[UPDATE: Jurassic World is now playing - and our explanation was on point!]
Twenty-two years after the release of Jurassic Park, Universal Studios has relaunched the fan-favorite series with Jurassic World - a fresh installment that point the franchise on a new trajectory going forward. With only minor characters from the previous trilogy returning, most notably Jurassic Park's Chief Geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), director Colin Trevorrow has assembled a fresh-faced human cast, including Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help), and Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil), to face off against the biological preserve's prehistoric inhabitants.
Yet, in order to differentiate Jurassic World from the films that came before it, Trevorrow's addition to the series features a fully operational park - a victory of scientific ingenuity (that has been entertaining visitors for ten years without incident). However, when attendance rates begin to decline, Jurassic Park's scientists once against become too preoccupied with whether or not they could, they never stop to think if they should, creating a new hybrid dinosaur attraction. Following in the enormous footsteps of prior dino-stars, (the Tyrannosaurs Rex and Spinosaurus), the genetically modified creation Indominus Rex ushers in a bold new twist on the series.
However, a hybrid dinosaur wasn't the most controversial plot point in the Jurassic World trailers - as Chris Pratt's "trained" velociraptor squad became a divisive point among fans who thought the idea of domesticated raptors was either an interesting development or a completely asinine misstep.
On the a recent Screen Rant Underground podcast, we discussed why the plot point could be cool - as well as possible explanations for how Chris Pratt's character, Jurassic World game warden Owen, managed to gain control over Jurassic Park's most deadly (and defiant) species.
As a result, we've put together four theories that explain the velociraptors' change from malevolent and blood-thirsty killers to semi-obedient partners in dino-rampage damage control. Our discussion is going to contain mild SPOILERS for Jurassic World, so READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up. You have been warned.
Owen is the Raptor Pack's Alpha Male
Plenty of fans have scoffed at the aforementioned trailer scene of Chris Pratt driving a motorcycle, flanked by raptors, through the jungle. Most skeptics either think the scene is ridiculous (at a fundamental level) or simply believe that "domesticated" raptors defeat the entire appeal (and terror) of the iconic Jurassic Park dinos. However, Pratt didn't outright "domesticate" or "tame" the raptors and has, instead, established himself as the ferocious animals' alpha. Previous Jurassic Park storylines have presented the raptors as lion-like pack hunters - led by an alpha that, if necessary, even kills potential challengers within the pride to secure a leadership position.
The relationship was clearly laid-out by former Jurassic Park game warden, Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) in the original film:
Jurassic World's raptors aren't the first animals to accept a human being as their pack leader. Plenty of scientists have lived in animal communities, establishing roles as leaders within a group of wild (and downright dangerous) creatures.
Speaking on the subject, Trevorrow had previously provided hints at a similar relationship between Owen and the raptors:
“Owen’s relationship with the raptors is complicated. They aren’t friends. These animals are nasty and dangerous and they’ll bite your head off if you make the wrong move. But there are men and women out there today who have forged tenuous connections with dangerous predators. That’s interesting territory to me.”
Muldoon's big game hunter background played a significant part in how he viewed the dinosaurs on the island - especially the raptors. As seen the in clip above, Muldoon believed the raptors should "all be destroyed." Jurassic World's Owen believes that, conversely, the only way to control the raptors is to build a relationship of trust - standing up to the bigger and more aggressive raptors (as seen in a brief Super Bowl trailer shot) until the entire group begrudgingly recognizes him as the top dog.
Some might find little difference between this scenario and "domesticating" the raptors; however, instead of placating the vicious dinosaurs and teaching them crowd-pleasing tricks (read: the Mosasaur aquarium), becoming a pack leader afforded Owen control over the group without undercutting the animals' inherent ferocity, potential for betrayal, and big screen appeal.
The Raptors Imprinted on Owen at Birth
In addition to the alpha role presented above, Owen also oversaw the hatching of each "trained" raptor. In the original Jurassic Park, John Hammond indicated that he was present at the birth of every single dinosaur on the island - which, allegedly, helped the animals trust him. It's a story thread that was never really payed-off - as Hammond was still scared of any "meatasauruses" running loose in Jurassic Park.
That said, just because we don't see Hammond halt a T-Rex attack via his parental connection, there are plenty of animal species that do imprint at birth - creating a bond that, with continual interaction, grows stronger overtime. As a result, since Owen was present at the initial hatching of each raptor, it stands to reason that even the wildest velociraptor could, potentially, mind the Jurassic World game warden, allowing him to tame their predatory impulses or, at the very least, command them to follow his instructions in certain situations.
Assuming Hammond and Dr. Wu were correct in saying that dinosaurs imprint at the time of their hatching, and that the imprinting raises the amount of trust they have for an individual, it makes sense that Owen is uniquely positioned to work with/command the dinos - even if they aren't outright "tamed."