Here’s another series where I’ll take a look at another movies series.
Jurassic Park, as many know, started life as a 1990 novel by Michael Crichton. Crichton basically took the concept of “Westworld”-his 1970’s film about a Western theme park with robots based on bygone eras of human history, which suddenly malfunction and get murderous (and it’s now a popular cable TV show as well) and mixed it with a clone Dinosaur movie script he’d been shopping around in the 80’s.
The novel-which featured the now iconic skeletal Tyrannosaur “logo” was a huge hit, and was optioned for a movie, and Steven Spielberg quickly took interest. After considering using stop-motion photography along with robots for the more complex Dinosaur effects, he instead decided to try out the relatively new computer animation technology being developed by Lucasfilm’s special effects division, Industrial Light and Magic, or ILM. The result captivated a lot of people, made the film itself a huge hit, one now with three sequels and a fourth on the way (Jurassic World II).
Let’s try to examine the film itself.
Jurassic Park opens with a mysterious box being lowered near a pen on Isla Nublar, near Costa Rica, It’s being overseen by Robert Muldoon, the Park warden. However, there’s a mishap when the cage’s occupant tries to rush the gate, throwing the guy opening the gate off-balance, causing him to fall near the cage and be grapped and mauled by it’s occupants. Muldoon has no choice to shoot the creature, but it’s too late.
One of the reasons the scene works so well is that it doesn’t really show us the Raptor, just some quick glimpses of it’s eyes, head, and of course it’s screams and snarls. Much like with Spielberg’s earlier JAWS, The Raptors’s violence and appetite is mostly implied rather than seen, and we don’t really see them until the third act, also like Jaws (Although the Raptors are a more appealing visual than the somewhat more fake-looking Shark).
This accident of course raises some serious questions about the safety of this mysterious establishment-and Donald Genarro as the attorney of the investors for John Hammond, the creator of this Park, wants it to be inspected by experts-or else he’ll shut it down for good.
Gennaro-one of the ‘good guys’ of the novel (although still incredibly naive)-is shown here to be sort of a wimpy, kind of milquetoast guy. Although in Spanish, the Amber miner’s line here says it all:
“Engo mil pesos que dicen que se cae (I bet a thousand pesos if he falls)”
Here we’re also introduced to the Park’s other revenue other than money-Amber-which contains the mosquitos that of course contain the DNA of extinct Dinosaurs. This science-even now-is a bit out of reach. We can technically kind of clone extinct organisms that have died fairly recently on the time scale-Well preserved Mammoths, for instance, or creatures that have gone extinct more recently than that-but that raises a whole other load of ethics/scientific gobblygook and this is just a movie review, so moving on….
Anyway, we’re now introduced to the film’s two leads, Paleontologist Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) and Paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) Unlike the novel, there seems to be a romantic connection, but it seems to be fairly lightly portrayed. There’s no kissing or anything, like in some many other blockbuster films. They are however, having a debate about having children. Grant thinks kids are annoying and too much of a hassle; (This is by the way, the polar opposite of his book counterpart). He’s also not very good with computers, one of the film’s many comments on technology vs. nature/nurture. He’d rather dig in the dirt than use X-rays. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, Grant taunts a mocking kid with a quick lesson on the behavior of Raptors (Which he also feel vindicates his dislike of them).
Unexpectedly they get a helicopter visit from John Hammond-whose disruption of the dig and uncorking his champagne initially bugs Grant-but then when he realizes who he is, he quickly backs off. (Hammond’s charm works well also) Still, he’s a bit skeptical about the purpose of Hammond’s visit-to bring them in as inspectors-but Hammond’s charm, and the promise to sweeten the deal by funding their dig for another three years-wins him over.
Attenborough takes the role that’s was originally a villain-a “Dark Walt Disney” in the novel-and makes it much more genteel, good natured and compassionate-not only towards the humans, but many of the Dinosaurs as well. Most of Hammond’s greedy tendencies in the book are instead transferred to Gennaro.
Speaking of antagonists, we’re right away introduced to the human ones of the film: Dodgson and Nedry. Wayne Knight of course was also famous as Newman, the nemesis of Jerry Seinfeld in the sitcom “Seinfeld”, but given that a lot of the characters in the show weren’t good natured at all to begin with, he almost comes across as a bit of an anti-hero in that. Here, he’s pretty much the only real ‘bad guy’ of the film (Although Gennaro comes pretty close, although it’s more due to cowardice than malicious intent). Grant notes that the Dinosaurs are simply what they are by nature: “They just, do what they do” as he puts it later in the film. But Nedry isn’t “naughty by Nature”-he’s motivated by greed, and feels his computer talents are unappreciated-and unpaid-by Hammond and the rest of the staff.
We’re also shortly introduced to Lewis Dodgson here. Dodgson is a much bigger villain in the novels, giving a lengthy speech at the beginning of the novel about how his rival company-Biosyn (Short for Biological Synthetics, but sort of a play on short-hand:”Bio-Sin” get it?) should go about stealing the Dinosaur embyros from Hammond’s company-and Biosyn’s rival-Ingen. He also plays a significant role in the Lost World sequel novel (Which is mainly taken in the film sequel by Peter Ludow), but here he’s just stuck on one scene.
Next, we’re introduced to our next lead-Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, who brings his awkward charm to the film, and many think he’s the highlight of the film-possibly why Michael Crichton ressurected the character for the sequel novel, despite a pretty definitive death in the first novel (From his much more severe injuries and being napalmed-I’m pretty sure you don’t come back from that!), and of course that led to him being prominently featured in the sequel movie as well (Although that’s a topic for the next film!)
We then get some great shots and our first look at the island (Filmed in Kauai Hawaii), as well as some fantastic music from John Williams-a theme I consider the Jurassic Park “adventure” theme, the first and my favorite of the three core motifs of the movie.
After landing, Grant and co. are loaded onto visitor vehicles (One of the two main ones in the films-these ones are gas jeeps and not tour vehichles). It’s worth noting that for those who’ve seen the teaser trailers, there’s a scene where Ellie grabs a plant she recognizes as being extinct as shown in the following scene that was cut from the final film.
We then come into an open field, and although Ellie is still focused on the mysterious plant, Grant and Malcolm notice something even more unusual….and Grant twists her head around to take a look at something that should be impossible-a living, breathing Brachiosaurus.
More to come in the next article in the series!