Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jurassic Park: Memories 17 Years In The Making

I've been going through some kind of crazy 1/3-life crisis lately. It's lasted about a year now, and there's really no end in sight. I turn 25 tomorrow. Halfway to 50, when my body will really start to shut down, if my parents are any indication. As this crisis goes through, I tend to look back a lot, mostly in shock. Fifteen years since Toy Story?! Thirteen years since I saw the original Star Wars trilogy re-released in theaters?! Seventeen years since I saw my first PG-13 movie in theaters?!

Yes folks, Jurassic Park is seventeen years old now. Can you believe it? I was 8 when I saw the movie, having just had my birthday. I remember looking so much to seeing this movie that I knew next to nothing about. I was just really into dinosaurs at the time. My dad had read the book earlier that year. He was reading it while the family went down to South Carolina to see my grandma, and I would ask him every few minutes what was happening in the book, to his annoyance. I got some TOPPS Jurassic Park trading cards that summer, and a cassette tape full of songs just about dinosaurs. At first my parents said I couldn't see the movie. I was only 8, and at that time, my parents wouldn't even let me watch Ninja Turtles on Saturday mornings. I was pretty sheltered. Yet after my dad saw the movie, he decided that I could see it for my birthday. I can remember that theater experience to this day.

I had never seen such a reaction to a movie. People jumped, some screamed, and a lot of kids (including me) were hiding their eyes in their parents arm a lot of the time. The part that always scared me most was oddly supposed to be comic relief. The Dilophosaurus still kinda freaks me out a little to this day... and the real dinosaur didn't even have what freaks me out about it... Those neck frills and the oil-like poison. Still, those dinosaurs looked damned real, and the movie is still an adrenaline rush.

Now, I've heard a lot of comments in the last few years about Jurassic Park being a lesser film. What is it with this decade and people loving to trash everything that is deemed "nostalgic"? Sure, the movie didn't age well in some respects. "Oh wow! It's an interactive CD-ROM!" The dress style in the movies is also dated to the early 90s. I don't care. It was made in the early 90s and is set there. Case closed. (Although no amount of critical thinking can make me approve of the goofy sound when Nedry slips and falls down the flash-flooded embankment.)

Looking back, I don't think I ever saw the trailer for the movie. I have a feeling that if I did, I would have been kind of disappointed. If you haven't seen it, look here.

It basically is the movie in 3 minutes! And it looks horrible! If you noticed, they only show the animatronic dino shots, and not the CGI ones. That's a good choice, but the trailer gets the feel of the movie all wrong. I guess the movie must have gone all on hype, because I can't see the trailer getting people drawn in. Now the poster on the other hand... come on... it's just classic.

Let me speak of the special effects for a minute. I'm not amazed by CGI a lot these days, but Jurassic Park was one of the first films to use it extensively, and to this 8 year old, those dinosaurs were real. (So real that I kept looking down over the side of my bunk bed that night thinking the dilophosaurus was down there.) Even just viewing it again a few days ago those dinos look real in most shots. The only times where I can very easily tell the CGI are some shots of the kitchen Velociraptors, and the Gallimimus flock. The T-Rex always looks real, and especially in what is one of my favorite scenes. Ellie and Muldoon have found Malcolm and are now searching for Grant and the kids. All of a sudden the Rex bursts from the woods and chases the Jeep they are in. I don't think the T-Rex was as frightening in the other two films. The attack on the Jeep is nerve-wracking to me still. It may have been a robot, but the plexi-glass top of the jeep all of a sudden coming down on those kids... it's pretty chilling. (And let's not forget the humorous but gruesome death of Genaro either. Yet another classic.)

Now, when I was about 14, I finally read the book, and was very surprised at how different it was to the movie. Whole sequences with the dinosaurs were taken out, such as the aviary, the river boat sequence, hiding behind the waterfall from the T-rex... (all of which would appear in some form or another in the 2 lesser sequels) Heck, even the characters were different, especially John Hammond! In the book, John Hammond is more of an exploiter. He can get cranky too. He's not Walt Disney with a dash of Santa Claus like he is in the movie. The movie's main low point, according to critics, was the lack of character development, and all I have to say to that is it was a hell of a lot better than the book's. Now listen up folks, for I have a theory. Read a good book and then see the movie, and you will always be at least slightly disappointed. See a good movie, then read the book, and most likely you will still enjoy the movie, and you'll have enjoyed the book as well. This is Trent's theory of post-literary adaptation. Take of it what you will.

In my point of view, the movie holds up fantastically well. It's still suspenseful, the effects are amazing to this day, the music is some of John Williams' best, and it's miles better than either of the sequels. I seriously recommend that if you have not seen the movie in a while, to sit down, "turn the light off!", and put on the surround sound ("Don't get cheap on me"), and "Hold on to your butts!"

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