Dinosaurs and the Action Woman

Yesterday, Mrs Dim and I went off to see “Jurassic World: Dominion”. We’d seen Lucy V Hay’s review, so we weren’t going for great cinema – we were going because we love the franchise in all its goofy magnificence. Mrs Dim said she was expecting a kind of “Pantomime walkdown”, with all the old stars (the ones still alive) using their catchphrases one last time.

To be honest, I really enjoyed the movie. I didn’t watch it with my script-reader’s head on, nor was I out to pick plot holes (although I did wince about the way the “hyperloop” system worked – where was the vacuum? That tunnel was open EVERYWHERE! That’s just a sodding TRAIN, mate!) But I felt bad for Claire, the character played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

In the first movie to show her, Jurassic World, Claire is an upwardly mobile executive, estranged from her family because she buries herself in work. IN the course of the movie, much like Alan Grant in the first, she comes to appreciate her family and the connections with people over the tough and soulless business world.

Claire as she first appears.

In the second movie she has knocked off some of her corners and is better prepared for the action sequences. She’s brave and doesn’t hesitate to step forward. I came out of the cinema this time feeling she’d been badly served, spending more time frozen and waiting to be rescued.

However, talking it over with Mrs Dim on the dog walk this morning, I may be wrong (This happens quite a lot: I discover I am wrong when talking things over with Mrs Dim…)

At the start of the movie, Claire is leading a raid into an illegal dino breeding facility. She breaks a lock, and when they find a creature in distress, she doesn’t hesitate to free it, even though they’re only supposed to be gathering evidence. Then she piles into the van as other vehicles come screaming up, and she drives away under fire, through a charging herd of Triceratops. This is not a weak and feeble character. She is in charge of her actions.

The moment that I was thinking of, when she freezes, comes after a series of traumatic events: She has to eject from the plane, has her parachute trashed by Pterasaurs, lands in a tree and is almost eaten by another predator (didn’t recognise the species, sorry!), and then she has to make her way through the dino-infested valley to an observation post. As she’s trying to get inside, she’s cornered by three dilophosaurs. She’s unarmed and alone, so it’s more than fair to accept that she’s reached the end of her rope at this point.

Mrs Dim’s argument was that we still haven’t got a very good idea of a what a strong woman looks like. Lucy talks a lot about this issue too (having written some strong women herself). Strong women aren’t simply Rambo with boobs. Women don’t tend to be as physically muscular as men (though obviously there are some women who are more muscular than some men) and while there are a number of female characters who can seriously kick butt, they tend to be ones who are trained from birth or have super-abilities (I’m thinking of Wonderwoman, Buffy, Spider Gwen and so on…)

Claire’s motivations in the movie are atonement (brought up in the first scene) and the maternal desire to rescue and protect her adopted daughter. She does fight, going toe-to-toe with Dichen Lachman’s villainous character (who almost certainly WAS trained to kill), and she persists through a variety of risky situations until she finds Maisie again.

Both Bryce Dallas Howard and Laura Dern play tough women who aren’t fazed by hard choices and physical difficulties. They didn’t enjoy wading through dying, burning locusts to try and shut off the power, but it had to be done to save their friends and loved ones, so they did it. I think they’re actually pretty good role models, for all it’s a crazy film.

(By the way, the message of the film is pretty stark – we’re screwing up the world, but it’s never too late to stand up and do the right thing – but it’s right on the money.

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