Monday, April 1, 2013

Brandon Peters: On seeing Jurassic Park 20 years ago...

This is one of two of three essays regarding your first (and second and/or third) viewing of Jurassic Park twenty summers ago, as we brace ourselves for the film's 3D IMAX rerelease this Friday.  I'm sure every single one of my readers has such a memory so feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Jurassic Park Memories
Brandon Peters

Yes, that photo supporting the article is ridiculous…but I just kinda “had to” use it. Hilariously, its one of those images that sticks in your head from the movie.

Jurassic Park was one of those films that comes along once every 8-10 years that just restores your faith and fulfill the magic of seeing a film in a theater to the highest level.  There was an absolute joy and “level up-ing" of my love for cinema after viewing this movie.  An event movie in the greatest sense. And man, was there a craze following it.

Leading up to the film, I remember a teaser of a cave excavation where a guy with one of those flashlight mounted hard hats uncovers a mosquito encased in some sort of amber rock.  The logo was everywhere, but I’m not sure if I saw too much dino action in trailers when I was that age.  The buzz was that there were computer animated dinosaurs and not puppeteering.  I was excited for this new wave of movie making with computer graphics.  Little did I know how it would dominate in the future, most of the time be lackluster, fail to be innovative and be highly discernible from what’s real.  But I digress, there was none of that in Jurassic Park.

My grandmother took my cousin Crystal and I to Jurassic Park opening week.  I don’t believe we went opening weekend.  My grandma and my uncle Mark always took me to the cool movies when I was little.  If there is anywhere to give credit as to how I turned out as a film fanatic/buff/expert/historian or how I was given my initial push and encouragement, ALL the credit in the world goes to those two (even if we missed half of Masters of the Universe and you told me we missed five or five minutes, Uncle Mark.  I forgive you).  My parents, eh, I was subjected to some of the most generic movies bottom dweller movies and every John Travolta and Tim Allen movies that weren't Pulp Fiction or Galaxy Quest (though I did see Jurassic Park a second time with them).

Anyway – JURASSIC PARK!  This was a wowing experience.  Everything was larger than life.  The dinosaurs looked frigging real.  I argue they still hold up just as well today.  It really looked as if you could touch them.  I was frankly, very unfamiliar with the cast.  I knew Wayne Knight, and that was the extent of it.  And he annoyed me on Seinfeld and I didn't like him here.  So, while I was very frightened of the dino involved in his death scene, he got what he deserved for two characters he played.  I liked Ian Malcolm, and loved he scene stealing.  John Hammond just seemed too devious to be trustworthy.  Alan Grant was a worthy hero, but maybe it was the two kids who helped take that journey to another level of intensity for me.  One of them was close enough in age to me.  It worked.  And normally kids dropped into a horror situation is a kiss of death, but Tim and Lex are one of the few times that it works.  It may be because they never go over the top extravagant or have them or the script try to steal scenes. 

Jurassic Park proved to be a special effects extravaganza and an intense summer thrill ride all at the same time.  I akin the experience to people in the 70’s seeing Star Wars for the first time on the big screen.  In my own lifetime I equate it to seeing Tim Burton’s Batman, The Matrix and Avatar.  It’s a movie that just BEGS and DEMANDS it be seen on the big screen.

I’m going to embarrass myself now.  After our show, my grandmother took us to Pizza Hut (where she always had a glass of Blush with her pizza, haha).  Once the pizza was devoured she dropped me off at home.  Well, I came home to an empty house.  I believe my little sister had a little league softball game that night.  There I was, home alone in a quiet house.  I was in our basement and for some damn reason, I felt like the raptors from Jurassic Park were going to pop out and get me.  Every time the air started to run or the house creaked or something shut off, I got a little chill.  Oh yeah, all the lights went on.  I dunno why, but that kitchen sequence, the raptors and that damn dino that killed Nedry were nasties that were just as real as the “now they’re coming to get you” feeling you get from a Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers when you’re young.  So there you have it public, I was scared of raptors...

The lasting effects were pretty phenomenal.  This was just a widely popular and accepted film.  I remember for the next year or two, any time there was a slow day in school or whatnot, they popped Jurassic Park in.  It was everywhere.  I guess it became so popular it became that cool movie to “hate” for cinema snobs.  I admit I got tired of all the hoopla for it and may have shown some disdain.  But I’d like to slap ‘past Brandon’.  Its still a damn fine movie and holds up perfectly.  Its one of the few movies I watch and am transported back to many memories and feelings of the first time I saw it.


Jurassic Park spawned two sequels and I recently revisited them. 

The Lost World I loved when it first came out theatrically (saw it opening weekend and then once the following week).  Then I got older, thought it was dumb.  But now revisiting it for the first time in maybe 10 years, I found it holds up quite well.  Learning more about film and seeing more films in that time has given me a much bigger appreciation for it and I think its held up much better over time.  Yes, the gymnastics girl sneaking aboard and 'gymkata’ing' the raptor is DUMB AS HELL.  But, like Aaron Neuwirth’s favorite scene in Live Free Or Die Hard, get rid of that and its fine.  It goes for a completely different type of movie, a King Kong type throwback kind of tribute.  And I think it greatly succeeds.  Its an insanely watchable an fun film.  Its got a bit of silly story surrounded by some great action sequences and fun actors.  I wonder if they didn't want to overdo themselves with the dinosaurs in this as a lot of it is at night and you don’t see dinos much or their full bodies.  Still this film is a lot of fun.  Not even close to the first one, but a very entertaining old school movie in the form of a summer popcorn movie.

Jurassic Park III feels like a little one off story that happens to bring back two characters from the first one.  The film isn’t interested in showing off the island and really we don’t need it.  It feels off a half step, but that’s likely because it’s a different director.  It seems to fill in the holes with dinosaurs/sequences missing from the first two films (pterodactyls!).  It’s a point A to point B movie (think The Warriors on Jurassic Park), and succeeds in being such.  It’s got a bit of an abrupt and “times up, lets go” ending, but its still an enjoyable film.  I prefer The Lost World, but I’m sure many like this better.  And I’m not going to say you’re wrong.  I think Jurassic Park is actually a pretty good entertaining series.  If you go into both sequels not expecting to match up to the first one (which, why would you?), you’ll be fine.  I’m sure Lost World and III have their haters, but I’m not one of them.

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Aaron Neuwirth said...

Oh screw you ;)

Brandon Peters said...

I'm sure I'll give up on that jab soon. But when "Who Has Two Thumbs and Wants To Die Hard?" comes out...i'll bring it back for good measure!

Laura Peters said...

I'm pretty sure we got Arby's with your second viewing of Jurassic Park...which begs the question what goes better with Or roast beef?

POIFanatic said...

I see we're doing confessions! My first theatrical experience of Jurassic Park was the second movie. I was so scared of the frickin awesome dinos that I crawled into my mom's lap and cried myself to sleep. Come on, I was just a 7-yr-old boy! I used to love the first 2 movies very much, but I haven't revisited the trilogy in ages. I might do that one of these days.


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