‘Jurassic World’ and the action-movie paradox: About movie portrayals of violence

June 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 21, 2015

The other day, in my review of Jurassic World, I wrote this:

What’s not honest is the way Jurassic World deals with the human toll of violence: It wants the audience to think they can eat their cake and have it, too. All the individuals who are killed are essentially unknown to the viewer or have been depicted as bad people. The filmmakers want us to be thrilled when a flock of flying dinosaurs are unleashed on a panicked pack of tourists, but the scene is remarkably bloodless for all that.

I meant that last sentence literally: As the fliers assault unarmed people and are shot out of the sky by a contingent of overwhelmed guards, there’s hardly a drop of crimson liquid on display.

Another incident in the sequence also bothered me tremendously because of what it didn’t show. It’s during the fliers’ attack that the only remotely sympathetic character in the movie to fall victim to a dino — or at least, the only remotely sympathetic person to be eaten whose name the audience is ever told — is chomped.

But somehow, the body disappears. In one shot, the victim is about to fall into the gaping maw of a fearsome creature; in the next, well, there’s nothing — no blood, no flailing arm or stray leg, not a shred of clothing or a scrap of meat. It’s the cinematic equivalent of telling a young child that the family dog has been sent away to a farm. (I have to wonder whether a graphic scene showing one or more of these things was cut so the movie could maintain its PG-13 rating; I suppose we’ll find out when a video disc with deleted scenes is released this fall.)

Jurassic World is exciting, but it wants to overlook the fact that people with hopes and dreams and family and friends are being chomped, stomped and mauled — which is precisely the thing that makes it most exciting. Without violence, Jurassic World wouldn’t be an action film. But at the same time, if it realistically portrayed violence and its consequences, Jurassic World wouldn’t be an action film, either.

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