Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MR Jurassic Park 1

With a new Jurassic Park coming up on the big screen this month, after a long decade of silence, you knew I had to revisit this cult franchise on my blog at some point.

Always a personal cult favorite film of mine. I mean, who doesn't love dinosaurs?

An Adventure 65 Million Years In The Making.

Movie: Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release date 1993
Genre Science-fiction/adventure film
Country USA

For a lot of people from my generation, Jurassic Park will always be remembered as one of Steven Spielberg's most unique films.

Neither a horror film like some of his earliest work. Neither another one of his historic drama pieces. It's not even a proper action film nor a tense complex science-fiction film. It's a bit of both. But first and foremost it's a genuinely fun film about dinosaurs. And the first real serious take on dinos (and so far about the only) Hollywood ever did outside old B-movie serials.

No wonder it came to define the saurians for generations to come (with all their inaccuracies and obviously limited knowledge available at the time) and that's why the dinosaurs as seen in Jurassic Park are still considered the default vision of the creatures most people have to this day. (I'm just saying - a few feathers on dinos wouldn't hurt!)

At least it was the first mainstream piece to overly link dinosaurs to birds, I'm glad that stuck with people.

Most of you know this no doubt, Jurassic Park originally began its life as a fantastic science-fiction novel of the same name written by Michael Crichton, published in 1990. It's a 7-chapter long tale inspired by classic "monster" literature such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein specifically, about the danger of science attempting to genetically-engineer artificial life. The book plays in fact with the chaos theory, illustrated in the book by a progression of a system spinning out of control at the beginning of each chapter.

I still remember grabbing a copy of it at the time and reading it a couple of times as a kid - even though I was probably too young most details used to go over my head on my first read. (What can I say? I love dinosaurs and this book was such a huge phenomenon when it was released!)

Steven Spielberg was the first in line to make it into a film, and the work of Michael Crichton is no stranger to film adaptations!

About four different studios wanted to grab the film rights of the novel, but it was Universal Studios that ended up with it ultimately, thanks to Spielberg buying the rights himself before the actual publication in 1990. The film was made through his own film company Amblin Entertainment.

The screenplay was directly written by Crichton himself with David Koepp. Spielberg hired Crichton to adapt the novel for the big screen himself.

When production on the film began, it was much darker than the final product, and some of it shows on a few key scenes, witch stuff built around this first premise. It still shows in this first film since most of the shots and sets where built around this much darker nature than the later sequels.

A few noticeable changes were made to the story, mostly revolving around toning down the violence for a movie everyone could enjoy, and much of the exposition was also left out. A few keys scenes from the book would be cut as well.

The film was filmed in California and Hawaii.

The billionaire John Hammond, CEO of InGen, has been successfully able to clone genetically-engineered dinosaurs! He's had a vision - he will open a theme park on this remote island Isla Nublar.

The story begins with the transfer of a dinosaur at night. One of the workers is killed by a Velociraptor... His lawyer Donald Gennaro needs proof the park is safe enough for the investors.Gennaro decides to bring in a mathematician, Ian Malcolm, while Hammond personally invites paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler.

We are then introduced to Alan Grant on a fossil dig. The couple is immediately invited to "Jurassic Park"!

Once the team arrives, they quickly discover the magic of real life dinosaurs. A few Brachiosaurus are there to great the visitors. This is gonna change the entire field! They get to the center cloning facility put on displac for the audience. They learn how the scientists were able to make this huge breakthrough through DNA-splicing. The park's chief geneticist Dr. Henry Wu explains how they used frog DNA to create these "clones", chimeras really. Creatures engineered to represent what people expect dinosaurs to look like, all made female to avoid them from reproducing in the wild.

Hammond goes to great his grandchildren, come to the island for the weekend, Lex and Tim Murphy. They all embark on a tour. When they spot an ill Triceratops they all drop the guided tour. 

Meanwhile a huge tropical storm is coming. That is when this computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Seinfeld's very own Newman!) that was bribed by a rival company decides to fake a power shortage and steals a bunch of embryos from the labs. But the Tyrannosaurus rex escapes in the middle of the group tour! And eats the lawyer and barely does the same with the rest of the visitors!

Nedry runs to the docks but has an incident with his Jeep on the way there and is killed by a Dilophosaurus! Who can put a stop to Nedry's hack now? The park's warden Robert Muldoon and the chief engineer Ray Arnold both try to reboot the entire system, but Arnold is also killed there by the escaped Raptors.

Lost in the middle of the park, Grant is forced to work with the kids despite his reluctance at first. They discover a few egg shells - despite all dinos being female, life found a way!

They try to get back to the main lobby, but all these dinosaurs are set on the loose now! People are dying left and right! And there's a dangerous T-Rex (or more precisely a "T.rex" actually) roaming free!...

If there one thing you can't deny Jurassic Park, is that the film features an all-around fantastic cast! Sam Neill who usually stars in a lot of horror films gets to be fun here with his great sarcastic delivery, there's also the great Laura Dern, the inimitable Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, B.D. Wong, a sadly underused Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight (Newman!!), and the young Ariana Richards & Joseph Mazzello who equally deserve some praise here.

But the real stars of the film are indubitably the dinosaurs. And there's a lot of them in this film, all drawed from the book (with many missing in the adaptation).

Despite the title, most were actually taken from the Cretaceous period not the Jurassic (but I suppose "Cretaceous Park" would not have the same ring to it). With the Tyrannosaurus rex as the real star of the movie. They built this amazing huge animatronic operated by dozen people to bring it to film. For the creature's sound they had to mix the roar of a few animals, such an elephant's mixed with a tiger's and an alligator's. If the T. rex can be seen as the film's real protagonist, the Velociraptors are no doubt its villains. The creature seen in the film was actually closer to a Utahraptor or a Deinonychus. Following the release of the film paleontologists would soon make new discoveries in the field, most notable how most of these creatures would probably have feathers (which was only slightly alluded to in JP3 later on).

It's such a great film! With a fantastic creepy atmosphere at times. And fantastic special effects bringing it all together to life. A landmark in filmmaking!

The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park are one of the earliest and best examples of use of CGi, thanks to the wonders did by the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic.

For the bigger shots were motion was not as much needed or they required some special interaction with the human cast, several life-sized animatronic models were build by Stan Winston & co.

A lot of work and emphasis was put into the sound department of this film. It would be a key aspect into bringing these dinosaurs to life, through their roars and sounds (in fact Spielberg would even invest in the creation of his own company specialized in digital sounds, DTS).

Some great trickery was done via the use of both stop motion puppets and CGi. The film even contains one of the earliest attempts at replacing a stunt double with one of the actors' (Lex's) digital face. A lot of compositing was made to put the dinos into the live action scenery.

A lot was cut from the original book.

Some changes had to be made for the sake of the adaptation. Some key scenes like an attack of Procompsognathus attacking children on the beach (which prompts the opening of the story in the novel) would be recycled as the opener of the second film. Most of these deleted scenes would find a way into the later sequels.

There also was a whole river scene also cut for budgetary reasons (which ended up part 3). Henry Wu was given a much smaller role and not shown surviving the events of the film (although his presence in the upcoming JW seem to indicate he also survived), one of the most memorable scenes in the book in the aviary was completely cut from the film (also brought back to screen in JP3). A scene in the raptor's nest near the end inside a volcano was completely written out.

One of the most confusing aspects of the book, as a kid reading it, was Ian Malcom's apparent death, which would be kinda altered to "merely wounded" in the sequel novel The Lost World

Jurassic Park had one of the biggest marketing campaigns at the time. And that seemingly worked since the film would gross over over $900 million worldwide during its original theatrical run!! Even surpassing Spielberg's own 1982 classic E.T..

And it was for a while the highest grossing film ever made, for years until the release of James Cameron's Titanic in 1997.

The film would go own wining lots of awards, including 3 Academy Awards! Mostly for the special effects alone. It made the film a landmark as far as special effects go thanks to the combined use of CGi and animatronic puppetry.

Finally, I couldn't pass on writing a word about John Williams' brilliant Jurassic Park soundtrack. A cult veteran composer who has worked a lot with Spielberg and George Lucas over the years (Star Wars). Such a catchy and perfect score, just as memorable as the film itself and the creatures.

John Williams did such a fantastic orchestration for the film. He was so inspired.

The musical score is akin to his previous collaboration with Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both epic and grand. It has a sense of fascination for these dinosaurs brought back to life, it feels so exciting!

Overall, Jurassic Park is a fantastic film. Always Highly Recommended for such flawless stunning early CGi effects, it still looks exciting and outstanding decades later. It perfectly stands the test of time, it's a cult movie on its own right. One of the best films of the 1990s for sure.

And easily the best entry in the entire franchise.

The film means so much for the entire film industry. It's magic, a true spectacle. Stunning. Nostalgia aside, the film simply aged gracefully, its effects still as impressive thanks to a lot of effort and all the imagination put through it. A landmark in the use of computer-generated imagery.

A lot of money was put into the promotion of the film. Countless merchandise was released around the release of the film. All kinds of products were made, from those ol' Kenner toys (I had so many of those personally...) to countless videogames, comics and a lot more commercial collectables (thanks to the iconic "Logosaurus" logo!). The games were developed by Sega for their own systems, while Ocean Software took care of the ones for the Nintendo consoles.

The film influenced a huge legacy and impact on the film industry as a whole, while smaller in scale to Star Wars', it's just as important in my eyes. It was a magical experience. The biggest influence it directly had was putting the spotlight on Industrial Light and Magic's computer-generated effects, it began a revolution for special effects, showing now what was possible to achieve which wasn't as expansive anymore. It would actually prompt ILM owner George Lucas to start working on his own Star Wars prequels or Peter Jackson to be able to one day revisit one of his childhood favorites King Kong later on.

If there's one real issue I have with the film, it that it would one day lead to the awful American remake of Godzilla...

Jurassic Park would be followed by three sequels. All lighter in nature. A first one also directed by Steven Spielberg based on the second novel would be made in 1997, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.A second sequel simply titled Jurassic Park III not directed by Spielberg anymore (still on board as producer though) but by Jumanji and The Rocketeer director Joe Johnston in 2001, using several elements omitted from both previous films. Both these sequels would get some mixed reaction, I personally always loved them both as well but I can't deny they're vastly inferior to the original in several aspects. It's more of the same basically, but it never manages to get the same "spectacle" as the first time if you get what I mean.

A third sequel is expected to finally be released next month, directed by Thor director Colin Trevorrow. We're finally about to get a new film after a decade-long of silence, which I can't wait for! It's far too early to tell how that will turn out, but I truly believe it can possibly be better than part 2 and 3. Let's hope so. At least there's some genuinely good new idea behind it, we're finally going to be able to see the park finally open for the very first time! Wait and see!

I give it:
3 / 3 UFOs!

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