Jurassic Park: 25th Anniversary Rereview

Hold On To Your Butts…

John Hammond: “…And there’s no doubt, our attractions will drive kids out of their minds!”

Dr. Alan Grant: “And what are those?”

Dr. Ellie Sattler: “Small versions of adults, honey…”

 

Can it really be a qurarter-century since tbe “Biggest Movie Of All Time”: Jurassic Park smacked gobs and broke records?!  

Rather than waste time and ticket fare on the latest instalment: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (uninspiring Reviews reassure me, alas, that nothing special is being missed) let’s celebrate, instead, the anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s classic dinofest. Luckily, in that Summer of ’93 – haha! When Jurassic Park Ruled The Earth! 🙂 – we were served a superior concoction of thrills, spills and chills – setting, in effect, the definitive template for the summer blockbuster.

For once, Size DID Matter.

Yep, sitting in a packed cinema watching the (then) cutting edge CG tech unfold proved to be a very special experience. 

Unforgettable? You’re telling me!

An insufferable nerk sat directly behind me (Jeez, isn’t that always the way?!), and EVERY TIME that sauropod lifted up on its hind legs to reach higher food; T Rex chased the jeep; T Rex (again) lunged out of nowhere to feast, or the velociraptors ran rampant through the kitchen, he had to utter:

“This is unreal! This is unreal!”   

Okay, that’s one extremely irritating way to admit that, undeniably, Jurassic Park turned out to be one of the game-changers of modern cinema.

Unlike the majority of summer blockbusters, the characters assembled here are well-defined; there is some snappy dialogue written by David Koepp; in addition, the casting is very commendable: considering how HARRISON FORD(!) was offered (and turned down) the role of Dr. Alan Grant; Sam Neill was great, but one can’t help wondering how that box-office-beating Spielberg alumnus (well-accustomed to jungle adventures himself) would have fared against these adversaries!

Interesting to learn that Spielberg wanted to recreate the Ford/Connery chemistry from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, envisaging Sir Sean Connery as first choice for the role of John Hammond(!) (so THAT explains Sir Dickie Attenborough’s dodgy Scottish accent!); and behold! There is my particular favand yours too, no doubtthat superior hunk of manflesh: Jeff Goldblum as chaos theoretician: Dr. Ian “Must go faster!” Malcolm.

Must have watched the trailer countless times back in the day. Note how there are only subtle hints of the dino-action in store – no spoilers in those days! Anybody else miss the guttural voiceovers…? 

“Steven [Spielberg] had me screen-test with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman for Hook. I was just too young for the role. ‘Don’t worry about it, Joey,’ Steven said, ‘I’m going to get you in a movie this summer.’ Not only a nice promise to get, but to have it be one of the biggest box-office smashes of all time? That’s a pretty good trade” – Joseph Mazzello.

“You feel that…?”

For the first time in several years, yours truly finally (for the benefit of this Post at least) got round to rewatching this movie.

Arguably the best sequence in the whole franchise (it has lost none of its terrifying potency 25 years later) is T Rex’s breathtaking entrance, at night, in the rain, as the two tour cars are stranded right beside her compound. (Hang on: didn’t they pass the Tyrannosaur paddock already during the day, and move on when she proved to be a no-show? What are they doing back there again, considering how those automated jeeps are irreversible??)

Never mind, it’s the tense build up – the sound of ominous, even-heavier-than-Dennis-Nedry footsteps heading the stranded tour party’s way, those ripples in the water cups (incidentally, the very first gif selected for this Post!sets one heckuva spine-tingling tone, especially if you dare to watch – and listen – during the early hours…  

It’s amazing how the obese guy (Nedry) and the lawyer (Gennaro) are deliberately rendered as thoroughly detestable characters so that we can all “enjoy”(?!) a guilt-free (and obscene) “pleasure” when they inevitably end up as dino-dindins…

The greatest asset of this movie is that it did not descend into a mindless, and relentless, dinosaur-chase B-movie, but opted instead to embellish the action and tension with more thought-provoking material, most evidently in that rightfully-revered classic scene of Dr. Malcolm discussing the ethics – and irresponsibility – of genetic tomfoolery over lunch.

Trust Brad to have loaded that vid already elsewhereguess where! Yay! A celebration of Jeff Goldblum right here!

To think that Jim Carrey was considered for the role of Dr. Ian Malcolm(!) Blimey… who would want to see his pecs…? 

Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.”

Donald Gennaro: “Well thank you, Dr. Malcolm, but I think things are a little bit different than you and I had feared…”

Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Yeah, I know. They’re a lot worse.”

Donald Gennaro: “Now, wait a second now, we haven’t even seen the park…”

 

And just when you consider how Jeff could play EVERY role from Jurassic Park, well, here is the vid that proves he can – Goldblum! Goldblum! We’ve got Jeff Goldblum here!: 🙂

It’s supposed to be Costa Rica, right? So things are hot and I’m sure I’m in some sort of fever. So all the logic is that we gotta get some of these wet clothes off immediately. As I remember, I don’t think anybody fought me on that” – Jeff Goldblum. 

And, of course, where would this epic be without John Williams? This renowned composer sealed his reputation by providing one of his most sumptuous music scores. 

Let’s not forget the phenomenal cultural impact the movie created a quarter-century ago.

While Raiders Of The Lost Ark (arguably Spielberg’s greatest movie) inspired Brad and many of his contemporaries to get into archaeology, Jurassic Park did its best to influence a new generation of palaeontologists.

Although a hefty bundle of the technic and genetic gubbins discussed/featured therein seemed quesionable, to the point of bonkers: i.e. the utility – and durability – of millions-of-years-old DNA; could/did sauropods balance on their hind legs? (and so on) at least it encouraged a wider, greater understanding of scientific principles. As delirious-for-dinosaurs as the next kid, Jurassic Park, for an albeit all-too-brief period during that Summer, resurrected that long-dormant palaeo-passion. 

Regrettably, though, the main aspect of this particular movie that comes back to my mind concerns those numerous continuity errors, most notably the one gaffe that baffles me with each viewing: why is the T Rex paddock predominantly flat during daylight hours, but after dark a sheer drop emerges -the scene in which Alan and Tim clambering as fast as they can down a tree before their own car falls on top of them is tense enough, but how – and why – does the script demand that such an absurd feat transpire at all?! 

And just what exactly did happen to Ray Arnold (Samuel L Jackson)…?

Finally, what of Jurassic Park‘s legacy?

Admittedly, my affection for the original movie has soured somewhat by the fact that its sequels – two lacklustre direct follow-ups, the imbecilic Jurassic World and this season’s unappealing tag-on: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom have come no way near to recreating the original’s ground-breaking impact of action and suspense. Rather, the makers of these wasted opportunities (including Spielberg himself, disappointingly enough!) were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“That doesn’t look very scary. More like a six-foot turkey.”

 

Tim: “Well… we’re back… in the car again.”

Dr. Alan Grant: “Well, at least you’re out of the tree.”

 

My Dad would always take me to see the dinosaurs in Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute of Technology, with big dinosaur bones, and so I made Jurassic Park remembering how much fun it was to imagine, with such yearning, that some day wouldn’t it be great to run into a dinosaur… and for everybody who had ever wondered, or been fascinated with that whole era…” – Steven Spielberg.

 

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Jurassic Lark: Curse Of The Raptor Whisperer

They just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea…

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DINOSAUR: Get yer Raptor repellent at the ready!
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DINOSAUR: Get yer Raptors at the ready!

“The last time Spielberg waited this long to revive a franchise, he blew Harrison Ford across the sky in a fridge” – Stuart Heritage.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a Central American island…

In this long-awaited fourth instalment in the second-biggest franchise of all time, Jurassic World is the upgraded Park. Tourists are coming (in droves!) to see the beasts who have been thrust back into the evolutionary mix, supervised by the White Queen i.e. Claire Dearing, whose spirit is as unbreakable as her stilletos, but couldn’t care less about the two nephews who’ve come to visit her.

The star asset: the awkwardly-monickered Indominus Rex – part T Rex, part… something else – doesn’t want to be fed, she wants to break free and hunt. Obviously, if it wasn’t for her motivation, we wouldn’t have a potentially record-breaking blockbuster on our hands.

Fortunately, the only thing these Nublar nutters got right is to invest in the services of hero-for-hire raptor whisperer Owen Grady. Can he outwit the sibling-gobbling feral femme fatale? When that image of Starlord wrangling the raptors (above) first appeared on the net, fanboy here shivered something rotten. That has to be the most ridiculous idea ever! Has to be. (Either that or Claire outrunning T Rex… in her high heels.) For one moment there, the dreaded thought occurred to me: he was going to challenge his raptor-buddies to a dance-off. Mercifully we were spared that… 

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“Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun” – Dr. Ian Malcolm.

Quite simply, this picture lacks that sorely-missed Spielberg touch. One of the greatest strengths of Jurassic Park lay in its faithful adherence to the most reliable palaeontological data then available. What now? Sadly, the absence of some of the dino-research gained in the previous 22 years here leaves such a noticeable gap. Pity, ‘cos it prevents any engagement with this flaccid an’ flawed package on any sensory or emotional level.

What about that “single most transformative development in palaeontology”: the intriguing, yet still-contentious, notion that dinosaurs – especially Velociraptor and Gallimimus – were covered in feathers? Don’t tell me the CGI-guys can’t animate intricate dino-fuzz!  

Where there is insufficient biology, there is certainly no chemistry. Owen and Claire were crying out for some but it was woefully lacking. With a movie like this, expect nothing more than two-dimensional characterization, but here it was just as blandly predictable as the uncontrollable asset itself. Sure, this is fiction – of the most ludicrously contrived kind, regrettably – but where is the science? 

When the two Lost Boys – that blubbing moppet and his chick-crazy bro – stumble onto the overgrown set of the first film, John Williams’ legendary theme tune comes flooding back after all these years, offering a rare and necessary charming touch. However, this reliance on nostalgia merely emphasises the sheer paucity of originality on display here. You could count at least half a dozen of your fave movies amidst this mish-mash – a job as botched as the asset itself. 

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“I was in the Navy, not the Navajos!” – Owen Grady. 

After a record 511 million dollar haul in its opening weekend, the lure of those Mesozoic monsters remains as strong as ever. Basically, have a blast on Nublar… but leave your common sense in Costa Rica. My niggles with this blockbuster are as immense as that mosasaur. Apparently that GLARINGLY OBVIOUS “containment breach” was NEVER speculated?! Hey, life finds a way, an’ all that… 

Speaking of obvious: the squad of gung-ho go-getters armed with heavy-duty cattle-prods venturing into the jungle are no different than those huge hunks of meat lowered in at feeding time… couldn’t anyone realise that in the (laughably-named) control center? Yep, all the chaos Dr. Malcolm can eat…    

It really is good – not to mention reassuring – to see Chris Pratt carry a more demanding role, but for me, the real star of the show is Blue, who – apart from his keeper – is the only distinctive and engaging personality on the island… and is a Raptor. So, whaddya know? A blockbuster that’s NOT awesome – that makes a change…

Upon emerging back into the glaring early evening sun after this rather underwhelming viewing, a quick glance at the cafe opposite and the clientele sitting out on the the street were being dive-bombed by a flock of seagulls.

Is that a case of life imitating art, or vice versa…?

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WH-WHAT?! No rough-ridin’ Raptors? AOW, COME ON!! We want our money back!

Jaws: A Celebration Of The Very First Blockbuster

Steven Spielberg’s classic thriller was released 40 years ago today.

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“Wow, this is like a movie I just made about a truck and a driver. Jaws and Duel both have four letters; they’re both about a leviathan going after man” – Steven Spielberg. 

On this day forty years ago, the stupendous box office success of a movie about the terrifying threat of a great white shark in the sea off Amity Island introduced the template for the phenomenon largely accepted now for granted: the Summer Blockbuster. Director Steven Spielberg – previously responsible only for Sugarland Express and Duel – would hit the big time after this movie.  

The casting was relatively easy: Roy Scheider was chosen by to play Police Chief Martin Brody because Spielberg liked him in The French Connection; Robert Shaw was chosen to play Quint because Spielberg liked him in The Sting; but the role of young oceanographer: Hooper was not so assured. Then-current stars such as Jon Voight, Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges were considered, but none were available. In the end, Spielberg’s pal George Lucas suggested Richard Dreyfuss, because he had starred in American Graffiti. 

To put this first blockbuster into perspective, the (estimated) budget of Jaws was only $8 million. It opened on 1 June 1975 on just 409 screens. After 78 days, it became the Highest Grossing Movie of All Time – in that it was the first ever movie to cross over the $100 million mark – a fact largely forgotten, considering that this tremendous honour would last for only two years. In the Summer of ’77, a little film by the name of “Star Wars” was let loose on an unsuspecting cinema-going public…

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jaws-bigger-boatJaws-bigger-boat-YouTube

“Slow ahead… I can go slow ahead! Come on down here and chum some of this shit…!

…You’re gonna need a bigger boat…” – Police Chief Martin Brody.  

Cinema’s first blockbuster offers a myriad of intriguing aspects. Essentially, Jaws is a movie of two halves: as soon as the three intrepid hunters set out on the Orca, a more intense viewing pleasure kicks in.

Having mentioned the three main characters, what about the real star himself? A huge mechanical shark was constructed, but the first time it was put into the water, it sank. Named “Bruce” by its despairing “assistants” and the “Great White Turd” by Spielberg himself, it spent most of filming broken-down, and – not unlike some of Hollywood’s more notorious legends – “was unavailable for certain shots.” Those Pre-CGI days were arguably more fun…  

The innovative shots of the camera in the water trained upwards, to give a “shark’s-eye view” was never intended – they came about purely due to Bruce’s inoperability. Apparently the shark prop was named after Spielberg’s lawyer, but please tell me that’s not true!

No feature on this movie would be complete without mentioning the ominous score composed by John Williams. At first, the composer previewed it on the piano; the director thought it sounded… completely ridiculous. Only much later, through full orchestration, could its true powerful and spine-chilling tones truly resonate.

Could Jaws have prospered without this classic theme? It seems most unlikely. Cinemas around the world may not have had queues going out the door and down the road if the movie did not have the expressive power of Williams’ score. Deservedly, Williams won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and has taken sixth place on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Greatest Film Scores. 

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“I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU IN THE ASS!” – Hooper. 

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, was selected as the location for Amity Island, used on strict condition that its “natural harmony was not affected.” The locals were incredibly co-operative during filming. They made ideal extras when the script required 4th of July holiday-makers to go bat-shit crazy on the beach. Payments of $64 each seemed to have done the trick as well…

Speaking of the script, that took an awfully long time to develop; at one point, Spielberg worked on his own draft, hoping that would speed things up. Some of his own scenes ended up in the final edit. Originally, Peter Benchley – the author of the bestseller who had a cameo in the movie as the TV news correspondent filming a report on Amity beach – struggled to settle on the final title even with only 20 minutes until the presses started rolling.

Some of the provisional titles he considered included: “The Stillness in the Water” and “Leviathan Rising.” He seriously contemplated: “Jaws of Death” until his Editor merely pointed out that it would be easier to go with just the first word as it was short enough to fit on the cover jacket.

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“Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasing bluegills and tommy cods” – Quint.   

After four decades, the movie still holds up remarkably well. Mainly it is driven by three superlative central performances, and they had fantastic material to work from, but for meevery time – Robert Shaw just rules the screen. From the moment he makes his dramatic chalkboard-scratching introduction, you just know that you are going to see one of cinema’s most superlative performances.

At first, Spielberg had considered Lee Marvin (who turned it down, stating that he preferred to fish for real, not in a movie) and Sterling hayden, so it was fortuitous movie-making fate that Shaw stepped in – although perhaps not for Dreyfuss…

While tension brewed on the Orca between Quint and Hooper (“I don’t need this working-class hero crap!”), off-screen what came to be known as the Dreyfuss-Shaw feud raged, with the fiercely-competitive Shaw picking on the younger, less experienced actor. “It got ugly!” the Director recalled.

If there is any moment that sets Shaw’s contribution apart, then it is undoubtedly the much-heralded Indianapolis monologue. Rightly regarded as one of the most outstanding movie scenes ever shot, the dialogue was initially conceived and written by two other scriptwriters; however, Shaw rewrote great chunks of it himself. All Scheider and Dreyfuss could do was listen to one of the greats at work…

You can savour this one-take classic scene right here:

Let us be thankful that Spielberg made Jaws at all; when he originally saw the vague title, he simply ignored it, under the impression that the book was just a boring biog of a dentist… 

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Quint: “You wanna drink? Drink to your leg.”

Hooper: “I’ll drink to your leg.”

Quint: “Okay, so we drink to our legs!” 

Cheers!