In 1993, an 18-year-old me went to his first midnight, opening-night screening of a movie to see the technical marvel that is Jurassic Park. We got our tickets early, hit the Taco Cabana, had some nachos and then went back to the theater and saw the closest thing to real dinosaurs we'd ever seen before cross the screen to John Williams' tremendous score.
|hope you brought a change of undies, doctor|
During that first viewing, I drank my large Coke, then chewed apart the straw, then chewed apart the lid, and was making my way down the cup when Sam Niell looked out the window of the helicopter at the flock of pelicans. I'll bag on a lot of crowd-pleasing directors, but I will fist-fight you over Steven Spielberg. Not every one of his movies is my favorite, but the man knows how to make an entertaining-as-hell two-hour movie.
When I left for college that fall, it was with a Jurassic Park pillowcase and an even firmer idea that pursuing a film degree was a totally keen idea.
If you're older than 30, you're old enough to remember a pre-CGI FX era of models and stop motion. Some of it worked, a lot of it didn't. Jurassic Park broke the mold and changed everything with it's gigantic model dinosaurs paired seamlessly with the first kick-ass CGI to really hit the screen, and all in an era before every pixel of a movie might be somehow digitally shot, processed and manipulated. The CGI portions, I've read, run less the 5 minutes of the total runtime of the movie.
But all that, as we'd see but fail to learn from, wasn't what made the movie work. It was the gigantic scope of the entire experiment that was Jurassic Park the movie paired with a really very good script and actors. I remember, in particular, how weird it felt to have Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum as our leads after a decade of Sylvester Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis cracking skulls and shooting round after round.
Here were three scientists who were supposed to be just that - scientists, not an adventurer who paid the bills by sometimes showing up for class like in the Indiana Jones movies. Sure, everyone is set up perfectly in that Spielbergian mold within two pages of their entrance, but who gives a damn? This isn't Brecht. This is a bunch of folks who are supposed to be giving an island full of dinosaurs a look-see for the insurance adjusters when a System Administrator borks the works for everyone.
Sure, now I see the monumental geographic problems the movie ignores, feel the cadence of Hammond's "spared no expense" line like a tapping on the back of my skull, and am occasionally aware of the other logical fallacies of the movie, but... @#$% it.
I just watched this thing again, and, man... does it hold up as Big Summer PG-13 Blockbuster material. The CGI is shockingly good even by modern standards, the model/puppets look awesome, the acting is good (no body does "scared face" better than Laura Dern) and even the annoying kids aren't that annoying.
Really, what it does have are some film-school text book examples of building tension and getting your characters across in a crowd-pleasing manner. I mean, everyone knows every beat of the T-Rex escapes scene, right down to the sound of dino footsteps and the popping of the electric fence. Throw in the "turn on the power" sequence and the "Velociraptors are in the Kitchen" scene, and that's some textbook good stuff. Stuff the second one tried for and did okay and the third one (not Spielberg) just felt tired.
Anyway, it was a good one to watch again. Get prepped a bit for Jurassic World as it comes out this summer. Sure, it's going to be predictable and kind of dumb (a hybrid dinosaur...? ooookkaayyy...). But I'm going to see this one just like I've seen the other installments in high hopes that I'll dig this one at least 70% as much as the first one.
Watched at: Home on DVD
Watched with: Jamie and Cousin C