Look. Dinosaurs are my literal most favorite thing in the entire world, and when I saw the first Jurassic Park on the big screen in middle school, it DESTROYED me in the best way ever. I watched half of it from behind my hands and I loved it ridiculously. So with the addition of Chris Pratt and MOTHERFUCKING PTERODATCYLS there was no way I was not going to see Jurassic World. And Jurassic World has a lot to love. B.D. Wong with actual dialogue! Two men of color in reasonably prominent supporting roles that could totally have gone to white dudes but didn’t! Jake Johnson! Judy Greer! Character development for the velociraptors! SEA MONSTERS! A BABY STEGOSAURUS PETTING ZOO! My standards for dinosaur movies are not rigid, I just need cool dinosaurs and then I’m happy. I liked this movie! I wanted to love this movie!
But this movie has a REAL. BAD. SEXISM PROBLEM and I am not just annoyed because sexism annoys me, I am annoyed because these problems were SO FIXABLE. SO fixable. This script was literally one draft away from not sexist. This was supposed to be the Gorgeous Feminine Action Heroine Chasing Dinosaurs In High Heels movie of my dreams and it was not.
Here, let’s take a stroll down Extremely Simple Dialogue and Plot Repairs Lane and discuss Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing.
Ice Queen Spinster Career Woman To Warm, Maternal Lady With Boyfriend is a terrible character arc.
Doctor Frankenstein is a great character arc.
The story is ALMOST THERE.
It would have taken so little to shift Claire’s journey and make it the story of a brilliant scientist whose creation evolves past her control and she is faced with the choice between either destroying it or letting it cause catastrophic destruction, and then bearing the weight of the consequences of everything that happened. And all it would have taken is to shave off a few places here and there where the movie presents her career-mindedness as a problem that needs to be solved, instead of a trait that would be seen as noble in a male character. That is ALMOST this movie, but it fumbles at the last moment. Here are some INCREDIBLY EASY fixes the movie could have made that would have changed none of the great stuff and repaired a ton of the sexist stuff.
–Claire is introduced as a distant, clueless aunt with no time for her nephews, even though they are going through a terrible family crisis. Why? Why can’t she be a loving, hand-on, affectionate aunt who maybe doesn’t know the kids that well or see them that often because, you know, SHE LIVES ON THAT DINOSAUR ISLAND, DID EVERYONE FORGET THAT, EVERYONE ACTUALLY LIVES THERE, SHE PROBABLY DOESN’T GET BACK TO THE STATES THAT MUCH, THAT ISN’T A CRIME. Living far away from your family because of work is not evil.
–She sends the kids off with her assistant for the day because she has no time to hang with them, which is depicted as TERRIBLE. Here’s an easy fix. The kids show up at her workplace on a hella busy day. Instead of ditching them because she is COLD and HAS NO TIME FOR HUMAN CONNECTION, she sends them away because of security clearance. Maybe instead of preselling months of tickets for the new dino, sales are flagging and she needs this new one to work, but the public doesn’t know it even exists yet because there’s going to be a big unveiling. So these kids land on her doorstep and she literally can’t even tell them what she’s working on. Same net impact, better motivation.
–Claire’s journey from seeing the dinosaurs as multi-million-dollar shareholder assets into realizing they are living breathing creatures is compelling enough on its own without it needing to play into any weird, shoehorned-in moralizing about her disconnectedness from her nephews. That evolution would lose none of its punch if they rewrote it so it wasn’t, like, a METAPHOR ABOUT MOTHERHOOD.
–The phone call with her sister is a problem, and not just because Judy Greer deserves so much better than this nothing role. There’s this weird running thread about Claire’s childlessness as a trait that makes her an object of pity, which is hella not cool, especially from a sister. This is like one of the few chances to make this movie Bechdel-compliant, so let’s fucking take it. Give the sisters a real sister conversation Does Claire know about the divorce and they just don’t have the kind of relationship where they have personal conversations so it’s all subtext? That is interesting! Does she NOT know because Judy Greer never told her so she keeps accidentally stepping on it and saying the wrong things and Judy Greer is trying not to cry on the phone (which was lovely, she’s a better dramatic actress than we ever give her credit for)? That’s interesting too! Because either way it’s about the relationship between the two siblings, not Claire’s lack of a baby.
–Look. Some women scientists run around in the dirt like Ellie Satler. (GOD I MISS ELLIE SATLER.) Some women scientists have posh dresses and flawless asymmetric bobs. Great! Give us a whole rainbow spectrum of dinosaur-chasing heroines! I actually didn’t mind Bryce Dallas Howard running around the jungle in high heels (she didn’t exactly have time to go back to her condo and find her combat boots). Defining her character through femininity is only a problem if the script pushes her into making Dumb Lady Mistakes, at which point the high heels become a symbol of all the ways she needs a man to save her instead of just the clothes she happens to wear.
–Chris Pratt skewing towards patronizing in their flirty banter is not an automatic dealbreaker! Han Solo was a condescending jackass to Leia, but it works because A) Leia gives back as good as she gets and B) Han is wrong as often as he is right and his cockiness gets him in trouble. So it is presented as a specific character trait (Han Solo is a man who is cocky and talks down to Leia) and not like some male writer’s idea of how all women would like to be addressed by men.
–Hey, maybe at the end, instead of strolling off into the sun all happy and smiling because she has a boyfriend, she could be allowed to grieve the loss of her life’s work and he could show some fucking empathy?
There. I fixed Jurassic World. That’s how easy it would have been.
(That said, guys, PTERODACTYLS. I’m totally seeing this movie again.)