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Creature Features in Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

I think we all have our list of movies that affected us in some way as a child. Both positive and I’m sure there are plenty of negative feelings towards movies out there too, either because they were horrible or horriful, depends on the person watching. Honestly, my bar is so low its hard to watch a movie, even a really cheesy one, and walk away hating it. There are plenty of other people more critical, and I’ll leave it to them to right the ship on movie reviews. There’s also a degree of separation we need to consider. The movies we 80s kids watched in either the late 80s or 90s that were totally awesome back in the day but watching them now almost feels embarrassing. 1997’s SPAWN is probably one of the best examples of that degree of separation. Back in the 90s, us fans of the demonic hero comic were more than ecstatic to watch the live-action version, but I challenge you to watch SPAWN (fan or no) now and not feel at least a smidge bit embarrassed that you at one point in your life thought this flick was the bee’s knees. However, there are some movies that surpass and shatter the nostalgic lens and are just great movies. Jurassic Park is one of those movies, for me at least. I have fond memories of seeing this movie as a 90s young teen. This was, in fact, the LAST movie I had gone to the theaters with my entire family (mom, dad, & sister) to see. So there’s that, a very nostalgic feeling, but Jurassic Park is also just a great movie all around, a classic Spielberg at the end of an era in which Spielberg actually made classics instead of rehashing old ones and ruining them. But, I’ll leave the review for this movie in more capable hands as our guest writer takes a swing at Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park

By: Kurt Thingvold

Dinosaurs have long captured the imagination of the world. Titans of the prehistoric era.  In 1912, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote: “The Lost World” as the story a group of explorers led by Prof. Challenger who encounter a prehistoric world. Seventy-Eight years later Michael Crichton wrote of a similar premise where a group of scientists are invited to a prehistoric park where Dinosaurs are brought back to life by genetic engineering in the hopes of garnering a profit.  The book was a huge success!  And it dealt with issues of animal rights, genetics, and the repercussions of not paying attention to detail, and having constraints when it came to new advances in science. While the book was seen as a huge success, studios were bidding for the rights to make a movie. Universal ended up winning the bid and picked Steven Spielberg to direct, and Michael Crichton to draft the screenplay, which would later be co-written with David Koep. The film was in pre-production for 24 months before filming in August of 1992 and filming ended in November of 1992. A grueling 98 days of filming,  from Hawaii to soundstages in Hollywood.  With special effects taking over a year to develop.  The movie launched in June of 1993. Critics praised the movie for its action sequences, music, and most importantly the special effects.  The plot of the movie followed, somewhat, closely to the book.  A few characters were mixed around, and some of the more important characters from the novel had their screen time reduced to a mere minute and a half.  Parts of the story did remain untouched, with the exception of an awesome raft chase scene with the T-rex.

The story for the movie goes something like this:

A worker is killed on Isla Nublar, an island that holds a secret resort attraction. Three scientists and a lawyer are sent to investigate the attraction, Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neil), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), and Donald Genaro (The money hungry and corrupt lawyer played by Martin Ferraro). Shortly after arriving, they find that the park is inhabited by creatures from another era: dinosaurs.  A greedy computer programmer sabotages the park, and the dinosaurs start to run loose, now everyone must survive until rescue arrives.

What made the movie different from the book? What made this movie a cultural success? It wasn’t an exact carbon copy of the novel, but it could stand on its own. (Spielberg isn’t known for being true to the source material. Peter Benchley was kicked off the set of Jaws after he found out that the shark was going to explode, instead of dying from its wounds, and dragging Quint down to his watery grave). A few things, actually, could be counted toward the movie’s success: dinosaurs and children.  Dinosaurs have always had popularity with the youth.  The movie also addressed a certain form of science that was growing in popularity at the time: Genetics. The novel went into great detail about genetics and genetic manipulation.  The movie did address a few key points.  The lunch scene, where Hammond addressed the scientists after viewing the velociraptors being fed. And the incubator scene where Malcolm berates Dr. Wu with questions about natural breeding. Wu states: “The dinosaurs could not be bred in the wild due to them all being female.”

(The following quotes are spoken during the lunch scene and address the lack of discipline involving the cloning process to bring the ancient species back.)

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it.”

(Another addition to Malcolm’s lines during the scene.)

“Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”

They resonate a serious tone about scientific power at the time, where, we tried to create what we could as fast as we could, without thinking of the danger of what we were doing; and it could be taken to another level without consulting with the public. It also portrays that uncontrolled science and technology could be a terrible thing. It also goes to show that just because you have obtained the knowledge and knew how to do it—doesn’t mean you should.  The main theme of this scene and the incubator scene are about control—which—the park lacked and that it is why it had its problems. Yet, the theme is downplayed in the movie compared to the book—Malcolm would and does rant about conservation, discipline, and taking what could happen into consideration.  While, novel Malcolm, is almost the complete opposite of movie Malcolm.

Spielberg, also, combined and changed characters from the novel.  In the film: Grant can’t stand to be around kids and the movie follows his coming to understand and love children (classic Spielberg, coming into fatherhood after reluctance). Genaro is another example of a character swap—in the novel, he is portrayed and somewhat timid and very cautious, and not so much caring about the money.  While, the film version, he is cowardly, greedy and not much into anything else. He was also mixed with another character from the novel: Ed Regis, a PR rep who takes the group on the tour of the park and causes the T-rex to escape its enclosure.  While in the film—Genaro runs from the vehicle setting off the infamous T-rex attack scene. And promptly, devoured on a toilet.  Genaro in the novel isn’t killed at all—In fact he comes around to be a hero—fighting off a velociraptor and calling a ship back and saving Costa Rica from a dinosaur invasion.  Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) is another character who survives the book and dies in the film.  In the book, Muldoon is a badass—he has his demons of being an alcoholic but makes up for it in his heroics. Also, Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler are an item. In the novel, she is a student and his assistant.  They also give a little backstory about her fiancé and how she plans to marry him after she graduates. Again, a lot of subtle differences between the book and the film.

So, what makes the book good, what makes it a good movie? The answer is simple: It’s different.  While the novel is mentally stimulating and fascinating to think about.  The movie creates an atmosphere—it shows you the wonder and awe of seeing what you’ve always wanted to lay your eyes upon, a dinosaur, and the movie treats the creatures as actual animals.  When the scientists first come to the park they are in awe. They become fascinated with their childhood dreams.  You see the creatures breathing, eating, and suffering from disease.

If anything, Jurassic Park is known for two things: The music and special effects. The special effects of the nineties were limited—computers had not been used too much for creatures, with the exception of the glass creature in Young Sherlock Holmes, and the main villain of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Spielberg hadn’t a clue which method he would take for full body shots of the dinosaurs—he was leaning towards the use of Stop Motion animation, and once he saw the tests for the stop—motion, he was not impressed.  However, he was blown away from the CGI tests and decided he would go with computer images for most of the full-bodied animals.  For the close-up shots, the film would use animatronic heads and partial bodies. What really made this work is how the CGI and the animatronics were blended together to create the illusion of a real life creature.  It brought the illusion of amazement and belief that an ancient creature could be brought back from the dead.

Music is another aspect that brought life into Jurassic Park.  John Williams, the composer created a masterpiece with his score; a score that can transport you to an ancient world.  What makes the soundtrack work is that the music, in itself, promotes power and wonder.  One of the few soundtracks to a movie that isn’t a piece of music but an addition to the scene, the music acts as a special effect; giving the scene the power to captivate. When you listen closely to the soundtrack. Scenes from the movie will come rushing back into your head, a rare feat. Williams didn’t compose music for the movie, he created the breath of the movie.  Of course, what ties the whole movie together is the direction of, Steven Spielberg. There are rumors floating around that he didn’t want to make the movie and that if he didn’t make it Schindlers’ List would have never seen the light of day.

Regardless, he created a family film and one that everyone could enjoy.  He worked with some of the top experts to make sure that the movie could stand the test of time and it did. Spielberg chose actors who weren’t top billed, he wanted to create characters that people would remember.  He didn’t just shoot at a movie studio.  He wanted a location that looked prehistoric and a place people could visit. Jurassic Park may not be one his best films, but it is one that is enjoyable. Spielberg took the chance to show us that a movie can bring a family together and a little journey to the past could be a wondrous thing. Even after twenty-four years, with the release of Jurassic World, people still flock to the theater with their children to share in a magical memory and to be blown away by special effects and the simple pleasure of seeing a dinosaur on the big screen.  Jurassic Park will be a movie that our kids will share with their kids and so-on.  It captures a piece of us, a time when we were all so innocent and could be captivated by a little make believe and a little science.

Jurassic Park will always be a part of my heart and will always be what got me to start writing at a young age.  The film, the novel, it all represents a dream of someone wanting something bigger, someone wanting something they could feel and touch.  Life will always find a way, and so will Jurassic Park.

Kurt Thingvold is no stranger to Machine Mean, having reviewed for us on several occasions, including his previous review on Godzilla (1954). Kurt was born and raised in IL. He finds passion in writing, that helps calm his demons. He grew up in a tough household that encouraged reading and studying. He spends his time writing in multiple of genres. His published short story, Roulette, can be found on Amazon. When not writing he can be found playing games, reading, or attempting to slay the beast known as “Customer Service”, which, he fails at almost every day. As mentioned, Kurt is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean, you can also check out his previous review on Ridley Scott’s legacy movie Alien here.

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Jurassic World: a few thoughts amidst a sea of rumor

Jurassic Park, 1993

Jurassic Park, 1993

During the summer months in 1993, in the small village of Roanoke, Virginia, my father, mother, sister, and I had trekked 10 miles to Valley View Movie Theater to watch the latest Spielberg film, Jurassic Park. AND IT WAS AMAZING. Ever since, I’ve been in love with this movie and have dutifully watched its progression over the years (decades…ugh..). Jurassic Park is a true classic. How so? Sure, the film strays away from Michael Crichton’s novelization, but lets be honest here, who actually read the book before the movie? Not many, I’d wager. Despite its wandering from its predecessor, the movie has lasted the test of time in that its effects are not completely ridiculous….at least not yet. The movie was also well casted with amazing actors and actresses, such as: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Samuel mother-f***ing Jackson, Wayne Knight, BD Wong, and the Goldblum. Jurassic Park is also a true classic because it was the first movie to give audiences and dino-fanatics alike an actually well put together production without using traditional claymation (50’s-60’s era); instead, Jurassic Park used a combination of to-scale puppetry and CGI. And considering this is a 90’s movie and just about all 90’s movies with CGI look damn ridiculous by now, and Jurassic Park has yet to cross that threshold, also says a lot about the production value and how good sci-fi can be done with a golden ration between traditional effects and CGI.  If you’ve read a post or two here, you’ve no doubt heard me rant a time or two regarding the issue with CGI, so…i’ll take a step back from my soap box for now. Another thing that makes Jurassic Park even more amazing (if that’s possible!!) is that its a movie my wife and I both love!! This alone sales me on the classiness of Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park has enjoyed three films with its title over the years…..some not as good as the others, some not bad. Now a forth installment called Jurassic World has begun filming and the rumors have been spinning over what this new dino movie will be about. Here is what Geek Tyrant has discovered regarding the new Jurassic Park:

Some new SPOILER filled details from Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World have emerged thanks to our friends at JoBlo.com. I’m really looking forward to being reintroduced to this world that Steven Spielberg created in 1993. Not a lot has been officially revealed about this newest film, but there’s some really interesting and cool info for you that you should check out if you’re excited for the movie. Of course, the info may contain spoilers, but it’s not confirmed, so is it really a spoiler? I’m treating all of this as rumor for now, but I hope some of it turns out to be true. Here we go!

The Park:

Jurassic World will be a real running theme park that comes complete with a monorail that was teased in some previously released concept art. And no theme park would be complete without shops, rides, and shows. The report goes on to say that it’s the most popular family destination. People have to take a high speed shuttle boat from Florida to get there, and some of the activities include a dinosaur petting zoo (because that’s a good idea!), as well as a hologram info center where you can learn about the methods they are using to create dinosaurs. I’m sure it’s a much better version than the one made in ’93. The park also has a ride called the “Gyrosphere” that allows riders to travel through the park and get up close to some of the dinosaurs.

How Things Go Wrong:

All good things must come to an end at the successful park, and the executives start to come up with new ways to keep customers coming back. One of the ways they do that is by splicing Dino DNA with other dino species. This doesn’t turn out too well for them, especially when they splice together the DNA of a T-Rex, raptor, snake, and cuttlefish. This creates an insane new dino that ends up breaking free and terrorizing the park. One of the dinosaur consultants on the film, Jack Horner, teased the beast in a previous interview, saying that we’ll want to “keep the lights on” after seeing it.

Dino Fighting:

It should come as no surprise that we will see dinosaurs fighting each other in the film, but the site’s source explains that there will be “lots of dino on dino fighting, as some of the dinos are ‘good guys’ that are trained by Chris Pratt’s character.” The source goes on to say that the raptors and T-Rexes are among the “trained” good dinosaurs. As for the evil dino they created, it’s described as having “instant camouflage abilities, like the cuttlefish, so he blends into the background, is smart like the velociraptor, uses his jaw like a snake, and can terrorize like the T-Rex.” That sounds like a pretty hardcore beast.There’s some really great stuff here that the filmmakers have to play with if it’s true. I just can’t wait to see what this new breed of dinosaur will look like! It sounds like it will be pretty terrifying, though. As a long time fan of this franchise, I’ve been feeling really good about what I’m hearing about the movie so far. What do you think of the details that have been revealed here?

The movie is currently shooting with stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Judy Greer, and Nick Robinson. It’s set to be released in theaters on June 12th, 2015.

So…what do you think? Personally, I’m having a few concerns. However, having a fully functional theme park sounds pretty amazing, as we only got a test drive back in 1993 with the first installment. And having things go wrong…well…it wouldn’t be a “Jurassic Park” without something going wrong. Here is where it gets weird…the spliced Dino (at first) sounds iffy. But first, lets consider  the theme of Jurassic Park, especially in the first film, which is basically taking the then current pop science of mapping DNA and cloning and throwing in the inevitable human calamity to create the classic “science gone wrong” motif. Considering the classic science gone awry motif, splicing doesn’t sound that far off base in terms of what these movies and the books have always been about. In 2014, DNA mapping and cloning isn’t as mysterious as it once way, mutation and genetic splicing on the other hand, does (while also maintaining a classic story trope in itself, see Island of Doctor Moreau). Plus, do we really need another “rescue from the island” story? Heavens no! The last two films, Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 have beaten that horse into mash; its time for something new.

So…while some of the rumor regarding Jurassic World seems iffy and makes us Jurassic Park nerds a little nervous, lets reserve judgement until we actually get to watch this thing, or at least until a decent trailer comes out. Until then, my friends, I leave you with this little gem to take you back to 1993 and a very fond childhood memory: