In Defence of Dinosaurs

This isn’t really a defence, it’s more of an ode to my love for Jurassic Park. They’re amazing films, I accept no disputes, that have become part of the Christmas canon. You know, the kind of thing you sit down to watch in one 5/6 hour marathon because it’s on telly and you’re in a carb coma in front of the fire?  

And have you seen the new short film in the Jurassic World series? It’s called Battle at Big Rock and it’s absolutely brilliant. At only 8 minutes long, it packs in a story line that’s believable (yes, I know it’s about modern day dinosaurs) and emotionally loaded with all of the baroque and ridiculously entertaining horror that we’ve come to expect from the Jurassic franchise.

I have to throw away any pretence at distant and unemotional criticism when I discuss the Jurassic Park/World films (except for Jurassic Park II because that was just crap) as I flipping adore the whole franchise. It first came out long enough ago to mean that I, and the friend I was visiting, had to line up outside the cinema in Portsmouth hoping that it wouldn’t fill up before we’d got a seat. As I sat in the darkness, it was like all of my childhood nightmares had come to terrible, terrifying, T-Rexy life. Coupled with the new Dolby Surround System that shattered my ear drums, dinosaurs had never seemed so real. I screamed out loud and leapt with every smashed window, chewed up character and near-miss. And sometimes I just screamed with all of the pent-up tension that the film created.

At the time, I was a slightly odd, bespectacled and prim child who had a passion for dinosaurs and fossils that led me to proclaim that one day I would be “an archaeological actress”. Here, in one film, were all of my dreams and ambitions made thrillingly real. But the film also introduced some concepts to my 13 year old brain that had hitherto been unexplored in my suburban upbringing.

Chaos theory: Explored via the medium of water droplets, I could suddenly grasp a fundamental theorem, that life can be subject to a series of tiny changes that later have massive impacts. Seemingly random, these minute conditions can, within themselves, contain patterns, fractals and repetitions that seem to have some small amount of predictability, if we could but read the patterns before the events. Brain-bogglingly exciting to a pubescent nerd, I think you’ll agree.

Tell me again, Jeff…

Restorative justice: Explored via the exciting toilet/dinosaur based death of Donald Gennaro, the company lawyer who bossed around the kids but then left them to fend for themselves when the T-Rex appeared. You can’t be a grasping corporate shitbag AND display no moral courage as you’ll get eaten alive – and rightfully so. This went on to formulate my basic understanding of restorative justice although in this case the crim didn’t live long enough to say a sufficiently grovelling apology to the kids.

Exciting ways to go #1993

Girls Rock: Young girls, in fact nerdy young girls, can save the day. Moreover, they can be understandably terrified whilst doing it, scream lots and seize up in panic but they can still save the day. GRRRR! I’d like to think that enough of this concept remained to counteract the ‘girl power’ later promoted by the Spice Girls (though I still bought the platform shoes).

Primed and ready to kick dino butt

Jeff Goldblum: Something about the open-shirted louche-ness combined with professorial intelligence he embodied was, ahem, quite interesting. At that stage in life I had to file it alongside the also, ahem, interesting David Bowie in Labyrinth for later consideration but it left its mark.

Interesting…

By the way, have you come across the theory that Jeff Goldblum is actually an alien doing a semi-convincing job of being a human but we let him get away with it because he’s so charming? I subscribe to that. It would also explain why he seems so genuinely thrilled with life, why he’s so effortlessly cool and why he seems to get better with age…

Later in life, I came across Jean-Francois Champollion (1790—1832), the founding father of Egyptology, and his famous dictum that Archaeology is a beautiful mistress but she brings a poor dowry. Assured that I’d be a millionaire by about 30, I dropped Archaeology – and picked up Art History instead (hollow laugh)…  I never became an actress either but the Jurassic Park films, then Jurassic World, continued to roll and here we are with the announcement that filming is to start on Jurassic World III – and all of the old crowd (Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum) will be starring alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. THIS HAS TO BE THE BEST FILM EVER!!! But I’ve got to wait another 2 years till it comes out (sad face).

If, like me, you can’t wait – and bearing in mind that the October half term is looming – then I suggest visiting the Lapworth Museum of Geology on the Birmingham University campus.

It’s got EVERYTHING: fossils, dinosaurs, mammoths, crystals, jewels and glow-in-the-dark rocks. It is, frankly, amazing and packs in a great deal for a tiny museum with space even for a dino selfie spot. Last summer we met Mary Anning there whilst watching an ichthyosaur being sculpted by paleoartist Bob Nicholls (who knew there was such rich variety in the world of archaeological employment?).

It’s a little difficult to find the first time but friendly locals will help guide you in and the visit is more than worth it. It also has a little coffee station and a shop to extend the visit – and nice loos if you’re caught short. Thumbs up all around from us. Their lecture programmes are also really interesting and there’s a Sleepover at the Museum Night every now and again to look out for.

The Lapworth largely gets the thumbs up as the first museum to which I formally introduced my girls. My eldest daughter in particular has always shown great interest – and ability to find – interesting little fossils wherever we are. I’m definitely encouraging this interest, hoping that in time I might create an archaeologist for a new generation – an ass-kicking girly swot who saves the day

After all, the final revelation of the first Jurassic Park was the most profound. All of the dinosaurs in the park were female…

God creates dinosaurs

God destroys dinosaurs

God creates man

Man destroys God

Man creates dinosaurs

Dinosaurs eat man

Woman inherits the earth

PS. At what point do you introduce a daughter who is intensely emotionally alert to a film franchise that is pant-wettingly frightening? Asking for a friend…