When dinosaurs ruled the earth? Digital animals, simulation, and the return of ‘real nature’ in the Jurassic Park movies
This essay argues that the digital reanimation of dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park series not only epitomizes mankind s tortured relationship with other animal species on this planet, but also demonstrates how technology transforms animals into spectral post-animal beings. Both in its diegesis and in its production, the Jurassic Park movie franchise ... emblematizes humanity s compulsive desire to control the rest of the planet. This desire has culminated in the most recent addition to the series, in which anima-tronics were practically completely replaced by digital dinosaurs the filmmakers could control more easily. Yet despite the tangibility, the material reality of the animatron-ics, throughout the movie series, the spectral dinosaur bodies animated by digital tech-nologies not only seem much more alive than their mechanical counterparts, but shape viewers conceptions of what dinosaurs are and what they looked like, lending the digital animals a hyperreal quality that stands in stark contrast to their symbolic equation with material nature. In the latest movie, the mosasaurus, I will argue, ima-gines the return of real nature in the face of the artificial nature represented by the Indominus rex. However, the mosasaurus, like all other prehistoric animals roaming Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, respectively, is a genetic hybrid, like the Indominus rex. In this way, the Jurassic Park movie franchise presents a telling example of the conflicted and paradoxical interrelations between technology and spectral animal bod-ies (and, thus, nature) in the digital age.
Original publication in
On_culture: the open journal for the study of culture 2 (2016)