Following a strange confluence of events that prevented me from watching Jurassic World until the third attempt, I finally did.
It was a really fun experience that entertained me both as a standalone movie as well as a sequel 22 years post the first Jurassic Park with tons of throwbacks. At no point did I feel like it dragged; I actually wanted more slow moments that developed the characters further. The dinosaurs were as awe-inspiring as ever and the story quite fun although pretty much following the same beats as the original.
On to the primary non-scientific contentious subject: Claire Dearing, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character.
Claire is depicted as a no-nonsense workaholic who has lost sight of the softer side of life in her pursuit of an ever-better bottom line, for the company and her career. We meet her as this one-dimensional suit who we are instantly made to want to be eaten by some scary carnivorous giant. Over the course of the movie, our opinions are made to do a complete 180 and, by the end, we are rooting for her and cheering her victories and hoping she is all right coming out the other side.
From this point, there might be heavy spoilers so please don’t read further unless you have seen it or don’t care about spoilers.
Claire’s arc is to me the most important one of the movie (other than that of the Indominus Rex). Sure, Chris Pratt’s character is the action guy and sure, he has a semi-trained Raptor Pack he bikes with at one point. What character development did he get though? I suppose one could say he seemed more respectful of Claire by the end of the movie but that just brings us back full circle to Claire, the real human centre of this dinofest.
- With the children – in the beginning, she actively avoids spending time with them, can’t fathom why anyone would make the time to have them and pawns her nephews off onto her assistant. After the Indominus Rex escapes, she eventually manages to remember that they were on the island too and then starts worrying for them. She is open with her affection when they reunite and ensures that she puts their safety ahead of her own. By the end, she saves the day and is emotionally open with the children as well as her sister.
- With the dinosaurs – Claire consistently uses the word ‘asset’ to refer to the dinosaurs. To her, they are merely items in reports that have monetary value, and she is chastised by Owen for discounting them as simple animals. Over the course of the movie, she touches a dying Apatosaurus and experiences being outwitted and overpowered by smarter dinosaurs. Instead of rotting in the illusion-of-control hubris pit, she claws her way out and even realises she needs to use a dinosaur to fight a dinosaur. (Seriously, I said spoilers.)
- With Owen Grady – it doesn’t seem like she thinks much of him at the beginning, but that quickly changes after he escapes from the I-Rex. She quickly recruits him to finding them and also accompanies him despite his insistence that she stay behind. She never inconveniences his efforts by “being a weaker woman” nor does she ever fall prey to hysterics. Her failings are those of any person and not attributable to her being female. She saves his butt a few times too (although he seems unable to respond other than with a cliché every time she surprises him). She is the one that attempts the grand self-sacrificing gesture at the end, which ends up saving the day. She walks off into the light with him not as a pretty adornment but as a badass mofo that would like to eat her cake now, thank you very much.
- With her job – we are made to understand, sometimes with a club beating our heads, that she is a workaholic, by-the-rules corporate machine. Multiple male characters tell her to lighten up, and the one other reasonably established female character (human, at least – remember all the dinos are girls?) is her sister who shoves the clichéd “motherhood is for everyone” argument down her throat. She is quite serious about her work, attempting to regain control of the situation using the meagre tools she has been provided with. However, upon realising that her nephews are in danger, she accepts that other people can handle the park and that she has a higher priority to look after. She isn’t a one-dimensional, unthinking automaton, and we should stop treating her like an asset and start to see the person that she really is (so to speak).
- With her shoes – ah, yes. I was surprised she kept them on, but more surprised by the amount of focus the internet has placed upon her shoes (the ones in the poster above). Having shown up to work that day in a white suit and nude heels, she is forced to keep both on as she fights for her life and those of the others’ as the manic situation unfolds over a few hours. I for one think it’s great that a female character was convincingly depicted as a badass while holding onto her femininity; she didn’t have to look like a man or learn kung-fu moves to increase her cool factor. Whether or not the people behind the movie considered this or just figured she had other things to think about besides accessorizing, I think it’s great that they focused on that little detail. Sure, she runs from a T-Rex in heels (which are not ‘high’ by any means), but this is a movie with living dinosaurs – I think the disbelief has been suspended sufficiently already. (Plus, that scene really is just recreating the iconic moments Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm lured the T-Rex with a flare – was anyone put out that they seemingly outsmarted Rexy?) I don’t think the height of their shoes are the crux of the argument here in any case. It also is a nice way to show how out of her depth she is in the jungle and this dinocalypse situation. Note to self: find out what brand they are.
I have this compulsive condition where I obsess over the female characters in movies, looking for the tiniest connections to their characters. It stems partly from my lack of certainty in myself and party from my constant search of a role model or guiding principle. The Claire character actually made me attempt to reassess my beliefs of what makes strong women and what makes a strong me beyond the physical, and I absolutely adore her for it. Serious kudos to Bryce Dallas Howard for portraying her with substance, and the writers/director for not side-lining her like Hollywood is usually tempted to. Who knew you could find self-realisation in a movie about giant prehistoric birds?