Thursday, August 02, 2012

"DVD" Review: Jurassic Park

I can't even tell you how happy I was to find out that my local theater was going to be playing Jurassic Park on the big screen a few weeks ago. I hadn't seen it in theaters since it came out in 1993.

I was very, very in love with this movie when it was first released. Like almost every kid, I went through a dinosaur phase, though it had passed by that age. But that little thrill of being a kid and seeing dinosaurs come to life never really goes away, does it?

The other amazing thing about Jurassic Park is that this is the movie that made me love Stephen Spielberg. You see, before this point, I had loved a lot of his movies and E.T. was still this very important memory to me.

But this was the first time that I was old enough and aware enough that I finally made a connection between all of those movies and realized that one man was really responsible for them. This was my awakening to directing and what it really meant.

Plus, come one, it had a LOT of awesome dinosaurs.

So when I was in middle school and this movie came out, I had the student planner, I had t-shirts, I probably had a lunch box. Trading cards, I went for the whole merchandising thing. I still have some of that stuff.

Like a lot of kids and geeky movie buffs of the time, I was really impressed with the CGI in the film. But over the years, I grew more than a little disenchanted with computer generated imagery. It never felt real like it did then, it didn't blend, it felt like a way to cut corners rather than a way to tell a better story. So after a while, I was much more impressed with the T-Rex than anything else. The puppetry was the real star.

Which is why Jurassic Park still holds up today. There were very few things in the film where it felt particularly dated, mostly the things to do with the computer system (which was never accurate to begin with, ah well). The dinosaurs themselves still looked and felt real. They had presence and somehow they had emotion, even if that emotion was just "raging killing machine wants to eat you." The entire movie hinges on believing that these extinct animals are real and it manages, largely because Spielberg had the presence of mind to mix CGI and practical effects. I wish more filmmakers would do that today, because watching Jurassic Park again really made me feel like we've slid backwards.

There are things that don't hold up as an adult watching the movie. Lex is obnoxious and the entire movie could have been done without her, but Tim is somehow even more interesting. When Ray goes to the shed to reboot the system, it's obvious that it's just a plot point to get him killed, it's not set up well enough, and there's no reason for him to have gone alone. Everyone being gone for the weekend doesn't really make a ton of sense either, when you think about it.

And there's the fact that large chunks of the science in the movie are now completely wrong.

But it's not worth thinking about because the point of the movie is simple: are there dinosaurs? Yes. Do they want to eat people? Yes. Do you care if the people do or don't get eaten? Absolutely. Do you still care almost twenty years later? A resounding yes.

Jurassic Park is, quite frankly, one of the best movies of it's kind. A sci-fi action thriller that will remain a classic until we stop being fascinated with dinosaurs, which is probably never.