Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt will be returning for the Jurassic World sequel on June 22, 2018 but we're still talking about the gender dynamics of Colin Trevorrow's 2015 film.
JurassicOutpost.com had Trevorrow on as a podcast guest recently, and yesterday I posted about Trevorrow discussing the use of animatronics versus CG in the film as well as what we can expect from the next installment directed by J.A. Bayona. But he talked about a lot more.
Jurassic World got into controversy early on with a promo scene they released. For some, context did not improve a film they thought contained some sexist themes. One particular point of contention was Howard's character Claire and her high heels. It may have gone on to be parodied, but it still left many of us hoping they'd chosen differently. Trevorrow was asked about this on the podcast and gave a lengthy reply.
“I feel like an idiot to say that I didn't expect it, but that”s just the truth you know? None of us did. And when you have a movie that plays to such a wide audience it's just inevitable that some of your choices, if you make choices at all, are gonna be interpreted differently than you intended by segments of the audience,” he told them. “And my job is to be aware of all those perspectives and figure out where to land. Because I have to entertain everyone, I have to entertain an 8-year-old in Australia, a 25-year-old in Brooklyn, and a 4-year-old in Beijing, and then a whole retirement home in Florida. They all deserve to be entertained and yet they see the world in different ways so it was interesting.”
The director noted he was in France at the time this started to be talked about online and that the same issues “weren't even on the radar” there.
“The same things that led to critical think pieces in parts of America were actually considered a strength by people elsewhere in the world, even elsewhere in our country. And I definitely just failed to predict some of the ways people were gonna see it. But I hope…gosh, what should I say on this? I hope that people that took issue with Claire's characterization were able to see our intention in the same way that I understand their perception. You know, I set out to make a movie with the female hero who is flawed and complex, who makes a crucial mistake of trusting technology over her instincts, who's respect for these animals evolves and changes her in a major way and who saves everyone at the end while they're all trapped and helpless, and she does it all in heels. Not by choice but because she had no other option and she wasn”t going to let uncomfortable shoes stop her from being a total badass and getting shit done. And that's where we came from.”
It's reasonable to understand the intent behind a creative decision but still critique its execution. I think Claire was a badass who got shit done; I also think the heels were an unnecessary addition to her character. I still think so much more could have been said by swapping Dallas and Pratt's roles, but I'll be interested to see where the sequel takes both their characters.
And then there was Katie McGrath's Zara. Claire's personal assistant turned babysitter who was unceremoniously, not just killed by a dinosaur, but had her death extended in such a way it seemed like cruel and unusual “punishment” for a character who'd done nothing wrong in the story. Apparently, that was the whole idea.
“I'm a pretty earnest person, I can only just be honest and tell you where I was coming from. And Zara was about trying to surprise moviegoers who I think can see everything coming. We're all screenwriters, we're all screenwriters, and an earned death – that's a screenwriting term – to me, unearned death is the definition of terror,” he said. “It's kind of what we're dealing with in the world right now is a lot of unearned death that horrifies us. And you know, Sam Jackson didn't deserve to get his arm ripped off, he didn't need to do anything to anybody, but the moment, that moment told you that nobody was safe, the movie was going to shock you.”
I can certainly see where Trevorrow is coming from here, but I wouldn't compare the off-screen (yet gory leftover) death of Samuel L. Jackson's Ray Arnold to Zara's painfully long exit. I remember sitting in the theater wondering how much longer we'd be subjected to it. It wasn't shocking to me that she died, I expected many causalities from a dinosaur escape. It was how they delivered the death that bothered me. But Trevorrow thinks its inclusion harkens back to another age.
Amblin movies used to do that and I loved it. And I remember when that guy got his heart ripped out in the Temple of Doom and my parents were in such shock and I thought it was awesome and I couldn't believe I got to see it. And maybe it's selfish but I wanted to provide that feeling for kids today because I think it's part of what makes us all miss our childhoods so much. That seeing something we probably shouldn't get to see. And honestly I wouldn't apply that idea to anything but an Amblin film, it's just something very specific that some of those movies did. And that's what it was.
I had my eyes covered by my mom during the face melting scene in Raider of the Lost Ark for many years, and with good reason. Something as simple as a billboard for the Chucky films gave me recurring nightmares. I don't quite agree with the comparison of the situations Trevorrow is making here either but I do understand the nostalgic feeling he's trying to describe (Who Framed Roger Rabbit? comes to mind). That said, I don't think it's a super valuable experience for a child to have either, and trying to make those connections as an adult through nostalgic lenses can lead to some awkward decisions.