Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Capital is the Real Dinosaur

"Jurassic World,” 2015

Nearly every film-goer is familiar with this film series based on the books written by right-winger Michael Crichton.  But like the Bourne series written by another right-winger, Robert Ludlum, which was turned into an anti-CIA screed, this series has also turned the politics on its head.  Even the last Bond film, “Quantum of Solace’ nailed oil corporations polluting jungles.  What gives with the writers in Hollywood?

Theme Park Bucks
Corporate greed, private military contractors, war, genetically-modified organisms, the fantasy of ‘de-extinction,’ cell phones, up-tight & wired corporate executives, CEO egotism, treatment of animals as sources of profit or as ‘things’, Sea World, theme parks and zoos in general – all take hits in this film.  Ostensibly another sci-fi horror show, it actually functions as a social critique of U.S. society, though how many viewers see it that way is debatable.  It’s a popcorn movie with a sub-text, but most won’t get past the corn.

Many events in the film are unreal, but that is normal for American films.  Escaping children do not follow watercourses to the ocean but wander back into the jungle; velociraptors somehow regain affinity for their human trainer in a fight-to-the-death battle sequence; corporate executives shed their high heels and kill; no one can shoot the giant eyes out of a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex hybrid with all those guns.  OK.

But the delight is in the details.  “De-extinction” – which is now Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand’s “TED” talk interest - shows itself to be just a gimmick.  After all, thousands of species are dying presently in a ‘6th Extinction’ so who is going to waste time recreating a wooly mammoth except some capitalist corporation?  Not a word about those present species going down from the ‘de-extinctionists.’  A laughably large swimming dinosaur eats a giant shark while being watched by thousands in a re-creation of the giant Sea World aquarium.  This should put the punch-line on the decline of Sea World attendance and its stock price due to its mistreatment of sea life like Orca whales.  Many cell phones were initially bought for emergencies.  Here the sound quality is so bad on one that its useless, which is familiar to anyone with a cell phone. Several key people in the film point out that the dinosaurs (read animals) and humans are in a ‘relationship’ – not something on a spreadsheet.  Or that the dinosaurs are independent entities, not machines or things.  A raging overweight private military contractor wants to use the velociraptors as combat accessories to take out military enemies – an absurd idea that he pursues to the end.  Then there is the efficient Asian scientist cooking up a strange combination of genes to create a new monster with ‘bigger teeth’ to increase corporate profits and goose park attendance.  Read Dr. Frankenstein.  And there is the billionaire know-it-all CEO who confidently tries to pilot a copter he has just learned how to fly into the thick of things. 

Hedonistic voyeurism at the human control of these prehistoric beasts is turned into its opposite - a bloody chaos created by capital's hubris. The hybrid monster dinosaur is the logical conclusion of capital's inability to think about anything but profits. It is the dialectic turned. 

The most negative aspect of the film is the over-controlling operations executive, played by a power-suited redhead with an always-ringing cell phone.  A woman was chosen for this role, only to be straightened out by the courageous ‘man’s man’ raptor trainer with the Triumph motorcycle.  This is a conventional ‘delicate weak woman in the woods’ narrative and the most stupid thing about the film.   And no, she doesn’t get dirt on her outfit, her face, nor is her hair mussed or her delicate necklace even torn off in the midst of all the chaos.  The award for most obvious product placement goes to Mercedes – every vehicle on this island is a Mercedes Benz except the Triumph motorcycle, which only aficionados will recognize.  Evidently Triumph did not pay the filmmakers any money.  Capital makes money while skewering itself.  What did Lenin say about ropes? And is this even a rope? 

What is implicit but not commented on is the throng of well-heeled and clueless people (us, the viewers or tourists evidently…) who paid money to come to this isolated island and participate in this monstrosity.  The film is a virtual zoo for the viewers too, but only virtual.  Yet more and more people are seeing that real zoos, circuses and aquariums or their more covert cousins, ‘nature centers’ for wolves and bears, are just jails for animals.  It’s almost the same principle as taking a tour of a maximum security prison for humans. 

And I saw it at the Riverview Theater
Red Frog
August 26, 2015

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