When it was first released during the summer of 1993, “Jurassic Park” not only captured the imaginations of viewers with its dazzling special effects, it also made dinosaurs cool again, and made the public interested in paleontology.
“It had a big influence on me in wanting to study Paleontology.” Dr. John Hutchinson, an evolutionary biomechanist and professor at the Royal Veterinary College in London, explained to Business Insider. “The original film was a landmark in cinema, in many ways and also an important moment in Paleontology that influenced a lot of people including me.”
Our understanding of dinosaurs has changed a lot in the 22 years since “Jurassic Park” debuted in theatres. A few years after the first film came out, it was discovered that some dinosaurs were feathered. While you won’t find any feathers on the dinos in “Jurassic Park,” the film does cling to the theory that dinosaurs had more in common with birds than reptiles.
“I bet you’ll never look at birds the same way again,” Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) muses while watching a T. rex take a Gallimimus down.
In reality, the T. rex was still a flesh-eating carnivore. However, its actual feathered appearance diverges from the popular image of it as seen in “Jurassic Park.”
While some interpret that prehistoric beasts were covered entirely in feathers, others think the feathers were just “filaments and strands,” as Dr. Mark Norell, current Chairman of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, tells Business Insider.
However, it’s no longer just a theory that dinosaurs had bird-like features: It is a flat-out fact.
“The distinction between what is a bird and what is a dinosaur has really gone away.” said Norell.
Here’s what T. rex looked like in “Jurassic Park”:
And this is what scientists today think the T. rex really looked like:
Take note of the small, feathered arms and bird-like feet:
Yet, the newly discovered physical appearance hasn’t altered how the “Jurassic Park” franchise has portrayed its dinosaurs.
In “Jurassic World,” you will not find a single feather, but rather the same, reptile-like appearances found in previous films.
“Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow announced this in a simple way on Twitter in March 2013:
This decision goes beyond the justification of artistic licence into what some paleontologists believe is scientific irresponsibility.
“Well, I understand the primary mission of the movie is to tell a story and everything has to lend itself towards telling that story,”Hutchinson said. “It doesn’t contribute to telling the story in some way then it’s not so important. But if part of the story and the selling point of the movie is ‘this is a scientifically accurate, believable vision of what could be,’ then scientific accuracy begins to matter more and more.”
Hutchinson notes the original film was praised by the scientific community for sticking to the science as much as humanly possible, with a notable exception.
“If you are kind of marketing the movie as a scientific vision, then I think the ‘Jurassic Park’ films have given up on that largely.” Hutchinson added.
There’s no arguing that the T. rex of “Jurassic Park” is terrifying. Some might believe adding feathers to it would have made it less scary, especially when a lot of scientists now compare it to a “big chicken.”
Hutchinson, however, believes the opposite.
“There’s still a significant sector of the public that don’t like the idea of dinosaurs with feathers and think its less scary. But I think that’s totally wrong. If you actually put some thought into it you can make feathered dinosaurs incredibly terrifying.” Hutchinson said.
“I think any animal that’s over 40 feet long and 12 feet high at the hip, and has, you know, six inch long teeth, I mean, if it was in a clown suit it would still look scary.” Norell said.
If Spielberg and Trevorrow took these changes into account, it might have made for a stranger, more unique “Jurassic World” that completely veered away from the franchise.
However, just because paleontologists are displeased with the science, that doesn’t mean that “Jurassic World” won’t be a fun time at the movies.
“You know, people have to realise that these films are entertainment.” Norell said. “I remember back when one of the films came out several years ago, I said that these films are to Paleontology what ‘Star Trek’ is to Stephen Hawking…They’re not documentaries, they’re pure fantasies and storytelling. And when I say that, I’m not making a judgment on them at all because of course fantasy storytelling can be really great. It’s just…they’re not textbooks about dinosaur paleontology.”
Feathers or not still won’t stop scientists from seeing “Jurassic World.”
When asked if he would go see “Jurassic World,” Hutchinson succinctly answered, “Sure…yeah.”
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