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Playing God still scary after all these years

Posted By Drew Zahn On 04/07/2013 @ 4:09 pm In Diversions,Faith,Front Page,Reviews | No Comments

In 1993, director Steven Spielberg blasted open the doors of Hollywood for computer generated imagery, or CGI, with the eye-popping and occasionally terrifying dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park.”

I first saw the much-beloved film in my college years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sparked the growth of my appreciation for film from a passing hobby to a passion.

Twenty years later, “Jurassic Park” has returned to theaters in a 3-D version, and though the 3-D rendering was sadly disappointing (in fact, I recommend watching it in 2-D, so as not to lose out on the more vibrant colors of the original), three things quickly stand out.

First, Spielberg’s direction in this film is brilliant – his camera angles and pacing and use of special effects create an edge-of-your seat thriller that’s still intelligent and exciting, even when you’ve seen the film already and know what’s coming. He didn’t have a masterpiece of a script to work with, but he had a great story and made a masterpiece of a movie out of it.

Secondly, even after two decades of advancements and the CGI revolution, the dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park” stand up to the test of time, the 1993 critters looking nearly as convincing as any made in 2013.

Finally, the message of the film (based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name) still stands, too: Namely, that science without ethics inevitably creates a madhouse of horrors.

The story, for those unfamiliar, begins with a billionaire financier who funds a scientific quest to clone living dinosaurs from the DNA extracted from a rather clever source of preserved, dino-blood. Off the coast of Central America, the financier creates a theme-park island, where humans can safari through a land of living, walking dinosaurs.

But when a team of outside scientists come to inspect the theme park, chaos breaks loose, the science proves untested and the dinosaurs run amuck, trampling the puny humans under their massive feet (and teeth and claws).

Crichton’s novels often contain this theme – also common to other science fiction authors – the notion that probing the mysteries of the universe and claiming their power for our own amounts to humanity engaging in a dangerous game of playing God. Man’s lust for achievement, discovery, fame and even financial gain blinds him from the dangers of forging ahead far too carelessly, creating the necessity for a greater, ethical control on man’s impulse.

Science fiction writers, it seems, understand the true sin nature of man better than today’s prevailing culture.

“Jurassic Park” summarizes this warning in a poignant statement delivered by actor Jeff Goldblum: “The lack of humility before nature being displayed here astounds me.”

Even though the film begins with an evolutionary premise, the assumption that “nature” directs the course of life by chance and by golly, the primary message of the film – man’s need for ethics and morality to restrain his lust for power – still holds, whether you subscribe to evolutionary theory or not. The moral of the story rings true regardless of origin theory. A discerning creationist, for example, could recognize the movie begins with the assumption of evolution and still appreciate the story’s ultimate conclusion.

Thus, “Jurassic Park” stands as a thrilling, well-made film with a poignant and truth-affirming message.

Yet I do have one question: If humanity is blind to its own folly, as the film suggests, from where should come the ethics and morality the movie claims we clearly need? How can man develop his own system for ethics without being open to the charge of the blind leading the blind?

Man simply cannot create his own morality. He’s too self-serving for it.

Yet what is impossible for man, the Bible declares, is possible for God. For Scripture teaches that man’s Creator, a power outside humanity’s fallenness and folly, established a system for ethics consistent with the nature of both man and the universe.

What the movie seeks, but cannot ultimately find – ethics to restrain man’s fallen nature – is found in God. What’s more, the redeeming power of Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit offer mankind not just an effective morality, but a means for man to actually live up to it and forgiveness for when he fails.

Perhaps it is not “nature” that man needs to stand in humility before, as the film suggests, but nature’s Creator.

Content advisory:

  • “Jurassic Park,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 20 obscenities and profanities.
  • The film has little sexuality, limited to a pair of light innuendos, some flirting, a shirtless man, a gal in shorts and a couple of shots of a computer’s wallpaper, which is a woman in bikini.
  • The movie contains a significant number of frightening scenes, especially for younger audiences, and thus, some blood and violence. Though not a slasher or gorefest, there are still a couple scenes where men are killed violently, a few where animals are seen torn apart by predators and a severed arm. Chases and action scenes abound, but very little gunplay or human-on-human violence is present.
  • The film contains an overarching evolutionary viewpoint, but rarely touches upon religion or the occult, save for one conversation, delivered as an ironic jest: “God creates dinosaurs; God destroys dinosaurs; God creates man; man destroys God; man creates dinosaurs; dinosaurs destroy man,” a line followed with, “Woman takes over the earth.”

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