The Science of Jurassic Park

Contributed by
Jun 11, 2015
<?xml encoding="utf-8" ?>

I loved Jurassic Park when it came out. Then I saw it again in the theater two years later, and I found out I still loved it.

And in fact even today I still love that movie. And that’s despite the science in it, which is just awful. When it comes to science in a movie, I just want it to be consistent, even if it’s based on something not terribly accurate. I accept the idea of genetically resurrecting dinosaurs because holy cow there’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex running across the screen!

But, that doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at the science and dissect it. And when you do, you find out it has more holes in it than the DNA you can extract from a mosquito’s belly.

For Slate, I wrote and narrated a script which Daniel Hubbard turned into a great video where I tackle a few of the science issues I have with the movie franchise:

I can overlook the DNA stuff, actually; that’s part of the deal you make being in the audience of a scifi flick. But I can’t forgive all the nonsense about chaos theory; it’s not just wrong, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with what actually happens in the movie, despite Crichton’s hammering on it in the book, too. It was just Nedry being a dick that causes all the trouble. That’s not chaos theory; that’s a story having an inept antagonist.

Again, as I said above and say in the video, the original Jurassic Park is a great flick (the sequels, um, not so much). I can actually love a movie at the same time I can critique its parts. In this case that’s easy; I loved it despite the bad science. For a movie like Interstellar, I actually didn’t like it even though a lot of the science was solid. It was bad storytelling. Jurassic Park was good storytelling. It’s that simple.

As I write this I haven’t seen Jurassic World, but I plan to, because dinosaurs + Chris Pratt = me buying a ticket. I don’t know if I’ll like it or not, but that outcome almost certainly won’t rest just on the science.

Like any other movie, it will live or go extinct on how the story is told.

Read more in Slate about the Jurassic Park movies.