Following a slew of bad sequels, it’s easy to forget that the original Jurassic Park was a triumph of Hollywood and of science. A far cry from Godzilla‘s giant fantasy monsters, Jurassic Park‘s intelligent, breathing creations were a groundbreaking moment in CGI, and proof that entertainment could actually recreate a world that our best paleontologists could only sketch in colored pencil. The film leveraged our best science with our best technicians, and created a piece of historical magic in the process.
So it’s particularly gut-wrenching that Jurassic Park 4‘s director (the same guy behind the brilliant Safety Not Guaranteed) will apparently ignore the two decades of research since. As Nat Geo’s Brian Switek points out, multiple findings point to a totally different aesthetic paradigm for dinosaurs. Namely, they were covered in feathers:
Three years after the first Jurassic Park debuted, paleontologists announced that the small theropod Sinosauropteryx was covered in a fine coat of fuzzy protofeathers. This was just the initial drop in a flood of feathery dinosaur discoveries which confirmed that a wide variety of dinosaurs bore archaic forms of plumage, from simple filaments to asymmetrical feathers that would have allowed them to fly. And not only did these discoveries confirm the fact that birds are one lineage of dinosaurs, but that many bird traits–such as feathers–evolved long before the first avians took to the air.
Velociraptor was definitely a feathery dinosaur, and Tyrannosaurus probably was, as well. In fact, other dinosaurs more distantly-related to birds–such as Triceratops–at least sometimes sported swaths of bristles, quills, or similar body coverings in addition to the pebbly tubercles of their skin. Dinosaurs were far stranger and flashier than anyone expected.
No doubt, the entire Hollywood machine is likely responsible for this decision, from the market testing of which dinosaur IP looks best on Taco Bell cups, to the mildewy collection of 100,000 velociraptor masks rotting away since the threequel in some warehouse deep in China.
Even still, it’s a downright unethical maneuver to ingrain the next wave of young minds with a dated vision of history. And it’s a shame that the franchise is so stuck in its own aesthetic that it forgets what made Jurassic Park great in the first place–not its leathery scales–but its window into a world that existed 200 million years ago.
Then again, things could always be worse.