WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – “Jurassic World” is poised to make monster money at the box office this weekend. And while that’s certainly good for Universal Studios, it’s a pain in the neck for another group: paleontologists.
They say while it’s good the movie series has renewed interest in dinosaurs, audiences come away with skewed ideas about how dinosaurs really lived.
“You deal with these inaccuracies over and over every time you give a talk,” James Kirkland, who has been involved in the discovery of 20 dinosaurs, including the Utahraptor, told CBS News.
He would rather filmmakers focus on science, and not make people believe that a T-Rex can’t see you if you stay perfectly still or that velociraptors can open doors.
“It gets really old after a while,” Kirkland added. “If they wouldn’t do that, we wouldn’t have to deal with this. We could step to the more interesting issues like what we are discovering next.”
He also took aim at the Hollywood version of raptors, suggesting the movie portrays them almost as Bambi-like creatures compared to the ones he has dug up.
“They could have made it look like they had this attacking dinosaur that was bigger than T. rex, that would intimidate the large animals these things would have normally preyed on,” he explained to CBS News. “They could have seriously made these guys as intimidating. It actually could have been something you actually looked at as being somewhat nice.”
And Kirkland is not alone.
Andrew Farke, who specializes in the evolution and functional morphology of the Ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) at the Raymond Alf Museum of Paleontology, agreed “the dinosaurs are a step backwards” and that they are not much too look at.
“The plot might be OK. I think it’s quite fun to have a peek inside a functioning dinosaur theme park,” he told CBS News. “But the dinosaurs themselves…ugly! Across the board, a major step backward for the visuals and accuracy.”
Ohio University’s Lawrence M. Witmer said while he understands it’s just a movie, he finds it “a little bit lazy to not make the animals be scientifically accurate when they can.”
“I understand that the plot may dictate some departures from what science knows to be true, but otherwise, they could really try to enhance the scientific accuracy,” Witmer told CBS News. “In fact, they could have enhanced the reception of the movie by doing so, just as the comic-book movies will drop Easter eggs in scenes that show that the filmmakers indeed respected the canon of the source material.”
But others say whether or not the science on the screen is accurate, the important thing is that the movie series rekindles interest in the prehistoric creatures.
“No one would assume the dinosaurs in ‘The Land of The Lost’ or similar movies are accurate, but people tend to treat the ‘Jurassic Park’ dinosaurs as if that is truly the way they are,” worried Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland. “And it isn’t really the public’s fault, because Universal promoted them as such.”
Molecular biologist Jack Horner, who wrote the 2009 book “How to Build a Dinosaur” and consulted on all four “Jurassic Park” movies, said criticism of the science was misplaced.
“It’s a movie, a fictional movie. The last thing it needs to be is scientifically grounded,” he said.
“Every time a Jurassic Park movie comes out, it raises the public’s awareness about dinosaurs,” Holtz added. “If it were a documentary and therefore pleasing for Mr. Kirkland, it wouldn’t get near as many people to it, and documentaries don’t always have everything right either.”
But even critics like Kirkland admit they will be among the first audiences when the movie opens.
“I can get away from reality with the best of them and have a good time,” Kirkland told CBS News with a laugh. “I’m sure the movie will be paced well and entertaining. But I was hoping for a little bit more.”
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