Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Andrew's Greatest Movies Ever #1: Jurassic Park

Hey all!

It's been a year or so since I've lasted posted a review. While I apologize for this absence, it was necessary due to school and other activities that required my full attention. I dabbled a little bit in filming YouTube reviews, but for now I'm going to stick to my forte of writing.

I decided that I would publish a series of reviews analyzing my favorite movies. This would help ease me into blogging again. I love writing and have recently realized that I wasn't satisfying my creative outlets sufficiently, so here I am again. Returned. Ready to entertain all with words on a screen. Hopefully, I haven't lost my mojo. Did I really ever have a mojo? Don't answer that. Or do. The Internet is mean, so it would make sense.

For the very first entry into my canon of fantastic movies I will be adding my thoughts on the great film Jurassic Park. This movie essentially raised me and continues to inspire me in my late 20s. It's the most likely choice and well-deserving of #1 on my Greatest Movies Ever List. Keep in mind, this list will mainly consist of my favorite/guilty pleasure movies. This isn't a list that's meant to say, "These are the greatest movies ever made." This is merely a list of movies that I could watch over and over again, without tiring. In a way, we could probably call it "Andrew's List of Endlessly Re-watchable Movies."

Screw it. Call it whatever you want. Call it, "Andrew's Stupid List of Movies That Get Him Hot and Bothered" or "Andrew's List That is Proof He Has No Concept of What Makes a Good Movie." It's up to you.

So here we go. Hold on to your butts.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is the epitome of great science-fiction mixed with great action. It sets the standard for which all action/killer animal movies should be based. This movie literally changed the game. And what's amazing about it is that it still holds up even today. 

Spielberg used a high percentage of practical effects in this movie and not as much CGI as we see in today's movies. This is heavily apparent in the scenes with the poisonous dylophosaurus and the T-Rex attack. Nothing has ever been more terrifying than the scene where the T-Rex originally escapes her paddock and roars her first roar. That sound she makes is synonymous now with dinosaurs and is endlessly recognizable by anybody who's even barely seen the movie. It's incredible how it still remains relevant and scary today. Using practical effects, Spielberg brought a realness and reality to this movie that other directors may not have been able to grasp within a plot that talks about genetically engineered dinos. 

Just check out how scary this scene is and how realistic it looks. If you watch the T-Rex, you can even see individual muscle groups moving and his eyes shifting. That's something not well-enough appreciated about this movie. They got as close to a real dinosaur as you possibly could at the time (and perhaps even now):

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have goosebumps. If I could chose who I died, I would feel privileged and honored to be eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

Besides the brilliant use of practical effects, Jurassic Park does an incredible job of bringing depth to a movie that had no business having any sort of depth. Because it's based on a brilliant novel by Michael Crichton, the creators were able to utilize some of the interesting themes written about by Crichton: man playing God, the ethics of creating life, man vs. nature, etc. These themes crop-up throughout the movie and are represented in brilliant ways. 

Most notably, Spielberg uses a great cast of characters to embody some of the characteristics talked about in the novel. John Hammond (Richard Attenbourough) is the creator of Jurassic Park and envisions a destination for families and adventurers that can realize their most treasured dreams. He's as idealist as it gets and can't fully grasp the danger and inherent unethical aspects of this park he has created. Hammond essentially plays the God-like figure that has attempted to harness creation powers and create something beautiful. 

John Hammond, the god

While his intentions are pure, he dreams a little too big for his briches and unintentionally puts his guests into danger. Spielberg brilliantly represents Hammond with a Godlike appearance, with him wearing all white and sporting a bright white beard and personifying charming personality traits. He appears wise and dreamy, but comes across as out-of-touch and selfish enough to push his dreams forward, regardless of the cost. Hammond gradually changes throughout the story, but one wonders if he would've been able to see the need of shutting down the park if his grand-kids weren't smack-dab in the middle of the danger. 

On the opposite side, Spielberg has a character named Ian Malcolm (brilliantly played by Jeff Goldblum). He represents man's reverence against God and nature. He's originally brought in as an expert to endorse the park, but from the get-go he shows how truly against the park he truly is. Some of the questions surrounding man attempting to play God are brought up by Malcolm and he openly questions Hammond's intentions. Early on, you can see in his facial expressions and his demeanor that he is incredibly uncomfortable with the park and with the idea that dinosaurs have been brought back to life. With Malcolm, Spielberg cleverly showcases the exact opposite ideals of Hammond. He even dresses him in all black, with a leather jacket and beady dark eyes, mainly to show the clear opposition that Malcolm represents. While he may not be evil in the true sense of the word, he represents the main instigator and challenger to the fulfillment of Hammond's dreams. 

Malcolm doubting Hammond.

Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) are also brought along as the wide-eyed scientists with an almost-childlike reverence for prehistoric creatures. They are overwhelmed by the majesty and power of the park, but slowly realize the dangers brought along with the creatures. There are also a few kids brought into the picture (Hammond's grandkids) and are used as a plot device to eventually show Hammond that he is putting families in danger and, in this case, his own grandchildren. 

Of course, there are some disposable characters included like the "blood-sucking" lawyer who is unceremoniously and rightfully dispatched while hiding-away on a toilet. And Spielberg is able to represent true evil and greed with Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the obese and slimy computer programmer who becomes the reason Jurassic Park goes haywire. Side note: one thing I'll never understand is why they would only have one specific person able to override and maintain the security features of the park. Shouldn't there be a team of people in charge of such important details? Not only that, but they put the most suspicious and gross people in charge of all of it. It's almost like they were setting themselves up for failure. 

And, of course, we can't end this discussion without mentioning the raptors: the stars of the entire show and, arguably, the franchise. They are introduced early-on in the movie at Grant and Sadler's dig-site in Montana and Grant has a well-written scene where he explains the dangers that surround a creature like the velociraptor. I'll let you watch it for yourself: 

Little does Grant know, but he'll soon come face-to-face with the danger and smarts of the raptor that he so respects. The danger of the raptors is evident early-on as well, with the full animal not being shown until almost the end of the movie. All we see are claws or  we hear eerie and blood-curdling screeches. This is brilliant film-making and really builds up the tension surrounding the inevitable reveal of the stars of the show.  From the beginning, there are numerous scenes where all we are shown is a torn-up harness used to feed the beasts, along with lines delivered by the gamekeeper Muldoon about how completely unpredictable and dangerous the raptors can be. While the raptor is being fed, viewers are only able to witness the characters stunned and horrified expressions as they see what the beasts are capable of as they feed on an innocent cow. The raptor is still never shown: 

We don't get a full glimpse of the animal until Ellie is attacked while trying to reboot the security systems of the park.  Even Muldoon, in the end, is no match for such creatures when he is eaten alive. Due to all the tremendous build-up, the eventual raptor reveal is well-earned and satisfying. They become just as scary and dangerous as we imagined throughout the movie. 

Can you tell I love this movie? I've thought about it a lot over the years. I am even subscribed to a podcast that examines the movie and breaks it down to the very minute. Each episode is about a different minute of the movie. Ridiculous, I know, but love makes a person do crazy things. 

Jurassic Park is definitely meant to be a fun and entertaining movie; something for kids and adults alike. It's brilliant film-making and blockbuster gold, but the deeper themes help this movie to maintain a cult-like status and last the test of time. This movie will forever be regarded as one of the best, especially in my mind. But that's easy to say when you cast Jeff Goldblum in your movie and he has a laugh like this: