'Jurassic Park 4': Bring On The Feathered Dinosaurs!

Jurassic Park 4

The news of Jurassic Park 4 probably sent a lot of you scrambling for your brain's groan button, and I can't blame you. Though the original film is an important milestone in special effects, and boasts the last decent score John Williams ever wrote*, it preserved Michael Crichton's dubious grasp of human nature and the book's b-movie philosophizing - and the less said about the sequels, the better (especially the second film, which seems to consist largely of references to classic monster movies).

Still! The dinosaurs, even the ones created using paleolithic CGI back in 1993, look insanely great, and given the advances in special effects that have occurred just in the 12 years since Jurassic Park 3 we can look forward to even more spectacular sauropods. But it isn't just CGI that has advanced in the last twenty years; paleontology has also made some rather amazing discoveries.

Beginning with the discovery of the feathered Sinosauropteryx fossil in 1996, over 30 new specimens have been found, and scientists are beginning to conclude that almost all dinosaur species probably had a coat of feathers. That sounds like a small difference, but it's huge when you consider how radically that changes the appearance of these beasts.

Despite the fact that the first feathered fossils of Archaeopertyx were discovered in the 1860s, dinosaurs were still seen in a largely reptilian context until quite recently. The 1970s and '80s saw some major breakthroughs (among them the acceptance of the asteroid collision theory of dinosaur extinction), but even though the relationship between birds and dinosaurs was becoming more fully understood, that context remained the norm.

Now, it would be a mistake to assume anything in Crichton's novel is scientific, but his book did make great effort to plausibly reflect the consensus at the time. Jurassic Park, published in 1990, partly reflects that consensus. Dinosaurs in the novel were cloned from preserved DNA found in fossilized amber, with gaps in decayed DNA filled in using amphibian, reptile, and avian DNA. And regardless of the DNA used, as we saw in the film, with the exception of Velociraptors, they still largely resembled giant reptiles.

However, Spielberg & Co. have the chance to update their look, and best of all it wouldn't even require much of a stretch, plotwise, to explain the genetic retcon. Simply explain that advances in paleontology proved that their previous cloning relied too heavily on amphibian and reptile DNA. New clones corrected that mistake, relying more on avian DNA, and the result is a pack of dinosaurs that bear colorful plumage that would make Liberace seethe with jealousy.

This doesn't even begin to get into the new species we've discovered, like the aforementioned Sinosauropteryx (which would have been about the size of a chicken), that could populate the new film. And why should it have to? Apparently, T-Rex probably had feathers too. I could think of nothing cooler than that.

[For more on feathered Dinosaurs, check out this great article from Nature, published last summer.]

*Yeah, I said it.

Ross Lincoln is a LA-based freelance writer from Oklahoma with an unhealthy obsession with comics, movies, video games, ancient history, Gore Vidal, and wine. 

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  • SD says:

    I guess they will have to ignore the discovery that DNA only has a half life of 521 years and that getting it from amber isn't possible.


  • Jesus Christ says:

    And that velociraptors are about one tenth the size of the ones in the films.

    • Harr Potter says:

      ^^^ That is def not true.

      • ravenx9 says:

        It is true. But there where raptors the size of those in the movies. And they probably knew that, it's just that the name Utahraptor does not sound as cool as Velociraptor.

        But on the feathers matter. I think they should leave the feathery gayness to the real dinosaurs. And keep the dinos in the movie as they where in the old ones. Because feathers look silly, they just do. A feathery T-Rex is like Mike Tyson in a transvestite costume...

        For some perspective on the sizes of the raptors:

        Velociraptor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vraptor-scale.png

        Utahraptor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Utahraptor_scale.png

        The Dilophosaurus where larger than it was in the movie. It didnt have a frill, and it didnt have tar like spit. But it looks spectacular and is awesome in the movie.

        So my point is that they should keep the franchise similar to what it is. With elements from their own fantasy, to keep the dinosaurs scary looking.

        If I saw a feathery dinosaur in real life it would definately scare me crazy. But in the movies that wouldnt be scarier than Chicken Run. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_Run

        • Jesus Christ says:

          Completely agreed, why are we all of a sudden so obsessed with scientific accuracy in movies? Not to mention, in Jurassic Park these are not the ORIGINAL dinosaurs, they are artificial human-constructed clones, so are bound to be different. I think it was a mistake to introduce feathers to the raptors in the 2001 sequel, but it still wasn't that bad, and I just hope they don't make it worse.

          • Jesse says:

            I don't remember exactly, but I think this was explained in one of the books. The creations of ingen were bred to be an idealized versions of their natural counterparts

          • Feathertusk says:

            The whole clone thing would all be fine and good, except in the originals they passed it off that their dinosaurs were scientifically accurate. Why the science fad? Simply because its annoying to hear people sight things in movies and tv shows as fact when its not, and leads people to be overall stupider. If they don't make it more accurate, then they need to explain that heavily in the film. To be perfectly honest though, way more would need to be changed than just feathers.

      • Craig says:

        That is true actually, velociraptors were only bout 2 foot tall and 5 foot from head to toe, and were covered in feathers

  • rich1698 says:

    I Dunno I thought Mrs Tweedy from Chicken Run was really scary, there was also Deinonichus (Sic) which fitted between Velociraptor and Utahraptor size-wise and also had a sickle-like middle claw

  • Dead says:

    Covering the dinos in feathers would just be jarring and unnecessary. They've ALREADY covered it when they explained that they filled in the gaps with reptile and amphibian DNA. They don't need turn every creature in JP4 into a giant bird and then re-explain it.

  • Dead says:

    Covering the dinos in feathers would just be jarring and unnecessary. As you mentioned, they ALREADY covered it when they explained in the first film that they filled in the gaps with reptile and amphibian DNA. That's why they look like reptiles (I feel like this should be in italics). They don't need turn every creature in JP4 into a giant bird and then re-explain it.

  • Craig J says:

    John Williams score in Schinlders List was pretty good

  • Austen says:

    "-the last decent score John Williams ever wrote."

    Yeah, pretty much stopped reading after that.

  • rodolfo says:

    A carnotaurus in JP 4!!!!!!!!!11

  • mark says:

    I thought "harry potter"s score was excellent. Childlike but brooding.

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