Wednesday, October 23, 2013

55. Jurassic Park (1993)

Code-name: T-Rex

Type: Action/adventure, drama, sci-fi

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Michael Crichton (based on his novel, also co-wrote screenplay),
David Koepp (other credits include: Jurassic Park II, "Spider-Man" and "Angel & Demons)

Dr. Alan Grant- Sam Neill
Dr. Ellie Sadler- Laura Dern
Dr. Ian Malcolm- Jeff Goldblum
John Hammond- Richard Attenborough
Dennis Nedry- Wayne Knight (hey... Newman!)
Donald Genarro (the "bloodsucking lawyer")- Martin Ferrero
Game Warden Robert Muldoon- Bob Peck
Mr. Arnold- Samuel L. Jackson
Tim- Joseph Mazzello
Lex- Ariana Richards

Notable music: John Williams

Notable Awards and Nomination:
OSCAR- Best Sound
OSCAR- Best Sound Editing
OSCAR- Best Visual Effects
nominated- Grammy- Best Instrumental Composition for movie or TV (John Williams)


A Nostalgia Trip Down Memory Lane

This movie and I go WAY back. After "Aladdin," it was the second movie my dad took me to see. My recollections are all but gone by this point (it was 20 years ago and only 7 at the time)... but given that it's a PG13 film, I'm led to believe it did freak me out. Especially with the first T-Rex scene. "Oh my god" was my go-to interjection for every startling moment.

I don't know if it was my idea because I loved dinosaurs at that time (that's still true, but at that time, I want to grow up to be a paleontologist)... It could have been my dad's idea because he was the one who took me.
We had since seen every "Jurassic Park" movie in theaters.

Except for the 3D re-release. I put my foot down on that one.

I never read the Michael Crichton novel, but I have the junior novelization :-P somewhere...

Way back in the day, we had a computer game version of it. Although "game" might be the wrong word. Most of it was screensavers, which were scenes taken right out of the movie.

For that reason alone, I remembered SO much of the dialogue even when I had no idea what they were talking about. Not just in the grand scheme of things, but what different words and phrases meant.
The most vivid was the lunch time scene where Ellie, Alan and Ian gave their reasons to Hammond as to why this was a terrible idea. Specifically, Dr. Malcolm's tirade. So hilarious that it bears repeating.... because it included, as Yogurt from "Spaceballs" put it: "merchandizing!"

"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
[bangs on the table] you're selling it, you wanna sell it."

Then there's John Hammond's flabbergasted response (which I do know by heart):

"I don't believe it. You're meant to come down here and defend me against these characters and the only one I've got on my side is the bloodsucking lawyer!"

Funny how when I was younger, this stuff wasn't just vivid word for word, but down to the line delivery (something people mock Jeff Goldblum for CONSTANTLY) and how it's paced.

I also had a Jurassic Park sleeping bag :-P merchandizing merchandizing!

With Age Comes Knowledge and Understanding

I went to college in the sciences and understand quite a bit of the scientific jargon behind the genetic engineering of dinosaurs.
Having said that, I'm not as bright as the characters from "Big Bang Theory" where I could explain it just as well.

In layman's terms,
Hammond's scientists found a way to lift dinosaur DNA from mosquitos preserved in amber (fossilized tree sap) and fill in the genetic code with frog DNA to create dinosaurs. They also made sure that all the dinosaurs were female.

Having accomplished all this, he decided to use his fortune to create a theme park with the dinosaurs as attractions... a combination of Sea World and San Diego Wild Animal Park, if you will.

The movie opens with an "incident" that happens at the park. Muldoon is the only main character to witness this. They were transporting velociraptors when one of the men doing the transport got pulled into the cage and eaten.
Donald Generro was brought onboard to make sure the park would be safe, most likely because a lawsuit was pending over the man's death.

Cut to paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sadler, who are on a dig in Montana where they had just unearthed a velociraptor.
They're good friends who know each other pretty well, have great chemistry, but for whatever reason, they aren't a couple. (That remains true throughout the film series... I only say this because I'm still surprised that they weren't an item. In real life, Laura Dern dated Jeff Goldblum for a short time after this movie).
John Hammond stops by (rather indiscreetly, might I add), asking them to come to his park to get the opinion of experts. On the helicopter ride, they get acquainted with Dr. Malcolm and Genarro.

Roughly 15-20 minutes into the movie is when its "epic" nature starts to set in.
I state that as fact as well as fanatically.
Underrated it may be, the score that plays when they come into view of the island is one of my favorites from John Williams... the only one that surpasses it is, obviously, the theme from "Star Wars". It has a sense of triumph that draws oohs and aahs almost immediately. You know something exciting is about to happen.

Case-in-point: We're introduced to the Brachiosaurus.
I'm sure my first reaction was a jaw-dropping, kinda like Grant & Sadler.
The last time I saw the movie, I almost teared up :-P my thought bubble would either say "it's so beautiful" or "I wish these were still alive"

After they see the "educational" film and a velociraptor hatch out of an egg (gee, you think there's a theme going here?), we have the lunch room scene where everyone but Hammond and Genarro are absolutely skeptical.

Dr. Malcolm's shtick is "Chaos Theory." In a nutshell, his belief is that genetic engineering goes against the flow of the universe and man will, theoretically, pay the price for it.
Reminds me of the Law of Equivalent Exchange in the animé series "FullMetal Alchemist" or simply the Law of Conservation of Energy... energy cannot be created or destroyed, nor should it be tried.

The last characters (not counting the dinosaurs) to be introduced are Hammond's grandkids, Lex and Tim. Lex calls herself a "hacker," which comes out to mean she's great with computers. Meanwhile, Tim is a Dr. Grant-fanatic dino-phile, well-read and precocious.

Not only does to make the movie relatable to the younger audience that Spielberg undoubtedly targeted with this project, but it provides an opposing force for Dr. Grant to work with...
he's not crazy about kids (something mentioned a number of times, but explained best in the scene where he teases a kid with a raptor claw).

Two cars (one with the kids and Genarro and the other with Drs. Grant, Sadler and Malcolm) leave on a demo tour throughout the park.
Unfortunately, none of the dinosaurs show up on cue.

On top of that, they come upon a sick triceratops- Dr. Grant's favorite species.
Dr. Sadler stays behind with one of the gamekeepers to figure out what happened.
One of the sadder moments in the movie and, sadly, among the loose ends they forget to tie up in the end.

Not that the episode with Dennis Nedry was exactly a "loose end".
Except for the velociraptors, he's the only "villain" this movie has... and not a very good one at that. He's one of the techies working on the computers that operate the electric fences.
Early in the movie, there's a scene where he's meeting this guy ("Datson! Datson! We've got Datson here!") who asks him to steal dinosaur embryos, giving him a tricked out shaving cream container to keep them cold and viable.

I don't know who these guys are working for and we don't get the opportunity to find out why.
Nedry goes out of his way to disable the security systems of the park just so he isn't seen stealing these embryos. The idiot gets himself killed by a dinosaur (a threatening, and supposedly inaccurately constructed, Dilaphosaurus) and the container with the embryos gets washed away in the storm.
You really can't expect much from Newman from "Seinfeld," but it always kinda bothered me that nobody found about all this. Never found that he stole the embryos or killed the electric fences... nothing...

Of course, everyone's too busy avoiding the T-rex and Velociraptors and getting eaten.
And there will be plenty of casualties... luckily they're people we don't really care about...

Sorry Goldblum Haters, Malcolm survives the chaos, but not unscathed. :-P

It should be noted that Samuel L. Jackson, who plays another techie, is among the causalities. He's not as big a bad-ass in this movie, but still... on the principle that he's one of the biggest bad-asses in cinema, he deserved better.

Much Ado about Sequels

I don't have many complaints about the other movies in this series. None of them are quite as "epic" as the original, but each had something I got into.

I thought it was interesting how they featured characters from the original, but not together.

In the 2nd one, Jeff Goldblum (stop groaning, haters!) returns. This time, Hammond asks him to survey what's going on with another island he set up. Only this time, the dinosaurs run free and people like Malcolm's ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Julianne Moore) are studying them.
It's the last installment to feature Hammond because he was practically on his deathbed here. We also see Lex and Tim briefly.

The main story is that he goes to the island to protect Sarah from the dinosaurs while dealing with his teenage daughter, who he almost never spends time with. And there's a family of T-Rexes that end up rampaging in San Diego.

In the 3rd installment, we follow up with Dr. Grant and Sadler (although she's only seen on the other side of a telephone). She's happily married with a kid. He starts the movie at a press conference, denying that the plot of the first movie never happened. He more or less "pled insanity" and kept telling people he never saw any live dinosaurs.

Then he got wrangled into coming to a dinosaur-inhibited island by an estranged couple (William H. Macy, Tea Leoni) looking for their son who disappeared in a wind-sailing accident (caused by a pterodactyl).
Velociraptors make their return here, but the main villians are pterodactyls and a spinosaurus (which took out the T-Rex in record time... making it the movie where it has the least screen time).

My favorite moment in that movie is where Grant finds the boy and they have a pretty intelligent conversation. Firstly about using T-Rex pee to repel predators. And secondly, talking about books.
He liked Grant's first book better, the one he wrote before "Jurassic Park" happened.
And thought Malcolm's book was "kinda preachy," talking too much about chaos theory.
Grant loved that comment for obvious reasons :-P

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