Will the new Jurassic Park movie be an anti-GMO adventure?

The only thing scarier than a rampaging mega-dinosauar is a rampaging mega-dinosaur that’s also a genetically modified organism. That, at least, seems to be the spirit behind the marketing for Jurassic World, which comes out tonight. As the trailer makes clear, theatergoers should expect some meditations on genetic tinkering along with the more traditional chase scenes and roaring theropods.

“We have learned more in the past decade from genetics than a century of digging up bones,” a hubristic scientist (Bryce Dallas Howard) intones midway through the trailer. “A whole new frontier has opened up. We have our first genetically modified hybrid.” Cue the dramatic music and bubbling laboratory equipment, before neatly-dressed-scientist transitions to a scene featuring an earthy man in a brown vest, with fashionable scruff–Chris Pratt, looking like a cross between Indiana Jones and your middle school biology teacher. “They just went and made a new dinosaur?” Brown Vest asks sagely. “Probably not a good idea.”

Brown Vest frets further about the “dinosaur they cooked up in that lab.” Then the trailer starts to get bloody. GMO on the loose!

You can watch it yourself. The Cubit editors are looking forward to the film (well, one of us is; the other is too scared to see it) but unless Jurassic Park surprises us, this whole premise feels pretty familiar: the fable of the hubristic scientist, spun up with some straightforward GMO fear-mongering.

Hubris happens. It does. But this story is starting to feel old. In part, that’s because it’s difficult today to find an onscreen scientist who’s not one or more of the following: (a) heartless and overconfident; (b) a weapons designer; (c) a stock character from the Asian stereotype department; (d) charmingly insane.

But it’s also because hubris and tinkering with stuff aren’t necessarily necessarily linked, as much as vest-man would like us to believe that they are. It’s possible to make bold things, and also to be thoughtful about the consequences—to be, in short, both the swaggering geneticist and the grizzled skeptic.

Observers of certain conversations about some new technologies, including GMOs, will be forgiven for thinking that kind of balance is impossible. Between the rabid skeptics and the rabid backers, the voices that speak seriously about the benefits of a scientific advance, while also acknowledging the problems that come with any new technology (Who gets to control it? How will we know when the tinkering has gone too far?) tend to get lost.

In our marketing and in our fictions, we set those roles apart: innovation versus common sense. This generates good stories that can be told in 90 seconds or less. But in the real world, perhaps, we separate them at our peril.

Related on The Cubit:

In the future will we sue Tony Stark or Ultron?

The shared assumption behind creationism and anti-GMO in Europe

  • Whiskyjack

    Nicely observed. Although I will certainly see the film for the spectacle, the Don’t Fool Around With Mother Nature trope is wearing a little thin.

  • Craptacular

    “…but unless Jurassic Park surprises us, this whole premise feels pretty familiar…this story is starting to feel old.” – Michael Schulson

    Of course it does. Yet another remake of “Frankenstein” to play on humanity’s fear of the technological future. And any movie franchise that makes it to a fourth installment is pretty much certain to feel “old” by this point…there are very few exceptions.

    Also, if it is a movie made and released by a major studio, it will absolutely feel “familiar,” Hollywood doesn’t like to take chances with their money.

  • Paula Reed

    It’s right up there with The Island of Dr. Moreau. From Dean Koontz’s Watchers to the Sci-Fi channel’s Sharknado, we love blending scary things to get even scarier things.

  • GeniusPhx

    It’s just a movie. for a couple of hours i am not thinking of whatever is happening in my life, i am flooded with special effects and a quality sound system I could get at home, but by neighbors would have me arrested. just go see the movie without picking it apart, and go see it in IMAX!

  • NancyP

    Nothing beats Young Frankenstein.