Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jurassic Park

There are certain movies that have the unique ability to both terrify and entertain us at the same time. Especially as impressionable young children, special effects can have a marvelously resonant impact on our easily rattled imaginations. The images that frighten us as children have the power to stay with us for life. I mean, I'm still afraid of being eaten by dinosaurs while innocently settling a velociraptor in its isolated caged environment during a promising career stint as a genetic engineer on a Costa Rican Island. Still.

While we may be unfazed by dazzling computer generated visual effects today, we were incredibly impressed when it was still a fledgling enterprise. Before computer animation, visual effects in movies were less than convincing to say the least. Yes, the movie industry had had years to come up with all sorts of perspective and angle-based trickery, but it just wasn't as thrilling to see a spacecraft careening through the galaxy with little strings attached to its sides.

Jurassic Park was incredibly pioneering in the field of visual effects, unleashing upon audience such a series of incredibly realistic-looking prehistoric creatures that they had never seen before. In previous films with dinosaurs in the plot, the beasts themselves had been laughably unconvincing. In Jurassic Park, however, the close interaction of the computer animated dinosaurs and the human actors was enough to have all of us trembling in our movie seats. While it may not be up to snuff by today's standards, in the early 90s it was terrifyingly realistic and unlike anything any of us had ever seen.

Based on the late Michael Crichton's science fiction novel of the same name, Jurassic Park explores the dangerous outcomes of tampering with prehistorical science. Crichton actually began work on the project as a screenplay, but it later grew into a book which would later grow back into a movie under the guidance of Steven Spielberg. Despite its twisted path to production, it was an interesting and chilling story that ultimately drew millions of moviegoers to the theater.

While the plot is certainly farfetched, it's also an interesting and well-conceived premise. The short version of the way-too-complicated-for-me-to-understand-as-a-child set up is that a genetic engineering firm is in the midst of creating a theme park featuring real dinosaurs. Why anyone ever, ever thought this might be a good idea is completely beyond me, but I'm just going to go with it. I mean, me: five foot five. T-Rex: 20 feet. I'm no mathlete, but I'm pretty sure the odds are stacked against me.

The scientists working on the project used prehistoric mosquitoes preserved in amber and extracted from them the years-old dinosaur blood that constituted their last supper. They craftily combined the genetic material with some leftover frog DNA they had laying around and presto change-o, we've got ourselves some dinosaurs. Again, this seems like a totally marvelous and harmless idea that will in no way erupt in the faces of all invested in the project.

Following some complications in getting things off the ground, a team of inspectors arrives to give the park the go-ahead. The CEO of the whole operation invites some prominent and relevant scientists with titles I'm not going to even attempt to spell out for you here. Oh, and he's got his grandkids with him, you know, just in case the dinosaurs have a hankering for a light snack.

A tropical storm and some mild inconveniences later, computer geek Dennis Nedry (You know, Newman from Seinfeld) is left to tend to the park. Unluckily for the park, Nedry has accepted a substantial bribe from the firm's competitors to provide them with embryos. In order to do so and get away with it, he needs to shut down the park's security system. Yes, the one that controls all the electric fences that keep the dinosaurs in. I think we can all see where this is headed.

It's about at this point in the movie that everyone either starts dying vicious and gory deaths or running for their lives. Obviously Nedry's got to bite it, after all he started it, so it's really only fair that he gets eaten alive by dinosaurs. Our lawyer pal doesn't fare too well, either. To be fair, I guess that's probably what you get for voluntarily isolating yourselves with ferocious prehistoric beasts.

As if things weren't bad enough, the survivors come across a nest of freshly hatched eggs, which was totally not in the plan. All of the dinosaurs were supposed to be females, but conveniently for the twisting plot these frogs they used have some sort of gender mutation. That can't be good. Thanks a lot B.D. Wong, you played the scientist who was supposed to have taken care of that. To think I trusted you as Franc's assistant in Father of the Bride.

A park engineer (Samuel L Jackson, because it just wouldn't be a movie without him) attempts to break into the now-deceased Nedry's computer, but to no avail. Of course the only way to get into the files is to shut everything down, which seems like a pretty ominous sign when we've already got man-eating dinosaurs abounding. There's a fair amount of bloodshed during this part, and by fair I mean more than enough fodder to give a kid nightmares for months. Believe me, I know.

Finally they get connected with their crappy modem and manage to call for help, requesting a helicopter to retrieve them from the mounting wreckage they've unleashed on the island. I don't want to give too many spoilers (i.e. the memories are still to traumatic to recount) but suffice it to say the survivors make a narrow escape and leave us with a vague enough ending to warrant not just a sequel but a legitimate franchise.

In case that synopsis just didn't do it for you memory-wise, here's a handy condensed version:

When the movie was released, it soon became the highest-grossing film of all-time. Sure, it got knocked off its top spot by Titanic, but it's still definitely up there. Even watching the movie today after all I know about advances in animatronic modeling and computer imaging, it's still pretty terrifying. I suppose that's testament to its staying power. If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go hide under the bed.


Au Lapin Blanc said...

I can't believe that despite having watching this film 100s of times I never picked up on the repetition of 'Spared no expense'


f.B said...

I read the book first. And I think my kid-brain anticipated this movie with more excitement than I've ever had about anything. I begged to go see it and then promptly shielded my eyes while frightened.

Nikki said...

I remember going to see this in 7th grade when it first came out. The theater was so crowded, I couldn't sit with my mom and sister, so I sat in the row in front of them next to a stranger. When the scene with the velociraptors in the kitchen happened, everyone in the theater was screaming, and I was CRYING and scrabbling at the stranger's arm in absolute terror. He thought it was hilarious. Ah, memories...

Anonymous said...

I've seen this film so many times that I had it memorized at one point. The scene where Lex falls through the ceiling and almost gets her butt bitten by the raptors freaks me out every time.

Sadako said...

My brother and I still go around quoting from this movie.


You breed...raptors on this island?

We have a T-Rex!

And of course we always scream at Tim to go hand Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler the tranquilizer gun that they were trying to reach when they were trying to get the doors shut. Lex was using the computer, sure, but Tim couldn't go over and hand someone the goddamned gun?!

Anonymous said...

LOVE Jurassic Park! My brother and I used to play Jurassic Park and pretend we were running away from dinosaurs, haha! Now we love the ride at Universal Studios every time we go down to Orlando!

Jenny.Lee said...

I loved the first Jurassic Park movie. Paleontology was my thing growing up. LOL

Marci Darling said...

This was my favorite movie when I was like, 5. It makes me sound so demented!

Melanie's Randomness said...

This movie scared the Hell out of me. I think I went to see it in theaters, so I was wayyy little. Omg. I say all the time, "Must go Faster, Must go Faster" like Jeff Goldblum. The Jurassic Park ride at Universal in Florida is one of the scariest rides I have ever been on!!

I tagged you for an award dear. I think you already got it but you deserved it again. <3 ur blog!!

love lives in the kitchen said...

i remember jurassic park! it was scary when i was a kid but now it seams so silly to me:)
thank you for sharing!
wish you a great weekend!

Will said...

This was my first midnight showing.

I fell asleep in it, due to a combination of swim team practice twice a day (early morning, late evening) and the time between practice spent playing in the pool.

My little brother and I were joking the other night with the family guy reference of killing Quagmire and a dinosaur taking his body.

Hollywood Sucker said...

OH OH OH I was so young and scared when I saw this in theaters! I hugged my knees to my chest the whole time.

Lauren Elizabeth said...

that movie scared the living daylights out of me!

Nashe^ said...

Who can talk about dinosaurs and not think of Jurassic Park, right??

ark said...

This is such a coincidence! Me and my friend just watched this two days ago. I went out and bought it cuz she had never seen it and I thought it was a travesty! Love this movie and the special features are awesome. The special effects are mind blowing!

Molly said...

How old was I when this was in theaters, nine or ten? I LOVED this movie so hard, and I still do. It really holds up - the dinosaurs still look amazing, and it's even more amazing when you consider that a lot of it was done with animatronics.

I still get goosebumps when we see the dinosaurs for the first time. Even though I've seen it at least twenty times by now.

Anonymous said...

90s tv shows were always amazing. On top of that this movie was just a pure classic. I love watching it over and over. I remember seeing it twice in theaters while I was still a child. Once with my friends and then one again with my family. Oh how the nostalgia runs though my veins...

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