Friday, May 22, 2015

Movie Review - Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park
Based on the book by Michael Crichton
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson, Cameron Thor, Miguel Sandoval, Gerald R. Molen, BD Wong, Richard Kiley, and Greg Burson
Release Date: June 11th, 1993
Rating: ★★
To Buy

After the death of a worker on his theme resort on an island off the coast of Costa Rica, John Hammond has to agree to an inspection that his investors are demanding through their lawyer Gennaro. Gennaro is bringing in the mathematician Ian Malcolm as his auditor, seeing as Malcolm did projections for the project and predicted it's failure. Hammond brings in paleontologist Doctor Grant and paleobotanist Doctor Sattler, as people with a vested interest in his idea as well as being dependant on his grant money to fund their dig. The truth of Jurassic Park is that they have brought dinosaurs back from extinction to serve as the attractions in an amusement park. Hammond has also brought his grandchildren so that his "guests" can see that the park is designed with children in mind. Of course no one listens to Malcolm's dire warnings and everyone is enraptured by the novelty and majesty on display, never thinking about the risks; and for some, only the monetary rewards. But it is one person thinking about his own monetary gain that puts everyone's lives in danger and the future of the park in jeopardy.

Prior to this past weekend I had only seen Jurassic Park the once. At the one dollar budget cinema. With my mom. After I read the book for my high school biology class. What can I say? There weren't Muppets in it, teenage me wrote it off. Of course I'd catch bits and pieces over the years on TV, those "famous" and "memorable" scenes that everyone remembers, but never did I sit down and watch it in it's entirety. Unlike the book which relied a little on that adolescent knowledge of dinosaurs that still resides in us all, there is no doubt in my mind that Spielberg made this movie for eleven year old boys; as evidenced by the fact that my brother has seen this film innumerable times in the theater and I'm sure if pushed could have recited the movie word for word. Re-watching it with him I was alerted to not only when the "big scenes" were coming up, but also when the funniest ones where, ie, when Tim gets electrocuted. Overall though I was left with this impression of mystification. This was the highest grossing film until Titanic came out? Seriously!?!

I really wish I could read the script that Crichton wrote, before the exposition and violence was removed; in other words, before talking DNA cartoons took over the exposition. It was like having that stupid talking paperclip in Word pop up to annoy you, offer no good advice, and then stick around long after he'd worn out his welcome. There is no way around the fact that Jurassic Park is schlocky! Yes, I know, I was shocked by schlock! That little talking DNA cartoon is symbolic of everything that went wrong with the new script from a man most known for the unwatchable Death Becomes Her. The plot was streamlined almost into irrelevance, the characters became more stereotypical, look at Doctor Sattler mooning over children and sighing wistfully over her ticking biological clock, Hammond isn't a bad guy, he's just an old showman, not that Spielberg would be that obvious to show his hand and his simulacrum, oh yes, he would. And how can we hook those eleven-year-old boys? Add bathroom humor. Literally. Gennaro, who in the book has depth as a family man and as a lawyer really steps it up to be a hero dies ignominiously on a toilet. What The Hell Spielberg! Plus dino snot! Oh, and, heaven forbid carnivore and herbivore are too complicated, let's call them meat-o-saurus and veggie-o-saurus.

If it wasn't for the dumbing down of themes and concepts, then time itself would have destroyed this film. Yes folks, it's time to talk about CGI. Old school CGI, which is exactly what Jurassic Park is, is laughable. I've heard it said that if I were to watch it on Blu-ray it would have been worse... but it was bad enough already. The majestic scenes of the dinos grazing across the fields looks like a bad children's book illustration, but really, it's the fake lake that made me laugh out loud. The truth is technology is changing so rapidly unless it's a physical effect whatever technology was used to make it is already obsolete by the time the movie comes out and as time goes on it looks worse and worse. Thankfully, and surprisingly, there aren't that many dinosaurs in the movie and quite a fair amount of them were made as animatronic. The animatronics hold up far better then any of the CGI, but there's still a schlockiness to them. There's a jitter to the dinosaurs that made me repeatedly think of Gremlins and other low budget horror films. Not to mention the baby raptor looks like the chestburster from Alien... a franchise Stan Winston and his team worked on, so, not that unfair a comparison. Unless you have some special connection to this film you will only be able to see all that is wrong and nothing that is right.

The main aspect of the film that as a designer drove me up the wall is that while in the book they are more then a year away from the launch of the Park and haven't yet moved onto branding and merchandise, here the park is fully branded thanks to Chip Kidd's iconic logo and get your t-shirts while they're hot! It should be noted the in the movie the park isn't opening for over a year as well. I want to know if this was a subtle way to make the "Park" seem real, more like Disneyland, or if it was just to sell merchandise. I want to think it was the former, but the cynic in me knows it was the later. Re-watching Jurassic Park I realized that the entire movie was made to sell merchandise to those rapt eleven-year-olds. As certain scenes came on my brother would be saying things like, oh, you could buy that raptor enclosure as a playset, or the whole visitor's center was another playset. In fact, he pointed out that Jurassic Park was the last big movie to bother with elaborate playsets. But not to fear, it didn't just have playsets and action figures! There were video games and t-shirts and stuffed animals. You name it, Jurassic Park had it. The biggest irony being the ride at Universal Studios! Seriously?!? Do you not get the irony here?

There are two redeeming factors to the film. The first is that Doctor Grant is insufferably rude to those annoyingly precocious children and it gave me some ersatz joy to see the snark seeing as for the entirety of the book I wanted those brats dead. Secondly, and most importantly, the genius that is Jeff Goldblum. It doesn't surprise me in the least that when a sequel was thought of they wanted it to be all about Ian Malcolm. Of course it had problems canonically because Crichton killed off Malcolm at the end of the first book, but that was easily solved with some retconning and a joke from The Princess Bride. Someone on this film had the genius idea to basically let Jeff Goldblum wander around set being Jeff Goldblum. He has a natural insouciance that is needed in the film, not to mention his wardrobe. The film distinctly gets progressively worse the less screen time he has. In fact, this film might have been the start of my Goldblum obsession, and yes, I do love Transylvania 6-5000, proving that I can love and embrace schlock; just the right kind, and Jurassic Park ain't it.


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