E21 -

Steven Spielberg sure couldn’t have expected his 1993 blockbuster, Jurassic Park, would have quite the bite even 27 years later.

Hosts
Landry Ayres
Senior Producer
Guests

Peter Suderman is the features editor at Reason magazine and Rea​son​.com, where he writes regularly on health care, the federal budget, tech policy, and pop culture.

Sean Malone is the Creative Director at the Foundation for Economic Education. His on‐​going video essay series “Out of Frame” and FEE’s other popular shows like “Common Sense Soapbox” have generated tens of millions of views and recently earned FEE a Silver Play Button award from YouTube.

Summary:

Peter Suderman and Sean Malone join the show today to talk about one of the most famous summer blockbusters ever. Jurassic Park is more than a movie about the misuse of innovation that ends up creating vicious dinosaurs. The movie itself was an innovation in of itself.

Transcript

[music]

0:00:03 Natalie Dowzicky: Welcome to Pop & Locke. I’m Natalie Dowzicky.

0:00:05 Landry Ayres: And I’m Landry Ayres.

0:00:08 Natalie Dowzicky: Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution had been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect? Steven Spielberg sure couldn’t have expected his 1993 blockbuster, Jurassic Park, would have quite the bite even 27 years later. Joining us today to talk about how life finds a way is features editor at Reason, Peter Suderman.

0:00:34 Peter Suderman: Great to be here.

0:00:36 Natalie Dowzicky: And creative director at FEE, Sean Malone.

0:00:37 Sean Malone: Thanks for having me guys.

0:00:38 Landry Ayres: On the surface Jurassic Park seems like it has a pretty simple message, that unhindered innovation is rife with potential for misuse and abuse. Do you think that that’s what the film is about?

0:00:57 Sean Malone: On the surface, I do. I think it’s a pretty clear… We talk about sort of luddite ideas, and I do think on the surface it is. I recently did a video though about how I think it’s a little bit more about central planning in general, and the idea that you can control not just the path of innovation, which I actually do think is fair, I think you can’t control necessarily the path of technological innovation, but maybe on a broader note that this idea of playing God, I think, and trying to especially control the path of nature, which I think is maybe a more interesting theme in the movie, at least for me.

0:01:37 Peter Suderman: Yeah, I mean, this is a product of prime era, Michael Crichton, techno scaremongering. And as an entertainment product, it works incredibly well, and I absolutely love this movie. I think it is possibly the best summer movie ever made. One of the purest blockbusters, if you kind of think of what a summer blockbuster should be, it’s Jurassic Park, it hits all of the notes. At the same time, thematically, I kind of strongly disagree with it. And I think there’s something to Sean’s idea that it’s about central planning, but if you look at the key scene in which the movie’s big themes are debated, it’s this lunch sequence early in the film, in which Hammond, who is the park owner, and the lawyer, and then the scientist played by Sam Neill, and Ian Malcolm argue about what the risks posed by the park are. And Hammonds calls Ian Malcom at one point. He says, “Well, this is like a luddite idea that you’re proposing. I can’t believe the lawyer’s the only one on my side, the blood‐​sucking lawyer.” And we are supposed to cease the Sam Neill and Ian Malcolm characters as the heroes.

0:03:05 Peter Suderman: They are very clearly the people we are supposed to root for, and they’re the ones who start by warning us that this park is dangerous, that it was built on ideas, that it’s designers didn’t understand, that it is technology and capitalism run amok. And then that’s what happens, their warnings prove prophetic. And the whole second hour of the film are just proving that those guys were right, and that this park was in fact a bad idea, built by scientists who didn’t understand their own technology and by people who were hoping to capitalize on something where they didn’t care about the risks. And I just don’t think that that’s a very good way to think about how capitalism and innovation and science work together. It makes for a great movie premise, like I said, I love this movie, but I don’t think it’s… I just don’t think it’s a very sophisticated way of thinking about how innovation works. And in fact, we can talk about this a little bit more, I’ve said a lot here, but I think the movie itself and the production of the movie is actually a much better way of thinking, it provides us with a good way of thinking about how science and innovation work in the real world.

0:04:18 Sean Malone: To kinda reinforce your point even a little bit, and again, I do wanna talk about the way that we can look at this from a central planning standpoint, but to reinforce your point, even I think an Alan Grant is himself a luddite, like as a character. So Ian Malcolm is not really, he’s just a normal guy, he uses phones and whatever, he doesn’t seem like somebody who’s opposed to technology, but Grant is. Grant is somebody who seems to want to use all of the old methods, the least technological ways of doing things. We get that scene at the beginning where he’s dusting off fossils and then they start using the technology to scan the ground, and he is not really convinced that that’s a good idea. There’s all of those kinds of things that make it clear that he is the hero. So I totally agree.

0:05:13 Peter Suderman: It’s not just that he’s not convinced, it’s that when he touches the machine, it goes on the fritz right.

0:05:17 Natalie Dowzicky: It breaks.

0:05:18 Peter Suderman: He is almost super humanly anti‐​technology. It’s like it’s something a little bit supernatural about his… He puts off an aura or something that just causes machines to go on the fritz. I mean it’s a great little character bit.

0:05:33 Sean Malone: Yeah, and I think there’s more to that aspect of the character throughout the movie too, because computer systems don’t really work. He doesn’t… When he’s in there with the kids, the kids are trying to use computers, and he’s just such an old sort of fuddy‐​duddy kind of guy, can’t understand the computer systems or any of that kind of stuff. And yet he is the actual hero, he is the one who saves everybody’s lives. Obviously Ellie and Ian play a role in that too, but he’s the one who’s leading the kids to safety most of the movie.

0:06:10 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, I also thought what was interesting about Alan Grant’s character since he was such a technophobe and didn’t really understand how computers worked, and then even when Hammond was showing him how all of the dinosaurs, a female and how they made the embryos then had the eggs, he was even confused how that technology works. But what was interesting, I thought there was a point in the movie, I believe he was talking to the kids, and another element you put in here that he hates children and didn’t want children, despises them, and even kind of the fact that the children are following them around the park you can see is angering him, just there, what he perceives as a pesty existence. He was talking to the kids after their car broke down and they got pushed by T‐​Rex off the ledge and they’re sitting in a tree.

0:07:07 Natalie Dowzicky: He was talking to… The girl asked him like, “Oh, so if dinosaurs exist now, what are you gonna do for a job? You don’t have to dig up bones anymore if you have the real thing.” And he himself says, I think he used the line like, “Oh, it looks like we’ll have to evolve too.” Which I thought was interesting because he seemed very stuck in his ways until that conversation that came from a child’s noticing that like technology is catching up to you.

0:07:40 Peter Suderman: Well, that whole bit goes to one of the films big metaphors, which is not… In some ways, the film isn’t about dinosaurs, it’s about the movies, and about the way the movies evolved to become from something that was very hands‐​on, practical, physical, real world stuff into something that’s very animated, computer‐​generated, technology‐​driven, sort of a big capitalist business where most of your money is not even made on the film itself, but made on the ancillary products. This is the Ian Malcolm line about, you made it and then you slapped it on a lunch box. You wanted to profit off of it. And that was Jurassic Park. That is Jurassic Park still today. That’s why we’re talking about it is because it has survived for nearly three decades as a popular culture franchise and has become a huge part of our kind of, not just our pop culture discussion, but a giant business, and one of the first movies to go back into production here during COVID times, is the 6th I wanna say, the next Jurassic Park film, which is the third in the second trilogy. And so we have this movie that is a metaphor for the changes in film production.

0:09:00 Peter Suderman: But like I said, I think the production of the movie is actually provides us a better way to think about how innovation and capitalism work because let’s start with the way that this got produced, which was that the people who bought the rights went to Steven Spielberg. And Steven Spielberg had just come off of working on Hook. And Spielberg wanted to make Schindler’s List. And the people who had the rights said, “You can make Schindler’s List, but you have to promise to make Jurassic Park.”

0:09:28 Peter Suderman: And the reason we got one of the great kind of Oscar dramas, historical dramas about… It’s a really important subject of the last couple of decades, one of the best movies about the Holocaust was because the deal was, “You’ve gotta make this incredibly commercial thing that is gonna make us a ton of money” and did. It became the highest grossing film up to that point, and was until I believe Titanic came out. Alright. The whole point of making Jurassic Park was so that somebody could make a ton of money so that Steven Spielberg could get to make his art, and that to me is a much better understanding of the relationship between innovation and art and capitalism and all of that stuff. And that conversation that you referenced there is actually in some ways an extrapolation of a real conversation that Steven Spielberg had with some of the effects guys while working on this film, where he was looking at test reels of computer‐​generated dinosaurs walking, and he said to one of the effects guys who was this very famous stop motion guy who used to do stuff with puppets and with, not claymation, but with little tiny models that they would just sort of move frame by frame and capture in a very painstaking physical way.

0:10:47 Peter Suderman: And Spielberg said, “Looks like you’re out of a job.” And the effects guy would turn back to him and said, “No, I’m extinct.” And of course, it turned out that the effects guys, the effects on this movie, a bunch of the computer effects, were built by people who had re‐​trained from being stop‐​motion animators to being computer animators, and they were able to transfer those practical skills from the analog era into the digital era. And that to me is right… Here we have a kind of a coincidence of wants. Spielberg wants to make his art film about the Holocaust, it’s not obviously like a tiny little budget art film, but he wants to make his passion project. Somebody else wants to make money on a big commercial summer film. Somebody else wants to figure out how to animate computer dinosaurs. And audiences just wanna be entertained either way. Everybody gets what they want out of this, and at the same time, there are huge advances in the science of movie making that come along.

0:11:49 Sean Malone: You know, what I think is also interesting about this is that what you’re describing in the story of the movie, in the narrative of the movie itself, is a trope that we’ve seen in movies, in particular, big blockbuster movies for a really, really long time. And I think it speaks to this sort of contentiousness and sort of conflict that’s really happening inside the movie‐​making process where, like you said, the… Spielberg wants to make an art piece. He wants to make something that is personally meaningful to him, which everybody kind of agrees is not going to be something that lots and lots of other people are going to be as interested in as say Jurassic Park. So what you end up with is a lot of directors, filmmakers, writers, producers who have a little bit of this animosity, and sort of this underlying anger about the idea that there are trade‐​offs in the world, that they have to make something that is commercially successful in order to make the thing that maybe they really wanna make because it’s a passion project or whatever. And I’m always a little fascinated by that in the art world because I don’t feel like it happens quite as much outside of that. I think most people who don’t do creative work for a living, I think generally sort of understand that their job is to create value for either their employer or a customer, client, whatever.

0:13:19 Sean Malone: But I feel like a lot of artists have this idea that their role is to do whatever makes them feel good. And so there is this, especially when you get into commercial production and especially big budget commercial production, you get a lot of this tension that has to be dealt with. And I think a lot of the way that it gets dealt with is through the stories themselves, so you end up having a story that is telling this like really angsty, technology is bad and capitalism is evil, while all of this process is happening to actually bring the whole project to life in the first place, which I always found to be kind of a fascinating dichotomy in especially big budget film making. By the way, I attended New York University for grad school, which is a very different school than like USC. If you go to USC for film school, it’s very commercially driven. New York University Tish is really interesting because almost all the filmmakers who go to Tish see themselves as these savants and these auteurs and stuff, and so the mentality that I grew up with in my education was so dramatically different from the mentality that people who come out of UCLA and USC come from, just ’cause Hollywood and filmmaking outside of Hollywood are very different.

0:14:44 Peter Suderman: And that’s the milieu that Spielberg comes out of. And it is notable, I think, that this kind of nominally anti‐​capitalist picture was made by one of, if not the single most commercially successful filmmakers of all time, and was, like I said, in its day, the single most successful picture that had ever been released at the American box office, and stayed that way for several years. And in fact, has continued to assert its box office dominance. I don’t know if you guys saw, but obviously movie theaters have been shut down in many parts of the country for the last six months or so, which means that in the few places that are playing theaters, they are often playing older films at drive‐​ins, things like that, and so there was a week in, I believe it was June, or maybe it was early July, over the summer here, where Jurassic Park was for the fourth time ever, the number one movie at the US box office.

[laughter]

0:15:49 Natalie Dowzicky: That’s hilarious.

0:15:51 Landry Ayres: It would be so great to see this at a drive‐​in theater. It’s, like you said, the perfect summer, perfect drive‐​in, movie. You can imagine the scene of them sitting in the Jeep waiting for the T‐​Rex to come and find them while sitting in your own car staring at the screen, would just be so much more visceral and enjoyable ’cause it would be like you are in the movie briefly.

0:16:17 Sean Malone: I’ve actually been to a theater recently. I went to see the first new movie that was available to me, which was Unhinged, which is not a very good movie, but it was the first time since all this started that I could actually sit in a theater and watch a movie. So I took the first opportunity. And I wanted to see something new, even though they were showing other stuff. I’m actually curious though, I bet my local theater, which was at the time also playing Back to the Future, I bet Back to the Future did more box office. There are some of these movies, and obviously we’re in a weird, really weird time for all of this stuff, but I think Jurassic Park or Back to the Future or Jaws or… Another movie that was playing was Interstellar. There are some of these things which are just going to stand and already have stood the test of time because of the craft, but also because of the story telling. I just think the dichotomy, and I think this is really the interesting thing about Jurassic Park to me from a meta stand point, is all of this like that sort of contradiction between being this kind of anti‐​capitalist movie that could not exist without the entrepreneurial and investment structure behind it. It’s really fascinating.

0:17:40 Peter Suderman: And it’s very much a throw back to the 1990s debates about selling out and corporate power and the sort of ad busters view of the world, that was very prominent, and questions about whether your favorite local band should sign to a big label and make a lot of money and have a lot of fans and actually be able to support themselves. And there was a whole prevailing theory, which I partook of in some ways as a teenager, that like, No, actually you couldn’t be in a good band if you sign to a major label and actually got the resources that you need to support yourself making your music. Somehow or another you had to work at the local toy store or something, or be a line cook at a fast food place, and that was the only pure way to be in a band. And Jurassic Park is a more sophisticated, more commercially accessible version of encapsulation of a lot of those arguments.

0:18:38 Sean Malone: One, it’s funny to even have that argument with a movie made by somebody like Steven Spielberg, who had already worked on Indiana Jones and ET and Close Encounters and all of these kinds of things that you’re just like, “Yeah, you’ve been making big huge Jaws, huge commercially successful movies this whole time, and now we’re gonna have this conversation.”

0:19:02 Peter Suderman: He’s a capitalist success story, if there ever was one.

0:19:05 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, seriously.

0:19:05 Sean Malone: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

0:19:07 Landry Ayres: This really is the U2 of summer blockbuster movies.

[laughter]

0:19:16 Landry Ayres: This made me think, we keep referring to this movie as anti‐​capitalist and trying to supply this message that selling out in the punk rock phraseology is bad, and that sort of consumerist tendency is what the film is trying to critique. And this might get into one of Sean’s thoughts that he briefly mentioned wanting to discuss a little bit, but I was thinking on a metaphorical level, not strictly in a narrative plot sense, where we see the humans being sort of trying to escape the monsters that are these dinosaurs and fighting against the unhinged hubris of these scientific innovators and who have abused their power and are being punished by the gods for their Promethean endeavors.

0:20:13 Landry Ayres: There is another way of looking at the movie, and I think it takes… You have to look at it in the way that Alan Grant looks at things, so the first time when he sees the shattered dinosaur egg on the ground in the wild, not when he’s watching the geneticists breed them in the lab in the beginning, but when they’re running through and he jumps over a tree root and he sees a shattered dinosaur egg after they’ve just been chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex for an entire night and hidden up in a tree, his first reaction isn’t to be like, “Oh my God, they’re breeding” and be struck by fear like I was assuming that he would and that I likely would have because I am a coward in that aspect. It’s weird…

0:21:04 Peter Suderman: Oh, they’re just baby dinosaurs.

0:21:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Only baby dinosaurs.

0:21:07 Sean Malone: Just baby dinosaurs.

0:21:10 Landry Ayres: He has this brief moment where his palaeontologist, archaeologist side comes out and he references the famous line, life finds a way. He says life found a way when he sees that these dinosaurs with their genetically manipulated dinosaur frog DNA have somehow been able to mutate and reproduce and breed somehow. And there’s this brief moment of him recognizing the beauty in the disorder, and that becomes a major theme that gets developed, and we see this in Ian Malcolm’s discussions of Chaos Theory and how the order itself erupts out of disorder. And so on a metaphorical level, I can see what Sean I think you might be hinting at, which is the fact that without the constraints seemingly uncontrollable, unpredictable things like a market, for instance, will breed its own form of innovation and growth out of that. Is that what you see as one of the themes of the film?

0:22:22 Sean Malone: Yeah, so I do. So for those listeners who don’t know, I do a… It’s now more than monthly, ’cause we do shorts, but I do essentially a monthly video series with Fee called Out of Frame where I try to pull out what I think are interesting lessons from economics or political philosophy or just philosophy in general, from movies, television, that kind of thing. And I always wanna make this a little clear, I don’t wanna say that Jurassic Park is a movie that is about central planning or this kind of thing, but I think we can draw this lesson out of it, because I think what you do see and this is definitely clear in… There’s a couple of things. I’ve made note of a conversation between Ellie and Hammond, this is towards the end of the movie, and almost the very end of the movie, where Hammond says, “Well, creation is an act of sheer will, next time it’ll be flawless.” And Ellie says, “It’s still the fleas‐​er,” ’cause he was talking about the little fleas that he had when he was a kid.

0:23:26 Sean Malone: And Hammond goes, “Well, when we have control… ” and Ellie says, “You never had control, that’s the illusion. I was overwhelmed by the power of this place, so I made a mistake too. I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now.” And then they’re talking about how to save the kids at that point, but the interesting thing about that moment to me is that they’re having a discussion about the limits of planning, the limits of being able to control dynamic systems. In particular, you’re talking about biological, it’s not quite the same as an economy, but I tend to look at economies in a very biological way. I tend to see them as organic developments of behavior that nobody can really fully know or plan or understand in the way that they would need to if they wanna actually plan and control all of this stuff. And I think we do see that in this movie, and I think it’s an interesting thing to pull out of that, especially if you’re trying to show people different ways of how central planning goes awry.

0:24:34 Natalie Dowzicky: Right, you throw dinos in the mix.

0:24:36 Sean Malone: Yeah, in this case, of course, it’s trying to centrally plan a dynamic system with very dangerous creatures, which is maybe not a wise move.

0:24:48 Peter Suderman: Yeah, I think I buy that. Jurassic Park presents a [0:24:51] ____ view of nature, in which the local knowledge of the dinosaurs basically is a stand‐​in for local knowledge in the economy, and Hammond is the planner who was trying to oversee all of it and control it from above.

0:25:13 Sean Malone: Right, yeah. And obviously, he hasn’t done a very good job in spite of, on the surface developing incredible technology with Henry Wu. And I don’t know if we wanna get into the sequels or in particular into the new movies, Jurassic World and whatnot, but Henry Wu is now kind of a villain in the whole thing. Now he’s a bad guy who’s trying to genetically engineer super evil dinosaurs for some reason.

0:25:42 Peter Suderman: Well, it is really funny, the way that the Jurassic World, the two Jurassic world films that have come out, those are the modern sequels, have expanded on the original’s critique of capitalism because the whole shtick of the first Jurassic World film is that the old normal dinosaurs aren’t enough anymore, and we had to build a genetically engineered super dinosaur because otherwise people wouldn’t come to our park. And it’s literally just like the rule of sequels which is you can’t do the same thing, you can’t do exactly the same thing over and over again. You have to do the same thing…

0:26:18 Sean Malone: Same thing but more.

0:26:19 Peter Suderman: But do it more and bigger and scarier. Once again, Jurassic Justice, Jurassic Park is a metaphor for a changing Hollywood and changing production methods and viewer expectations for blockbusters. Jurassic world takes that idea and extrapolates it out to 20‐​something years later, in a world in which Jurassic Park is old school and old hat and people have seen it and are, if not quite tired of it, ready for something bigger and more and scarier and more genetically engineered than what we saw in the first film.

0:26:56 Sean Malone: So I hadn’t really thought about this but well, we were prepping for this episode stuff, so over the… Sorry, this is… I gotta set this up a little bit, but a couple of years ago, my wife and I were driving to Indiana, and we drove through Kentucky, and as we were headed up there, we passed a bunch of billboards that were advertising some kind of an animatronic dinosaur show, so basically, it’s a traveling show that has a bunch of animatronic dinosaurs and they’ve built it out inside a big warehouse or a big ball room or whatever, and you go in and it kind of jungle scene, and you go through the whole thing and see dinosaurs. And it’s obviously something that it’s really kitsch and it’s fun for little kids, maybe that’s what it’s meant for. But my wife and I love that kind of stuff because it’s so obscure, and it’s stuff that you discover while maybe driving through the country, but which you’d never hear about otherwise ’cause it’s not important to anybody. And so we’re like, “Okay, on our way back from Indiana, we’re gonna stop at this place and we’re gonna check it out.” and we did.

0:28:10 Sean Malone: And then this summer, during all of the COVID stuff, a very similar, if not the same show came to Atlanta where I live and did the whole thing outdoors and you drove through it in your car. And we did that too, because we thought, “What the hell? When is this gonna happen again?” So that’s… And also, we hadn’t left the house in months, so it was the first thing we could do, but it’s interesting though, because it is the kind of thing that I think in the ‘80s or ‘90s maybe would have been a very fun, new thing for people to do but in a world with Call of Duty and The Witcher and…

0:28:56 Peter Suderman: Call of Duty and The Witcher are enough, man, that’s thousands of hours of your life right there. Yeah, you don’t need more.

0:29:01 Sean Malone: But that’s what I’m saying, in that kind of a world, this kind of attraction is not interesting to anybody, so there is something to be said a little bit for that, like, “Well, dinosaurs are boring now, we don’t care anymore.” It’s just the fact that there’s also this military element and everything else, it just gets so over the top, so quickly, and to deliberately try to make dinosaurs that are more murder‐​y that’s just… They’ve learned nothing. Four movies in, five movies in, we’ve learned nothing at all.

0:29:34 Landry Ayres: Yeah, we’ll see what happens by Jurassic World Revenge of the Sith.

[laughter]

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0:29:43 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, So we’ve all been hinting at the role that genetics plays throughout Jurassic Park and obviously throughout the rest of the franchise, especially now that we’re genetically modifying, what was the… The last one was the IndoRex, so it was the genetically modified T‐​Rex, the scarier T‐​Rex, then mixed with the Raptor, or is it Indo Raptor? It was an Indo Raptor.

0:30:10 Sean Malone: Yeah, it was like Indo Raptor I think, yeah.

0:30:11 Natalie Dowzicky: That it was in the most recent one. Yeah, it was an Indo Raptor. And there was a line that Ian Malcolm said, I think it was in the first movie, that genetic power is the most awesome force that the planet has ever seen. Do we agree with that?

0:30:29 Landry Ayres: The line finishes, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun, it is an argument that genetic manipulation is a weapon, is a form of violence, and that it is always going to turn on us. And I think that that argument is wrong.

0:30:49 Sean Malone: Oh, very wrong.

0:30:50 Peter Suderman: I love Ian Malcolm, and he is in many ways like a role model for how reason interacts with the world. There’s a lot of leather jackets, big…

0:31:04 Sean Malone: There’s a lot of Ian Malcolm in Nick, I think it’s very clear that [0:31:09] ____.

0:31:10 Peter Suderman: Ian Malcolm has been injected into reasons DNA, our genetic… We are a genetic hybrid of Ian Malcolm and Lenny Friedlander and Hayek and Milton Friedman and… He is part of it, he is the frog DNA that makes us weird, and… No, and I get that view point that it seems like something sacred. But the thing is that genetic manipulation, to the extent that we have been able to do it successfully so far has been almost entirely a force for good. It has given us better and more stable food supplies, and it has enabled us to cure and mitigate diseases, and all signs are that it is going to… That as that technology advances over the decades, it is gonna continue to do that sort of thing, it’s gonna make human flourishing easier and more successful, it is going to allow life to find a way rather than prohibit it.

0:32:17 Sean Malone: Yeah, also, I feel like… I’m sure there are some scientists out there who would reject this statement or whatever, I’m not really sure, but it seems to me that when you get genetic manipulation wrong, the worst thing that typically happens is whatever you’re trying to do just doesn’t work, it doesn’t live or grow. If you’re trying to do this with a life, not like an animal life or whatever, it just doesn’t work. The embryo doesn’t take. That kind of thing doesn’t happen. It never really seems to be the case that you end up with some mutant monster that destroys, you’re not gonna have that because genetics is not… It is powerful, but it’s not magic. You can’t just take frogs and lizards and birds and create a dragon, that’s not how any of this works, so it’s kind of funny, that’s how we package it in art a lot of the time.

0:33:19 Peter Suderman: Just one of the things that we should talk about briefly, if we’re gonna talk about the power of genetic engineering, yes, it’s incredibly powerful. It gave us golden rice, which is just rice that grows more easily in more places and has allowed millions of people to live and have enough food to live and that’s what genetic engineering does. Genetic engineering doesn’t give us crazy dinosaurs, that’s what the movies do, it gives us food that we can eat and allows people to live who might otherwise starve to death.

0:33:54 Sean Malone: The other thing too is we don’t talk enough about the… So I think we probably talk about this a decent amount in general, but people don’t tend to talk a lot about the actual incentives or how any of this stuff would make sense from a commercial standpoint. We create golden rice because there is a need, there’s a human need to eat, there’s a lot of starvation, and in some cases, there is profit to be made from feeding people, but also there’s just an altruistic aspect of that. We want people not to starve to death, so there are a lot of good motivations that people have going into feeding people. There’s not a lot of incentive to create a monster that would murder a whole bunch of people. You have to be a really niche special kind of lunatic to want to do that and then you’d have to convince all of these other people to go along with your plan, it’s not actually that surprising why that doesn’t really happen in real life. But yet again, without it, a movie wouldn’t happen, so I’m not… It’s a movie. It’s fun. But yeah, I think it gets that aspect of things really dramatically wrong.

0:35:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Sean, are you suggesting that you wouldn’t wanna see a real life dinosaur?

0:35:10 Sean Malone: I would love to see a real life dinosaur, I would be thrilled, but I also… Well, okay, also I was gonna make this point too, the movie itself, all of these movies gets dinosaurs dramatically wrong anyway, because when you learn that a Velociraptor is basically the size of a turkey, it completely changes your perspective on how fearsome that creature actually is ’cause well…

0:35:35 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, way to ruin it all.

0:35:38 Sean Malone: Like an actual turkey, not a human‐​sized giant elephant bird. They were little. That said, I also don’t want to discount the fact that if you look at the evil that is modern birds like Geese, dinosaurs would still be very scary. I don’t want a pre‐​historic goose running after me.

[music]

0:36:07 Landry Ayres: So this movie based on a novel, as Peter mentioned before by Michael Crichton, raises a lot of other similar themes that we see in another Michael Crichton inspired recently revived saga, which is the cinematic universe of Westworld, so my first thought was, “When do we get to see Jurassic World in Westworld?”

0:36:38 Peter Suderman: Well, there’s two more seasons of Westworld coming.

0:36:41 Landry Ayres: It’s true, and we know that dragons exist in one of the worlds, so I don’t think it’s out of the question to assume that one of the other worlds in addition to War World and Game of Thrones world, Westeros world, that we’re gonna get Jurassic World.

0:36:57 Peter Suderman: It really is remarkable I think how much this movie is a cross‐​breed between Michael Crichton’s obsessions and Steven Spielberg’s, and how effectively those two interests and thematic and narrative interests have combined, because Spielberg has said that Jurassic Park was just Jaws on land, that’s what he was trying to make. It’s a monster in the house movie where you don’t see the monster until halfway through. The T‐​Rex, the actual murder dinosaur doesn’t show up until an hour and three minutes into a two‐​hour and six‐​minute movie, it’s almost perfectly…

0:37:39 Sean Malone: Just flawless.

0:37:39 Peter Suderman: At the 50% mark. It’s so impeccably structured, but very similar to Jaws in that respect, where they withhold the shark for a long time, and they kind of learned that doing so made for a more effective movie, they did so actually just because of production problems with the shark robot. And then you combine that with Michael Crichton’s Westworld, which in the 1970s version of it, the version he envisioned was just theme park with high technology goes awry and that’s this movie, it’s Westworld meets Jaws, and that’s really all it is. And it is in its own way an example of how not literally genetic engineering, but a kind of genetic cross‐​breeding can produce novel, interesting results because you’re taking… Because that’s all that genetic cross‐​breeding is, is taking the properties of one thing and combining them with the properties of something else, and what Jurassic Park is is a genetic cross‐​breed of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Michael Crichton’s Westworld, and it’s great. I think it’s better than either of the original strains.

0:38:53 Sean Malone: That’s why I always like Matt Ridley’s framing of this, of entrepreneurship or just of cultural exchanges as ideas having sex, which I think is a really interesting way to think about how ideas evolve, how… And you can see this, of course, really, really dramatically in art, because everybody is constantly trying to synthesize interests and art doesn’t have some of the barriers that you have with engineering, for example, where you might have two different interests in engineering and they just physically can’t co‐​exist. With art, you can do whatever you want, so it makes for a world where we can take these ideas and recombine them in sort of endless ways and I agree. I think it ended up with a really, really cool… Frankly, I think a movie that’s… Well, I don’t wanna say it’s better than Jaws, but I would say that I personally like it a lot more than Jaws, and I like it a lot more than Westworld at least I like it more than the original Westworld, though that’s kind of a low bar from a movie standpoint but…

0:40:01 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, [chuckle] still the same…

0:40:01 Peter Suderman: I have a soft spot for the original Westworld.

0:40:04 Sean Malone: I probably like it more than the New Westworld Too, maybe first…

0:40:06 Peter Suderman: Yul Brynner’s Man in Black is so great, and again, he became a sort of theme in movies, you can’t imagine T-1000 in Terminator 2 without the Man in Black. All of these things just sort of have… They have genetic lineages in cinema and to me, Sean… I imagine this is the same with you, And Landry and Natalie. Part of what’s enjoyable about watching new movies and seeing new movies all the time which is something that I’ve really missed over the last couple of months, is seeing the ways that old ideas pop up again and again, And that everything is sort of… There’s very rarely something that is totally stunningly new and also great, and that in fact, greatness is typically adding one new idea to a collage, to a stew of old ideas that have been circulating for a while and have just not been combined in quite the right way, before… And Jurassic Park is an example of that. It has very few completely new ideas, but what it does is combine old ideas in a very novel way.

0:41:15 Sean Malone: So I feel that way about music too. Because if you… I feel that way about all art forms really, but one of the things that music is the one that I’m most familiar with because that’s my background, but the… Looking back over the history of… What we do now is we categorize things well after the fact into different eras, classical era, romantic era, neoclassical, modern, all of these things, and we do this with movies too, but the reality is like, as you drill down closer and closer and closer and start to see where the edges of these things lie they’re really, really blurry because what you are actually looking at is cultural shifts that happen by one artist or musician, composer or filmmaker, whatever, just taking little pieces from somebody that they liked, that they were influenced by, adding that next new little piece, and that over time creates this ebb and flow of where art goes, and what I love about that is that there is no actual… Yes, you can break things down into generational eras for the sake of simplicity and making it a little easier to discuss, but the reality is there’s no line, it’s just constantly blurring, changing ideas that just sort of continually evolve, and that is a really fascinating part of all of this and yeah, absolutely, I agree.

0:42:51 Sean Malone: I love going to see a new take on an old idea or… Yeah, ’cause again, you mentioned Monster in the House that’s pulling from Blake Snyder, and I think Blake Snyder’s story forms or Sid Fields, anybody really they’re. You see them over and over and over again. There’s a reason that you can label something a Monster in the House movie or like a Dude with a Problem movie, they exist, that’s… Because we’ve told these same stories over and over and over again, but that’s the beauty of it, we can keep telling some of the same stories, but make them new enough and fresh enough and interesting enough by mixing ideas, by mixing influences.

0:43:39 Peter Suderman: And to go back to what we were talking about at the beginning, that’s also how science works.

0:43:43 Sean Malone: Absolutely.

0:43:44 Peter Suderman: And in some ways, I think that goes back to the movies essential critique of the Park’s hubris, which is the Ian Malcom quote you stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could before you even knew what you had you patented it, packaged it, slapped it on a lunch box, now you wanna sell it… Right, but literally, he’s just describing how science works it is it’s an iterative process in which you build on the work and the knowledge of the people who came before you, you don’t discover it all of yourself, and science happens in many, many cases, because someone has a product they want to sell to other people, and people then buy that product because they think it’s gonna make their life better, and that’s true, whether it is a vaccine or a cancer drug, or whether it’s just a slightly better toilet bowl cleaner, in either case, somebody’s gotta figure out how to make it, to go through a scientific process of building and engineering a product, and then they’ve gotta figure out how to recoup and hopefully profit off of the time they recoup the resources they spent on building it…

0:44:55 Peter Suderman: And pay for the distribution of it, and their goal is to, in many cases, get it out to as many people as possible, which is not keep it for a very elite few, but to distribute these things and make them widely available, which is how we get cost reductions and it’s really sort of notable that the movie positions itself as being in opposition to that while partaking in exactly that process.

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0:45:27 Landry Ayres: And now for the time in the show where we all share the other pieces of media that we’ve been enjoying while we’ve been stuck inside during the pandemic. This is locked in. So Sean, Peter, Natalie, what all have you been enjoying while We have been locked in.

0:45:45 Sean Malone: Last night, I finished the seventh and final season of Ray Donovan and…

0:45:54 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh nice.

0:45:54 Sean Malone: And it was the most disappointing possible ending because the show Got… It got…

[chuckle]

0:45:58 Peter Suderman: Because it was a television show that lasted for seven seasons…

0:46:04 Sean Malone: Yes well yes, it lasted too long… About three seasons in It should have ended at three or four, definitely based on what story…

0:46:13 Natalie Dowzicky: Showtime.

0:46:13 Sean Malone: They were able to tell, but no, most importantly because it was unceremoniously canceled with no attempt to wrap up any arc whatsoever, so it just stopped… We just got to the end of the seventh season.

0:46:28 Natalie Dowzicky: God that’s terrible.

0:46:28 Sean Malone: And it was just it was, very much a cliff hanger, things were not at all resolved and now it’s over and that’s… That’s pretty much…

0:46:40 Landry Ayres: Who knows, maybe it’ll get picked up and Amazon will do a one off or a special or a movie or something and it’ll help…

0:46:47 Sean Malone: They probably will but What made me angry about it a little bit was just if you’re gonna be in that situation as a studio or a network, just give the writers and everybody involved in the show one episode, just give them one to just be like, Look, we contracted you for 10 for this season we’re gonna give you 11, just wrap it all up. There… It would have been disappointing anyway, but at least it would have tried to resolve some things otherwise now I’ve got this just dissonant note hanging out in the universe that I will never… I’ll never have closure on it’s a bummer.

0:47:27 Natalie Dowzicky: That’s so sad. [chuckle]

0:47:28 Sean Malone: It is sad.

0:47:29 Peter Suderman: Uh guys, I saw Tenet last night in a movie theater.

0:47:33 Sean Malone: Oh I’m going on Thursday.

0:47:38 Peter Suderman: And I So let’s start with the plot here, that Christopher Nolan is famously secretive about his stories generally, and especially about this movie, I’m not going to spoil Tenet for you because I’m not sure I could…

[laughter]

0:47:52 Peter Suderman: It is… It is just an extravagantly ludicrous film. I am not actually sure whether it’s incredibly cerebral or just confusing, it might well be both, but it’s really great to just see something like that in a theater again, and so I’ve been going to… I’m a huge movie nerd, I probably… I go to the movies 50 or 60 times a year. I’ve been writing about them, sort of at least part of my… As at least part of my job for about 15 years at this point, I don’t think I have gone six months without seeing a movie as I have here in a theater since I was in grade school. Possibly not since I was in elementary school.

0:48:39 Sean Malone: I definitely haven’t. It’s insane.

0:48:43 Peter Suderman: It’s It’s been a very strange experience, but just getting to see… Getting back into a theater and getting to see something as impressively crafted as Tenet was really great, and… So it’s a Christopher Nolan film. It’s about time bending. That’s not surprising. He’s been…

0:49:02 Natalie Dowzicky: Shocker.

0:49:02 Peter Suderman: Exploring ideas about time manipulation and the perception of time for basically since his career started, you can go back to Memento, which is a forwards backwards time story in which one person is basically experiencing time backwards while there is a… While we also, we are experiencing it both forwards and backwards, depending on where you are in the movie at any given point, you can think about something like Dunkirk, which has three competing timelines, one takes place over an hour, one over a day, one over the course of a week.

0:49:34 Peter Suderman: Even something like the Prestige is all about the elaborate playing with people’s perception of time, and it’s really fascinating to see this world view come together over the course of a couple of decades of film making where no one really seems to have this conviction that all of us understand time wrong, that we all perceive it differently, and this idea that everyone experiences and perceives time exactly the same way is incorrect, and it really sort of hit home after six months of being in a quasi‐​quarantine, not quite locked down, but a very sort of closed and cloistered situation here because of the pandemic and where time has seemed to lose its meaning and days just sort of repeat themselves, and I’m not sure if I’m going forward in time or backwards and thinking about any event prior to… About the middle of March of 2020, all of that time seems to have sort of collapsed and become both closer and further away, and it’s really just like… I don’t think he clearly did not intend to make a movie about what it feels like to be shut in your house and the way that time stops working properly.

[laughter]

0:50:53 Peter Suderman: On the other hand, he kind of did. And the other thing that I they also just consistently appreciate about Nolan is that he is a humanist individualist, he is somebody who says that in the face of insurmountable odds that the world is in some ways a bleak place, but what we can do is make choices to make it better, and that is the theme of this movie, again, without spoiling the plot, it is about people who choose in the face of impossible difficulty to make the world a better place, and that that is what it means to be human. And so he’s just this great sort of classical liberal, not necessarily in the economic sense, but in the kind of individualistic values and humanistic sense, and has a really, really fascinating sense of how time works and how individuals work within that time and what it is that we should try to do with ourselves with the time that we have.

0:51:57 Natalie Dowzicky: Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to go see it yet, but I hope I can soon. I’d like to get back to the movie theater, I… Other things I’ve been watching, so I started The Man in the High Castle and I’m almost through the first season, I’m enjoying it, but I’m not… I don’t really get the hype that all these people sold it to me on. But so far, I’m enjoying it. It’s just something I watch like while I’m working out, so I don’t… I haven’t necessarily binge watched it, other than that… I did just…

0:52:29 Peter Suderman: Have you read the novel?

0:52:30 Natalie Dowzicky: I have not read the novel, is it better than the show?

0:52:31 Peter Suderman: I really prefer the novel to the show. I think that show just sort of takes the novels idea and some of the kind of set‐​ups and extrapolates from them, the novel is a much tighter story much, it’s more pleasantly weird than the show is, and also, you kinda have to read it in the context of that sort of historical revisionist fiction wasn’t a genre at that time, it was something that was pretty novel, and that has since become a genre unto its own.

0:53:09 Natalie Dowzicky: I have really been watching other things lately just because I’ve been trying to get outside more and go biking and running, but I did play a few mean games of Quiddler, if people are looking for ideas of card games or board games, I hadn’t played Quiddler in a while since I was little, but yeah, I played a few games of that and that’s been about it.

0:53:34 Landry Ayres: I have a few things that I’ve Been sort of bouncing between since the last time that we talked, one thing that I’ve been watching A lot with my wife is a series that’s, it’s on Netflix, but it’s actually… It’s produced by Yle, which is the Finnish… I guess it is technical state‐​run television network, but it’s a crime story set in a… It’s called Bordertown on Netflix, but the Finnish name for it that my wife always calls it is Sorjonen, and it’s about a detective who lives in a Bordertown, very close to the Russian border with Finland, and if you watch the movie, you would think that Finland is a much more violent place that it actually is statistically. Because it has that great sort of Nordic nuance, very dark crime tone a lot of the time where these really twisted things happen, and I’m sure in the history some of these things may have happened, but it makes it seem like they happen all the time there, but it’s shot very, very well, it’s very… Has a great atmosphere and still is entertaining and light.

0:54:50 Landry Ayres: There’s lots of fun banter, and they have a quirky Detective, so it’s nothing ground‐​breaking in the sort of quirky detective solves dark crimes genre, but it is different enough considering it’s not set here in America, that… If you wanna mix it up a little bit, I recommend it. Bordertown.

0:55:10 Peter Suderman: This is… You have to wonder sometimes if Europeans think that small towns in Maine just have murder rates, through the roof they are like Murder she wrote was… There is somebody just gets murdered every week, that’s just normal. There’s always a really elaborate back story to that murder in any small Northeastern town, I don’t think that’s how it actually works, though.

0:55:34 Landry Ayres: I have also… I am almost done. I’m in the last season of The Legend of Korra, which is great. If you like Avatar: The Last Airbender, I highly, highly recommend legend of Korra. I think I like it better. It’s a little bit more mature. I like the sort of steam punk world building and the advancements that they’ve gone in and restructured the world, and it tackles a little bit more mature themes of trauma, and there’s this really great season three arc where there’s this sort of like anarchy versus civilization arc that goes on and really captivating villains, so I think it’s really, really great and it also is just really fun and sweet and your kids can enjoy it still, but there’ll be at least something there for you if you’re not a kid and you wanna wanna watch it. I had never seen it before until watching it recently, and I had seen some of Avatar: The last Airbender, which is definitely geared towards a just slightly younger audience, but is still very much in the same vein of that show and plays off the world that it built and some of those characters. So if you like Avatar, check out Legend of Korra, it is now on Netflix. I also just finished another season of a show that I’ve talked about briefly on the show before, which is Dropout CollegeHumor streaming service. They do Dimension 20, which is one of their Dungeons & Dragons actual play shows, and this season that I just finished is called a crown of candy.

0:57:17 Landry Ayres: And so it is the group of cast members and they’re playing Dungeons & Dragons, but it is set in a world Very much and inspired by Game of Thrones, where there’s political intrigue and back‐​stabbing and it’s very violent and dark and twisted, but in the world, everyone is food, and so they’re in a kingdom that they’re defending is made of candy people, and the vegetable kingdom is at war with their, declares war on them, and the cheese people are back stabbing others, and the bread kingdom is like playing other people, like there’s cake people who are in between the candy and the pastry Families, so it’s ridiculous when you describe it, but watching it, they take it so seriously, that you forget you’re watching like a T‐​bone steak, fight a piece of hard rock candy and murder them in cold blood, cold‐​blood.

[laughter]

0:58:17 Peter Suderman: That does not seem like something that I could forget.

0:58:18 Landry Ayres: Yeah, and that’s what makes it so great is you’ll be… You’ll at one point be like, No, this character that I love really, really died, they have their Ned Stark moments, but then you’ll be like, Wait a minute, that’s a piece of cheese, and you catch yourself laughing at it and it’s just really creative in the way that it can kind of pull that trick on you at times, and they’re all very fun, and it’s only 15 episodes, so if you’re into that kind of thing, I recommend Dimension 20s, A Crown of Candy.

0:58:53 Sean Malone: I am actually interested in that kind of thing. I like listening to D&D podcasts a lot of the time, ’cause they’re so interesting, spontaneous, long running stories, they are fun to check out, so that’s something I’ve never heard before, I’m glad you brought that up.

0:59:09 Landry Ayres: Yeah, any of the Dimension 20 shows, they have fantasy high, that’s like a John Hughes High School type fantasy story, one called the Unsleeping city that I haven’t started. That’s like New York, but make it magic. I also recommend the book station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which won the national book award a few years ago, and it’s just a really, really great story that is [chuckle] may not be for everyone at this time, because it does start with the inciting incident of a sudden pandemic flu that takes over the world.

0:59:46 Peter Suderman: In which almost everyone dies it’s kind of too real guys.

0:59:51 Landry Ayres: Yes.

0:59:51 Natalie Dowzicky: Jesus.

0:59:52 Peter Suderman: It’s really… It’s a great book. I Love it. But it’s very intense at any time, but especially now.

0:59:57 Landry Ayres: It may not be for you right now, but because I had read it before, I went back and re‐​read some of it and I kinda knew, I was like, Okay, that’s only the sort of inciting incident, there’s much more to it than that, and there’s flashbacks and flash forwards, and HBO is actually producing a 10‐​episode mini‐​series last I heard, which I think is even better than say like a movie. So look forward to that. Also, the album by Cory Wong who is a sort of funk, classical producer, guitarist who is really great, he plays with a Vulfpeck. His solo album, Trail Songs: Dusk is a collection of really, really beautiful, mostly instrumental acoustic guitar songs, which is very different than a lot of the stuff that he’s known for, just really, really beautiful, extremely well‐​produced, layered, lush string arrangements that are still very melodic, so if you like things like Andy McKee or even someone like Phil Keaggy. I recommend Cory Wong’s Trail Songs: Dusk.

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1:01:09 Natalie Dowzicky: Thanks for listening. It’s unlikely Dinosaurs will, ever come back to life in our world, but perhaps that’s what makes Jurassic Park’s legacy everlasting or this is probably a good time to say, life finds a way. If you enjoyed the show, let us know on Twitter @PopnLockePod, that’s Pop the letter N Locke with an E pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen. We look forward to unravelling your favorite show or movie next time. PopNLocke is produced by Landry Ayres as a project of lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. To learn more, visit us on the web at www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org.

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