Poll the world’s third-graders on their favorite dinosaur, and you’ll get the same answer every time: T. rex.
The charismatic chief of the tyrannosaurid clan, six tons of Thighmaster and swallow-the-jungle jaws, has joined the party again. One of its cousins popped up last month as the first dinosaur found in this state. Paleontologists hadn’t seen Washington as a likely stomping ground for therapods because (surprise!) the state was too wet for them.
And T. rex itself — or as close to it as computer generated imagery can deliver — is back on the big screen in “Jurassic World,” the latest installment of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” series.
Is the dialogue good? Is the plot well-crafted? Who cares? The point is to see the great rough beasts brought back to life, the scary fantasy of generations of children who’ve grown up mesmerized by the likes of triceratops and the fantastically huge apatosaurus.
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T. Rex is the ultimate childhood alter ego. It calls the shots. No one tells it what to do. It doesn’t have to eat vegetables.
It stays up late if it wants. It doesn’t have to go to school. Nobody bullies it; it eats bullies. No piano lessons for it: It’s got those tiny little arms with only two claws. But it could play the drums.
Also, T. rex is conveniently extinct.
The fatal act of hubris in “Jurassic World” is the attempt to create something bigger, tougher, faster, louder and meaner than T. rex.
“We set out to make Indominus the most fearsome dinosaur ever to be displayed at Jurassic World,” the film’s website says. It’s a genetic hybrid of ravenous Carnotaurus, Majungasaurus, Rugops and Giganotosaurus. Bad news all around.
We don’t want to give away the ending. Let’s just say that T. rex rises up to the challenge of its rival. Spielberg’s tyrannosaurs are not depraved. When they get loose, they’re not above dining on bad guys and squishing cars, but they’re doting parents and sometimes quite handy in a pinch.
Contrast that with Peter Jackson’s “King Kong,” whose mindlessly ravenous tyrannosaurs ignore every other protein source on Skull Island in their single-minded pursuit of Naomi Watts.
On the other end of the spectrum is the goofy purple T. rex of “Barney & Friends,” whose signature song is “I Love You, You Love Me.” Barney has no designs on Naomi Watts. He’s too busy bouncing around like a manic baseball mascot.
But there’s a dark side to a bubbly and helpful T. rex. As Parents magazine once put it:
“What's so dangerous about Barney? In a word, denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities. For along with his steady diet of giggles and unconditional love, Barney offers our children a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away.”
Basically, don’t tame T. rex or else your kids will never get tough enough to handle the Indominuses of life. The tyrannosaur needs those dagger teeth and that nightmarish bellow. In the “Jurassic” franchise, Spielberg gets it about right.