as a pop culture writer. It’s a book for anyone who wants to sift through their obsessions warts and all and see how it works, why it works, and how it might function in the future. So what did I think of Jurassic World then? If Jurassic Park explored what life would be like if dinosaurs were real then Jurassic World feels like an exploration of what life would be like if Jurassic Park was real. Despite the dangers we all want to go. I certainly enjoy it more than The Lost World: Jurassic Park (sorry) and Jurassic Park III. I have already spoken at length of my admiration of middle-management type-turned-hero Claire Dearing and why she has the potential to truly take this franchise in new directions (recently it was announced that horror director J.A. Boyana will take the reigns on ‘Jurassic World II’ from Colin Trevorrow). Unlike J.J. Abrams’s forward-thinking nostalgia in the 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Trevorrow’s take on Jurassic feels too noncommittal and too safe to truly soar to great heights. It’s a fun enough romp and delighted audiences to a degree that it smashed box office records beyond Universal’s original expectations. It turns out people still love dinosaurs, me included.
In the year since Molding A Jurassic Universe was released, I’ve had plenty of sweet and some not so sweet conversations surrounding Jurassic World and the rest of the Jurassic Park franchise. It’s been a delight to be notified by friends and family any time something related to these films or dinosaurs makes the rounds on the internet and IRL. People are excited to know what I think, this so-called ‘dinosaur expert.’ Now I have become inextricably intertwined with this franchise and in turn dinosaurs as well; a dream come true actually. So why do still I find dinosaurs compelling? They make me feel the exuberance of a what it was like to be a child with the perspective of now being an adult. There’s a multitude of feelings I experience when I see images of them or imagine what it would be like to be around them. They’re beautiful, scary, cool, and sublime, occupying a space between fantasy and reality that is completely unmatched and totally limitless. To paraphrase a line from Jurassic World: DINOSAURS exist to show us how very small we are. That’s how I felt when I was six and thank goodness I am still allowed to feel that way today.