Thursday, March 19, 2009

MOVIES: #13 Jurassic Park

Michael Crichton, god rest his soul, produced some real clunkers and some real winners over his years of turning books into movies. On the plus side were Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, Westworld (which went from movie to book) and 1993's Jurassic Park. On the other side, just about everything else. His books were almost always better than the cinematic version, with the exception of Jurassic Park.

We'd all come to associate special effects with spaceships and monsters, using small models and plenty of latex. We weren't prepared for what Jurassic Park brought to us sixteen years ago. Computer special effects you could believe in. And that first shot as the cameras pull back to show the dinosaurs in the valley, after Sam Neill's Dr. Alan Grant discovers some humongous dino scat, is one of the best shots ever.

The principal adults in the movie, Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum, all turned in good performances. I also have to note Wayne Knight's character and his crowd-pleasing end. But the stars were the dinosaurs, all brought to you by the Oscar-winning SFX team of Stan Winston's. Not only could you believe, but Winston even managed to make that mama T-Rex have some personality. And who can ever forget the laugh of the movie (no, not Knight's dispatching), but the second-long shot of the right-hand mirror of a jeep fleeing the T-Rex. The one that has, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." THAT'S movie-making!

Just like his book series, the Jurassic movies never again met the levels of the original. And today, the special effects and creature-making toys out there would make Winston of 1993 weep with jealousy.

But back then, you believed. And there's nothing better to say about any movie.

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