Friday, October 11, 2019

Green Phoenix - Jurassic Park Review

A black poster featuring a red shield with a stylized Tyrannosaurus skeleton under a plaque reading "Jurassic Park". Below is the tagline "An Adventure 65 Million Years In The Making".Ever since I was child, I have been obsessed with dinosaurs. I remember watching every possible dinosaur documentary that I could get my hands on, and even some of those documentaries that detailed other non-dinosaur focused prehistoric creatures (I still find myself watching the Walking With series from time to time when I get a chance).

But of all the dinosaur media, none have had a greater impact on my love and passion than the Jurassic Park franchise. While I can only really call the first film a good film, I have always found the entire series enjoyable and thrilling...because, you know, it has dinosaurs in it.

Based on the best-selling 1990 novel by the late Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park was released in 1993 to near universal acclaim.

So let's take a look at one of my favorite films of all time and one of the most influential science fiction thrillers of all time: Jurassic Park.

***
  • Directed by Steven Spielburg
  • Produced by Amblin Entertainment
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 126 Minutes

***

SUMMARY

Following a workplace accident, John Hammond, the millionaire owner of a genetic engineering company called InGen, is pressured by his investors to bring a group of experts and scientists to his upcoming island theme park called Jurassic Park. He seeks out the aid of paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant and paleobotanist. Ellie Satler, as well as a  chaos theoretician named Dr. Ian Malcolm, to come to the island.

On it, the group discovers that InGen has managed to find a way to genetically clone and reintroduce dinosaurs into the world, much to the chargin of Dr. Malcolm. While taking the tour of the island, an incident of corporate espionage occurs when an employee shuts down security and releases dinosaurs in an attempt to steal company assets.

Now trapped on an island of dinosaurs, the group must try to both survive and reclaim control of the island in order to escape.

***

REVIEW

Jurassic Park is an absolute and undisputed classic. From its chilling narrative presentation, to its iconic characters and landmark practical and computer effects, the introduction to this world remains unsurpassed by its successor and an absolute must watch for any film-goer, let alone dinosaur fan. If I can be perfectly frank, you have most likely already seen this movie.


VISUALS - 8/10

When it came out in 1993, Jurassic Park's utilization of both the practical effects of Stan Winston studios and state of the art of computer effects made it one of the most visually striking and revolutionary films of all time.This film was made at the height of Spielberg's directorial popularity and so many of its scenes have become iconic and quintessential elements of our modern cultural zeitgeist. From the T-Rex paddock attack to the very first shot of the Brachiosaurus, so much of this film is just extrodinary to watch, even outside of the narrative.

And perhaps more extraordinarily, even after 26 years, the film holds up surprisingly well. It is rather notorious that CGI tends to age poorly as technology improves and audience expectations rise, but Jurassic Park manages to maintain the illusion much better than many of its contemporaries from around the same time. Much of this is due in large part to the efforts of Stan Winston and his teams' practical effects and animatronics.

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GOD! THIS STILL LOOKS SO DAMN COOL!!!!
You see, making a movie is much like a magic trick. Your goal is to fool the audience into believing what they are seeing is real. CGI allows things to be achieved in film that sometimes could never be done effectively in real-life, but often at the cost of an audiences suspension of disbelief. To overcome this, effective filmmakers have to utilize multiple tricks and techniques simultaneously in order to keep the audience from guessing how the trick is done. Jurassic Park is so effective because many of the most iconic scenes in the film are done with real animatronics mixed with CGI creatures (the T-Rex paddock scene is an excellent example of the switch between the two).

This continuous change-up of the tricks allows the audience to be reintroduced to the magic repeatedly and constantly guessing between the animatronics and CGI which while not as easy to manipulate as it might have been, as the daytime CGI isn't nearly as seamless as the nighttime shots, the fact that a movie as old as I am can stand toe-to-toe with many modern blockbusters and even surpass them is an incredible achievement and worth incredibly high marks.

SOUNDTRACK - 10/10


Just have a listen. I know that you know the iconic music of the very first Jurassic Park. That original introduction to the park, with the swelling theme, is a moment that its sequels have tried desperately to recapture to little effect. It is just so hard to top this score and not only is the score iconic, but it is singularly unique. Nothing else sounds quite like the Jurassic Park soundtrack and you know from the very opening notes exactly what you are watching. Honestly I say just have a listen if you don't believe me.

Beyond the music, the sound effects and sound editing is also incredible. Just seeing a dinosaur isn't nearly as immersive without the sounds to back it up, and the sounds of the dinosaurs have become a staple of so many future dinosaur projects. The sound of the Dilophosaurus still haunts my mind whenever I hear it (and I still don't like watching Nedry's scene to this day). But there is also the raptor sounds which have often been duplicated (or attempted therein) for other raptors, and the absolute classic that is the motherfucking T-Rex.

Cue the Nostalgia Critic's "Motherfuckin' T-Rex".

The soundtrack and sounds of the original Jurassic Park have become a hallmark of science-fiction, horror, and the cultural perceptions of dinosaurs and have long been perhaps the greatest legacy of the film series, and among the few aspects of the entire saga that remained quite high, even if it was mostly by aping this soundtrack in the sequels.

CHARACTERS - 9/10

Dr. Alan Grant. Played by magnificent pig farmer Sam Neill (that isn't a dig, check out his Twitter page, it is absolutely amazing!)

Dr. Ian Malcolm. Played by the never duplicated Jeff Goldblum (performing the role that he has been essentially replicating his entire career).
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Introducing: The Jurassic Park players


John Hammond. Played by Lord Richard Attenbourough, the eternal grandfather and the single greatest promotion for his brother David Attenbourough's documentary film career (as the two sound eerily similar).

These characters, much like the visuals and soundtrack, have become iconic and cultural touchstones. Are they essentially archetypes and stereotypes, even remaining largely color-coordinated for audience convenience?

Absolutely.

Do I have give a damn?

Absolutely not. The characters are extremely memorable due in part to a stellar cast; with even relatively minor characters and obvious dino-fodder becoming notoriously popular deaths. We have the exceptional talents of Wayne Knight and Samuel Jackson playing the irascible Mr. Arnold and sleazy Dennis Nedry, whose demise is one of my favorites (despite my continued terror at the scene).

But beyond the human characters, even the dinosaurs themselves have cultural legacies. The velociraptors have become synonymous with intelligence and cunning movie monsters. Before Jurassic Park, raptors were largely ignored in media. But nowadays, the raptors have inspired everything from Godzilla to King Kong, becoming iconic movie monsters in their own rights.


And of course, there is the T-Rex. Known to fans as Rexy (and by Dinosaur Supervisor Phil Tippett as "Roberta"), the T-Rex of Jurassic Park is so famous that it, much like the velociraptor, has almost certainly become the image of the T-Rex in everyone's mind, in spite of the errors that we now know the movie's made with regards to both creatures appearance (No feathers on either movie dinosaur and the real-life velociraptor was the size of turkey).

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Guest Starring: Roberta as the MOTHERFUCKIN' T-REX
Not that any of this really matters in the grand scheme, as the entire point of the Jurassic Park films is that creatures presented aren't real dinosaurs. They are genetically engineered monsters and a symbol of man's hubris of nature. They aren't meant to be realistic, but the same kind of suspense and horror that Crichton was famous for, much like his other work The Andromeda Strain.

Looking back at so many amazing and memorable characters, it really is a shame that the rest of the franchise is filled with so many forgettable and reductive characters. If they had been stronger, maybe the Jurassic Park franchise could have seen greater success in its earlier years.

It's food for thought. Maybe a future editorial for Building Better Backstories could be on how I would improve the Jurassic Park franchise after the first film?

STORY - 9/10

Michael Crichton's original Jurassic Park novel is a story rooted in much of the late author's previous works. The hubris of mankind and the horror of technology when combined with human pride and greed have long played a role in the works of Crichton, from Congo to The Andromeda Strain. And the original novel of Jurassic Park is perhaps the best example of the author's particular oeuvre.

The original novel is filled with discussions of chaos theory and themes of greed's destructive influence. The original John Hammond was described as an mad scientist Walt Disney and Nedry's actions were influenced partially by cruelties enacted upon him by InGen, the company behind the park. But the movie simplifies much of the story elements of the original, allowing some narrative elements to be explored in later movies, games, and comics (to varying degrees of success).

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The scene you will likely never see in a Jurassic Park film.
Jurassic Park is a streamlined version of the original Crichton novel, exploring a more adventure-oriented take, where the original book could've easily been an R-rated horror flick (which was the original plan in early productions of the film). Much of the gore and deep philosophical discussion is left sub-textual, and the entire plot-line of island breeding and escaped creatures is largely dropped, except for one single scene with Dr. Grant and the kids.


But this makes sense. The original Jurassic Park is a very cerebral work, much like the rest of Crichton's work. It would be quite difficult to adapt it as a high-budget horror film (as horror is not a very well respected genre in the film industry). So concessions had to be made, and the dropping of some narrative ideas allowed them to be explored in future works (even if they weren't).

And even leaving aside its connections to the original, Jurassic Park the film is still a deeply exciting, thought provoking, and stunning story of survival and illusory nature of man's power over nature. The story continues to excite and incite, and the rest of the series has tried in vain to reach the level of intelligence and narrative cohesion that Spielberg's original attempted to achieve.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have very little I can say in the negative with regards to Jurassic Park. Some of the effects haven't aged as well as they could've, but who really cares when you get down to it? The dinosaurs still look amazing, the characters are wonderfully simple and consistent. The adventure thrills and terrifies with questions posed throughout the author's original book, set to a stunning soundtrack; to create an iconic cinematic masterpiece that the rest of the Jurassic Park franchise has been trying for two and a half decades to replicate.



VISUALS
  • 8/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 10/10
CHARACTERS
  • 9/10
STORY
  • 9/10

 FINAL SCORE - 9/10

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