The Jurassic Park series has been the summer blockbuster movies to see for the last 23 years. Each show has had a bigger dinosaur, a better attraction and more lives on the line. Jurassic World, the latest addition to this franchise, hit an all-time climax in this saga’s move-screen violence exploiting more deaths and dinosaur attacks than ever seen before! Exciting as this may be to audiences, the escalation of violence in each movie to try and impress a less impressed audience is a slippery slope. Violence in films is being connected to behaviors of movie goers. This demonstrates the harm accepting these movies can do if we continue to allow them to continue their journey. Their thin, paper house plots and aggressive kills replicate exactly what Jurassic World’s storyline is: a desperate attempt to draw audiences with bigger, badder and desensitizing violent films. Here are five reasons to be concerned with the desensitizing displays and effects of Jurassic World, among other violent films.
1. The Death of Zara
The first women kill of Jurassic Park… and I think we can all agree it was vaguely disturbing to watch, to say the least. Seeing Zara get carried off by a not so terrifying pterosaur was one thing, but following her as she was flown over the mosasaurus tank, dropped in and was brutally beaten (and nearly drowned) by pterosaurs before being chopped on by the giant, water dwelling mosasaurus was pretty horrific, and personal.
According to critic Devin Faraci (editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death.), the reason Zara’s death was so surreally unsettling was because, although he did believe she should have died in the film, she “didn’t deserve to die quite that hard.”
Her death served no purpose. It made no critical statement except to remind us, “Oh, hey, the mosasaurus is still floating around” in order set up a weak and not so enthralling ending to the film.
Faraci goes on to grimly joke that Collin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World, handled this first female kill in the series as “a horror movie kill.” (Let’s hope it wasn’t just a sexist thing on Trevorrow’s part.)
Out of context of genre, torturous, and easily the most desensitizing death in the movie, this vicious kill makes you question the integrity of the franchise. With so much death already wreaking its way through the movie, it is hard to say if they simply lost track of their current death toll or were just drunk on blood.
Spielberg has been involved in highly violent films before, directing shows like JAWS and Saving Private Ryan, but these movies stay true to the types of death an audience member expects to see when walking into a shark movie or a war story. Jurassic World introduces a conflict of genre with screaming, unsettling, undeserving death scenes.
If you didn’t find yourself bothered by this death, you might want to be asking yourself some questions. Like, why didn’t this JAWS type of death feel out of place in a theme park adventure gone wrong? Perhaps it’s because the growing violence in the series is leaving us as desperate for a thrill as the park goers are that we’re willing to watch any character get taken out for any reason in any way.
2. “Come for the Dinosaur Violence”
In Chancellor Agard’s Jurassic World review in the International Business Times, he points out that fans looking for character development that they’ve grown accustom to over the last three Jurassic movies will be sorely disappointed, and should just forget about all that juicy good stuff to enjoy the rash dinosaur rampages and action scenes. Agard says the amount you’ll enjoy the film is based on how “forgiving you are” of a been there, done that plot setup and “weak characters.” So you should just let it go, right?
Excuse me?! Forget all the things that made us cling to our seats during the original film just so we can mindlessly enjoy a bunch of people getting eaten? (Not gonna lie to you, this movie is a popcorn muncher and a fun night out) But shouldn’t we not be okay with loosing quality of movies for quantity of thrills? Apparently, we are now endorsing mindless movies chuck full of death and destruction because it’s a “visual spectacle.” Redeemably, Agard’s does point out that, beneath all the dinosaur action, Jurassic World is indeed a self-aware commentary about “how summer blockbusters keep getting bigger to keep audiences enthralled.” Just remember to turn off your brain and enjoy some chopping.
3. Maybe This Movie Violence Isn’t Enhancing The Thrills…
As much as the producers advertise the thrills, screams and action of new violence driven films like Jurassic World, KSL contributor and critic John Clyde discuss how this new blockbuster, though a fun “rollercoaster ride of huge action sequences”, falls flat thanks to the limited development of character.
Clyde says that in the original film (Jurassic Park), he was “gripping his seat,” just like the rest of us were, out of concern for the characters. Whoever was on screen, we were worrying about who wasn’t and what was happening to them, and vice versa. There isn’t a group of people that you forget about during the whole Jurassic Park original movie.
Clyde, again, like many of us, didn’t feel that urgency for the safety of the beloved characters during Jurassic World. When we go back to another character’s adventure, Clyde describes their reentrance into the story as an, “‘Oh, yeah. They’re around,” moment.”
Critics across the board express the same disappointment in the lack of seat gripping story. If the goal of upping the scale of movies is detracting from the actual enjoyment of the film, it would appear we’re actually moving backwards in our movie making abilities. You take out the feeling of concern for characters, and you lose half the drive of the story. In a way, you’ve got the whole audience wondering, “who gives a rat’s ...?”
Movie directors! Listen up and learn yourself some story telling technique! Make the characters our friends and we’ll care what happens to them even when the credits are rolling and while we walk to our cars waiting outside the theatre! Just kill lots of people and we’ll be intrigued for an hour or two. Maybe less. The original movie had us dying to know who was okay, who was about to get jumped by some dope raptor, and who was going to die!
Key to this kind of actually exciting film: characters we cared about. It’s frightening to think we’re raising a whole generation on mind numbing action packed movies that lack the empathy and sensitivity for the human experience occurring throughout the film.
4. Violence and Anxiety
Speaking of which! Have you heard of Dr. Wright’s, Mrug’s and Madan’s (WMM) recent study in Youth Adolescence Journal of Youth and Adolescence (they need to shorten the name, I know) on The Effects of Media Violence on Anxiety in Late Adolescence? Now I know we are all (hopefully) aware we shouldn’t be putting our young kids in theatres with Indominus Rex’s running around eating people, but what about the effects violence has on college age kids?
Believe it or not, according to this study in 2013, results concluded that even kids in college experienced an increase of anxiety while watching clips of violent actions movies in comparison to non-violent action movies.
WMM found that students who had prior experience with real-life or film-based violence experienced a lower physiological response to the violent video clips, concluding that this could be evidence of desensitization.
There you have it folks. Myth busted. You college students have enough stress, don’t you? So take a break from the weekend horror or action film at the theatres and watch some Pride and Prejudice on your couch with warm tea.
In all actuality though, it should be of real concern to us that producers and directors are aiming content of films at the populace harder to excite. Just like drugs, (Okay, don’t come down on me for using such a wild example. It just is a clear analogy, so everyone, calm down.) once you adjust to the dosage, you have to amp it up to feel the same effects.
With youth becoming physically and emotionally adjusted to violence in films, movie makers have to work harder to make a bigger spectacle using whatever means they have; in this and most cases, they're using violence. Which begs the questions, where does it stop?
5. And Number 5! Violence in Movies Leading to Violence in Life
We’re just progressing down a slippery slope here, aren’t we? According to the study by Dr.’s Markey, French and Markey (MFM) entitled "Violent Movies and Severe Acts of Violence: Sensationalism Versus Science,” we have cause for concern about the correlation between media violence and how we behave as people towards each other.
I’m not talking big gun crimes or sinking of barges; that is still to be determined. I’m talking about everyday small acts of violence towards people we associate with regularly, or newly met acquaintances. MFM discuss in their research that 1% of people exposed will be negatively affected by the violence in the media. 1%? No big deal.
With the top five violent films of 2012 selling “250 million tickets” we’re looking at a potential 2.5 million resulting acts of violence during the year. Some of these acts include aggression towards parents, rudeness to coworkers, shoving or “huffing” at friends and anything as serious as hitting a neighbor.
This may not seem like a big deal (I hope it does), but considering the effects media violence has on aggression and what that can lead into, parents have cause to think twice (or three time) before running their kids to the next big blockbuster just so they can be included in the conversations at home and school. Movies like Jurassic World not only desensitize us to more movies just like them, but they desensitize us to each other. We need to be actively watchful of our exposure, and our children’s exposure.
Perhaps we’re not too concerned with an act of violence, like a friend shoving another friend, but shouldn’t we be? If these movies are slowly changing the way our society treats each other, shouldn’t we be worried about the people we can become just by overexposure to brutality in films?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!