Fidgeting and Sighing Chapter 2 – Jurassic Park: Still Amazing After All These Years

Posted: February 10, 2015 in Fidgeting and Sighing
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Recently, I watched 9, the Tim Burton-produced vehicle about odd-looking burlap dolls saving the planet from… whatever the Hell it was that had taken over the planet.  It’s only been a few days, but I can barely remember the thing at all.  All I seem to remember is that the main character (Doll #9) was attempting to save his fellow dolls’ souls that were trapped in this machine, and at the end, the dolls were still dead.  I guess I thought saving them would involve actually saving them.  That’s why I’m a soulless bastard.

More than the movie itself, which was obviously not memorable at all, I remember the conversation I had with my fellow 9-ers after the movie. I saw it with some friends of mine, and one of these friends (who is much more optimistic and jolly than I) said that he likes movies because life is just too darn hard not to. He loved the live-action Transformersmovies for the simple reason that he wanted to see stuff blow up (and Michael Bay movies occasionally feature such things.) Honestly, I cannot fault his logic.  Movies are supposed to be an escape from the drudgery of everyday life.  However, must we sacrifice quality for explosions?

I pointed out to my friend that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek re-make/re-boot/re-imagining had plenty of action, and a few explosions, and was an excellent movie.  Far better, in fact, than anything Michael Bay has ever directed.  He concurred, yet was not swayed from enjoying Transformers.  Which is good, because for whatever reason, I have a tendency to try and convince people that they are wrong and whatever movie they like and I despise is, in fact, terrible, so I applaud him for sticking to his giant, pointless guns.

We live in curious times as far as our entertainment goes. We may forget that movies, as we know them, have not been around all that long, and yet there are so many of them that the audience takes good movies for granted and now just wants to be mildly amused for a couple hours. Plots, themes, being amazed by the special effects, these are all lost amid giant, fighting, CGI-robots who are mostly indiscernible from each other, and super-heroes who seemingly have to suffer emotional strife, yet always manage to defeat the villain and get the girl at the end. Of course, people like my friend will try to convince me that, sure, the story sucked, but those CGI effects in Transformers were really awesome. Well, of course they were. They were all done by computer programs that anyone can purchase on the internet.  To me, knowing that, if I had the time and money, I could do the same thing takes a little of the magic away.

This is why Jurassic Park is still one of my all-time favorite movies.18jyfksl1kks0jpgThere was still an element of “How did they do that?” when it came to the dinosaurs.  The special effects wizards behind the Raptors and T-Rexes combined elements of CGI and animtronics to create creatures that actually looked real because they were. And this is 1993-CGI, so basically, the computers they used to make it were probably a few steps behind today’s smartphones. The techno-dinosaurs in the movie had weight and dimension, things that no Transformer has.  That logic, to me, also applies to the story.  A man is breeding his own dinosaurs, opening up a big can of worms (the morality, the idea that they are selling this scientific boon that could probably used for more noble means.  Or as Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm adequately puts it, “What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.”) Jurassic Park takes the first half-hour introducing the premise and developing the human characters before we even see a dinosaur.  That is why the story has as much weight as the dinosaurs. Transformers didn’t waste a whole lot of time developing Shia LeBouf or Megan Fox (not that she needs much developing). As I recall, the robots landed and the chaos ensued. It’s similar to Spielberg’s other scary-creature epic, Jaws. We don’t see the shark, mostly because of the technological limitations, but we know he’s there eating people, and it gives us time to see how Roy Schieder and Richard Dreyfuss, and thankfully, Robert Shaw, deal with it.

With Jurassic World possibly set to ignite the franchise again this year, I thought it would be a good time to remember the original. I’m sure everyone remembers the story. Stereotypical Eccentric- Rich-Old-Dude John Hammond wants to create a theme park/zoo hybrid when he buys the technology to engineer his very own dinosaurs and market them to the public. Unfortunately, his investors require a couple of top notch brains to sign off on the park to make it a reality. He brings in two paleontologists, played by Laura Dern and Sam Neill, and whacky “chao-tician” Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum. During their tour of the island, scummy bad guy Dennis Nadry (Wayne Knight) tries to steal the park’s secrets and dino- DNA, and his evil machinations send the park into disarray, releasing the dinosaurs and creating what amount some really cool action scenes involving dinosaurs attacking people.

When thinking back on this movie, I try to forget about the disappointing sequels. I find it best to remember my excitement back in 1993 with the idea that there would be dinosaurs on the big screen (I was a big fan!) Back then, we had seen a lot of stuff in movies, but seeing real-looking dinosaurs was about as rare as seeing a real dinosaur. It didn’t matter that Goldblum was the biggest name actor in the cast, because the dinosaurs were the real stars.

And they delivered. But while all the dinos were amazing technological marvels, it was the Velociraptors that stole the show. Sure that T-Rex scene was cool, and eating the lawyer off the toilet was just awesome, the raptors , a dinosaur I had never even heard of before that, were the baddies that really gave me chills. They can smell fear. They can hunt in tandem. They can open doors! No Great White can do that. It was all the humans could do to simply not die (although a bunch of them did, which did help raise the stakes a little.)

Speaking of which, I have always felt a little cheated when movies end with the main characters attaining victory by surviving, as opposed to actually defeating the bad guy. I never cared for those disaster flicks because the entire premise is simply not to die by the time the credits roll. Jurassic Park is the exception that proves the rule, because there is simply no way those lame humans, and especially those kids, were going to kill all those dinosaurs. However, the finale is no-less satisfying because just when you think that the raptors are going to devour our heroes, the big, bad T-Rex returns, attacking the raptors to claim the title of Dinosaur World Heavyweight Champion. This action only serves to underscore the earlier assertions that not only are dinosaurs and humans not meant to live together in harmony, but dinosaurs aren’t even meant to live together. They cannot be controlled, and the T-Rex makes sure everyone knows that, throwing a raptor’s carcass through the man-made T-Rex skeleton to complete the awesome imagery. Plus, if they killed all the dinos, there would have been no sequels. Although that may not have been so bad…

However, this is about the original film, a ground-breaking achievement for its time. I still assert that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park look more realistic than any alien in the Star Wars prequels, or anything in any Transformers movie, mostly because they mostly were real, or at least tangible. We shall see how tangible the dinosaurs of Jurassic World are 22-years later, but my memories of the original are as tangible as ever.


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