Tuesday, February 26, 2019

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Jurassic Park
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson
Released June 11, 1993
Viewed in theaters: Summer of '93

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (Won)
Best Sound Effects (Won)
Best Visual Effects (Won)

Without doubt, the score to Jurassic Park (how did John Williams not get nominated for it? Although he still won that year (for Schindler's List) and I'm sure he has a billion other awards, but still...) is super iconic and probably in the top five for most recognizable movie scores ever. So while you read this review, it's only fitting that I set the mood by providing you with said iconic score. Then you can come back and listen to it again while you view the images of cute/cartoon dinosaurs I found on the web! By the way, if for some reason, you have never seen this movie (or read the book!), there WILL BE SPOILERS!

If you stop to think about it, dinosaurs were an impressive species. They lived on this planet for 165-175 millions years. Humans (modern humans, anyway) have only been around for a couple hundred thousand years. We have a long way to go before we even reach the dinosaurs! I'm sure if you have ever taken an anthropology class, you have learned that if the timeline of the Earth (nearly four and a half billion years) was condensed down to the span of a day, humans wouldn't appear until the last minute of that day. We are just a speck in the grand scheme of things, especially compared to the dinosaurs.

Want to hear something that will blow your mind? Dinosaurs were first here between 231 and 243 millions years ago and they went extinct 65 million years ago which means they were on Earth longer than they've been gone!

Not surprisingly, dinosaurs, in some form or other, have been featured in many movies, but none have been more popular than Jurassic Park and its successors (but we all know the original is the best) as it features the most "realistic" dinosaurs, even though we now know that dinosaurs had feathers. I do like that line in Jurassic World where Henry Wu states that their dinosaurs don't look like the dinosaurs of the real world because they use a different genetic code. It's a smart way for the series to acknowledge that the dinosaurs they created wouldn't look exactly like the dinosaurs that once roamed this earth.

I remember this movie being a big thing when it came out. If you were around in 1993 (and old enough to remember), then you remember what a big deal Jurassic Park was. It was THE summer movie of 1993. Hell, it was THE movie of 1993, period. While I'm sure I saw many previews for it, I don't remember them. Maybe I didn't remember them because they never show any of the dinosaurs which would never happen today. True, they can show the dinosaurs in any of the new Jurassic World movies because we know what they look like, but I think that if Jurassic Park came out today, they would have shown the dinosaurs in the trailers.

I honestly don't remember if I had any desire to see it, despite the hype. (Sure, I may find dinosaurs fascinating NOW, but I was never a dino-obsessed kid). However, after my brother saw it with his friends and came home and was raving about it, well, you better believe I had to see this movie. There was no way my brother got to see this amazing movie and I was going to miss it! Uh-huh! So I begged my mom and she took me to see it. I don't remember having to twist her arm too much, so she must have been fine with it. So watching the movie, you would have thought all the jumping I did in my seat was a result of all the scary moments of dinosaurs popping up and attacking. Wrong! I jumped because my mom kept grabbing me every time one of those scary moments happened and that startled me more than anything that was on screen! Not surprisingly, this is one of my most memorable movie theater experiences!

I read the book a few years after I saw the movie. I must have been 15 or 16. My parents already owned the book because it was in our family bookcase. I remember it being very gruesome. Much more than the movie was. I actually re-read the book a couple months ago, and yes, it was as gruesome as I had remembered when I first read it. If they had followed the book faithfully, it definitely would have received an R rating! While the premise of the movie is the same, there are many differences between the book and film.

Tim and Lex (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards) are in the book as John Hammond's (Richard Attenborough) grandchildren, but Tim is the older one. Lex is six or seven, and my God, is she ever f*cking annoying. I was hoping she would get eaten by a dinosaur, then I felt bad and had to remind myself she's only a young kid, but she was still super annoying. Her movie counterpart is much less annoying, although she has a moment of pure stupidity when she decides to take out a huge flashlight and turn it on when the T-rex breaks out of its barriers. Now I understand Spielberg's reasoning for this as you get that cool shot of the T-rex's eye dilating, but from the characters' standpoint, it makes no sense at all. Lex (and Tim! He knew! He told her to shut the light off!) is old enough to know that turning on a light is probably going to attract this huge animal with tons of sharp teeth! Luckily Lex gets her redemption when she is able to turn on the computer systems. ("It's a Unix system, I know this.") In the book, it's Tim who figures out the computers. It also makes me laugh when Lex is excited that the Jeep has an "interactive CD rom!" Whoopty-do!

Another huge difference is that there are a lot of characters who live through the movie, but die in the book or vice versa. Gennaro (the lawyer who is sitting on the toilet when he gets eaten by the T-rex) lives through the first book. It is mentioned in The Lost World novel (which I also read recently) that he died of dysentery on a business trip. I guess Michael Crichton just killed him off since he was already dead in the movie. There is another character in the book (the park's public relations manager) who was with the kids in the Jeep and he gets scared and runs out and gets killed by one of the two T-rexes (yet ANOTHER difference..in the book there is an adult T-rex and a juvenile T-rex and he gets killed by the smaller one). Another character who survives in the novel is Robert Muldoon, the overseer of the velociraptors. You may remember him from the beginning of the film when he yells "SHOOT HER" when one of his men gets attacked by a raptor, then when he calls a raptor a "clever girl" after being ambushed and killed by another one.

Park founder John Hammond, geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong), and even mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) all notably survive the horrific day on Jurassic Park (along with our other main characters) as Hammond will make a small appearance in The Lost World; Malcolm also comes back in the second movie and makes an appearance in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; and Wu is in both of the Jurassic World movies. Well, surprise, surprise! They all die in the book! I'm just as surprised as you are! (Well, not really, I already knew about Malcolm's resurrection from the dead and I had a feeling Hammond was going to die). Wu (who has a bigger part in the book...he's only in that scene in the beginning when they're watching the raptor hatch) is killed by raptors and gets a very nasty ending. (He's basically still alive while the raptors are ripping him apart...yikes.) While there are issues with John Hammond in the movie (like the fact that he doesn't think there's anything wrong with cloning dinosaurs and eventually opening a theme park with them), he is absolutely horrible in the book and therefore I knew he was going to die a horrible death. He comments how he wants to make a dinosaur park for all the children to enjoy, then snidely remarks, "All the rich kids, anyway." I mean, he's probably right. The park that was open for ten years that we saw in Jurassic World? You KNOW the same rich families were going year after year, thus the reason they were getting "bored" with the same old dinosaurs. Damn bratty rich kids. Hammond even (internally) curses his own grandchildren (he's much more grandfatherly in the movie!) and his grandkids are kind of the reason he dies! They're playing with a sound system that allows them to play different dinosaur calls and he gets scared when he hears the T-rex, thinking it's close and ends up twisting his ankle or something where he can't really walk very well. There are these little scavenger dinosaurs called procompsognathus (compys) that are not in the first movie, but will play a big part in the next film, as they do in the novel. These things are just pure evil and eat anything that's wounded and can't run away and you can try to shoo them away, but there's so many of them, you can't get away from them, and well, Hammond becomes a buffet for a bunch of them. Yeah, not a pretty way to go. I do recall a scene in The Lost World where somebody (I'm presuming a bad guy!) gets killed by them. Then you have Ian Malcolm who, in the book, gets attacked by the T-rex, then breaks his leg when the large animals throws him. He is said to have died from his wounds, but obviously he is brought back to life in the next book. At least he just had a bad wound, so it's plausible that he didn't really die. Now, if he had died the same way as Nedry (Wayne Knight aka Newman), there's no way he could have survived that as Nedry was dead as a doornail (doorknob?) His death is much more gruesome and graphic in the book! He does get killed by the same dinosaur as in the movie, a dilophosaurus. You get a little bit of foreshadowing of this dinosaur in the beginning when they're taking the Jeeps through the park and the dilophosaurus is the first dino that's featured and the announcer tells them it spits venom into its prey's eyes to paralyze them...and that is exactly what will happen to Nedry in a few scenes. In the book, it is ten feet tall, which is more accurate, while in the movie, it's about the same height as Nedry. It also didn't spit poison in real life and didn't have the frill around its neck.

Speaking of dinosaurs that Jurassic Park took liberties with (well, mainly Michael Crichton), the velociraptor that once roamed this planet is not at all what we see in the movies. They were still something you wouldn't want to come across, but they were a lot smaller, the size of turkeys. Apparently, legend is, the dinosaurs that are described in the book are actually more in line with the deinonychus (never heard of it), but Crichton thought "velociraptor" just sounded cooler and more menacing. And, yeah, he's right. Nobody goes around saying what a fierce and ferocious creature the deinonychus (die-non-uh-cuss) was, but thanks to the success of Jurassic Park and its following movies, everybody and their grandmother have heard of a velociraptor. And they're getting all the credit! Poor deinonychus! I remember a time when no one even knew what a velociraptor was. They might as well just switch the names! Do you think that irritates paleontologists when they watch this movie? There's probably a lot of things that irritate them when they watch this movie (like the dilophosaurus having a neck frill and being able to shoot poison); that's why I'm glad I'm not one, otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy Jurassic Park! 

Speaking of things that probably irritate paleontologists, this probably doesn't come as a huge surprise, but if you did encounter a T-rex, it would be able to see you even if you were standing still, contrary to what Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) says. I guess a paleontologist must have informed Michael Crichton he was wrong (that scene was in the book, right? I honestly don't really remember. To me, the movie is cannon, not the book!) because there's a scene in The Lost World novel where a character (a bad guy, of course) gets eaten by a T-rex because he was misinformed about a T-rex not being able to see him if he just stood there, and nope! Not true! Also, the scene when paleo-botanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Malcolm, and Muldoon are in the Jeep driving away from the T-rex, it would have easily been able to catch up to it and overturn the vehicle. I recently read a book called The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs by a young paleontologist named Steve Brusatte and he touched upon the mistakes the film made.

This movie establishes that opening a theme park with real life cloned dinosaurs is a terrible, terrible idea. (And Jurassic World PROVED it!) I would say Jurassic World was worst in that it was a full-operating theme park and there were many people there that day (although the fatality rate didn't seem to be that high considering there were carnivorous dinosaurs running around!) In Jurassic Park, there was only Hammond and his crew and his guests and grandchildren. The park seems so antiquated compared to what we would later see in Jurassic World. And the dinosaurs didn't seem to be very well contained....especially when the power went off so they could escape from their cages which were held with power lines.

I don't know, if you were going to have a dinosaur theme park, why not start with some simple and non-threatening ones? Why have the T-Rex? I sure as hell wouldn't want to go anywhere near that thing! And then why even create raptors when you know they are one of the most vicious and intelligent of the dinosaurs. (Until Chris Pratt will come along 20 years later to train them!) I mean, when Muldoon tells Grant, "They should all be destroyed" when talking about the raptors, maybe you should listen to the expert! Is Hammond just not thinking about this stuff? At least when his grandchildren are in trouble, he seems to realize what a mistake he made. Just because you CAN do something outrageous (like clone dinosaurs) doesn't mean you SHOULD. This theme is brought up in the movie (and the book). How did Hammond think he was going to feed his sauropods which are easily more than four times the size of an elephant (if not more)? And how much livestock was he going to need to feed all the carnivores? And did he not stop think that the air dinosaurs breathed nearly 65 million (and beyond) years ago would be drastically different from the air we breathe today? Moral of the story? Don't play God!

Jurassic Park is just a little over two hours long, but yet dinosaurs are on screen for only fifteen minutes! I was really surprised when I first learned this fact. I know it takes awhile before we actually see a dinosaur, but I would have guessed at least 30 minutes of dino screen time. Even though a dinosaur may not be shown at all times, we are constantly reminded we are in the midst of them and the atmosphere gives us the perception they're always around even though we may not physically see them. And when they are on screen, they make a huge impression on us (the T-rex attack; the raptors in the kitchen; the flock of gallimimus; the seemingly cute and harmless, but extremely dangerous dilophosaurus, etc.).

What do you call a blind dinosaur? Doyouthinkhesaurus! What do you call a dinosaur that nobody's ever heard of, but is actually the star of Jurassic Park? Deinonychus!

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