Monday, March 14, 2011

CINEBLOGGO: Jurassic Park

So, if anyone happened to check my Twitter feed last night, you would have definitely caught on to the fact that I was watching Jurassic Park.  In fact, I was very close to live-tweeting the whole thing out of sheer joy, but I refrained because I figured that was a pretty easy way to lose all my followers.

Anyways, the point I'm trying to make here is that Jurassic Park is a damn near perfect movie.  I know it's probably trite to talk about Steven Spielberg being a genius, because really, his name is practically synonymous with genius after the career he's had, but - Steven Spielberg really is a storytelling genius.  And revisiting Jurassic Park only confirmed that.  It doesn't matter what story ol' Spielberg's telling.  It's always told masterfully.

So, without further ado, I'm taking DNA from CINEBLOGGO and crossing it with DNA from 10 Things to bring you a post called "10 TINY STORYTELLING DETAILS ABOUT JURASSIC PARK THAT MAKE IT BRILLIANT."  Hello John!

10. Grant asks, "Are you sure we're safe?"  Ellie replies, "Yes... unless they figure out how to open doors."  Now tell me you didn't get the worst attack of the heebie-jeebies when that velociraptor successfully used that door handle later on, hm?  I guarantee it gave you full-body goosebumps.  Genius setup, genius payoff.

9.  The music.  John Williams is a god.  That's all you need to know.  And past the fact that it's generally brilliant, the way in which it's used is brilliant.  It's used only to build, never to unfold.  When action is unfolding, like in the T-Rex rain scene, it's only diegetic sound (sound that is happening in the world onscreen that the characters can hear), never the score. 

8. There are two times when Dr. Grant expresses disbelief over the dinosaurs bred in the park.  The first is when he first sees the Brachiosaurus and asks about the speed.  He's dismayed that they have a T-Rex, and he stammers over it several times.  The second time, he's holding the hatchling and asks its species - velociraptor - and then makes a point to repeat the doctor's answer in shock.  And hey, which two species of dinosaur take center stage in the film's final act?  That would be the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Velociraptor.  And we know exactly what to expect of them based on Grant's reactions. 

7. Another small detail in set up: when Dr. Grant finds out about the T-Rex, Hammond tells him it clocks in at 32 mph.  And that information is paid off nicely in the "Must go faster!" chase scene, where it's therefore believable that a vehicle could escape from that specific predator.  A tiny moment, but helpful for non-believers who may be taken out of the moment by wondering if that chase scene were even possible.

6. Dr. Grant's character arc.  He's given a lovely little bit of arc where it's set up that he hates kids, and forces him to be Protector to two kids in a truly terrifying setting.  He rises to the occasion swimmingly, and quiet moments like the "I-don't-think-he-saurus" scene give excellent payoff to the early examples of Grant being generally annoyed and intolerant of young people.

5.  Ian Malcom embodies the movie's entire premise.  His character exists simply to tell the audience EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, and yet we're still surprised when it does.  Plus, Jeff Goldblum's such a kooky charmer, and he gets to wisecrack and talk to himself and hit on Ellie with his weird water droplet game.  Points all around.

4. When Lex gets in the car, the first thing she does is marvel over the interactive CD-ROM (!) and the built-in computer.  I'm sorry, who is it that's going to hack into the mainframe (that's a thing, right?) and solve all the problems in the final act?  That's what I thought.

3.  Speaking of, let's talk about the kids.  They're allowed to be scared, and a little foolish, but they're never stupid.  Tim's actually a really smart kid for his age, and as I just mentioned, Lex ends up saving pretty much everybody's asses.  Nobody in this movie is simply there to be recued.  The kids raise the stakes for Hammond and for Grant, and help complicate the danger because of their lack of knowledge, but they're afforded the opportunity to be actual characters.  I mean, poor Tim!  Tim survives a T-Rex attack, plummets fifty feet in a vehicle, gets electrocuted, and then gets chased by velociraptors.  Little kid's not getting off scot-free, here.

2. When Dr. Grant first gets into the helicopter that will be taking him to Isla Nublar, he realizes that he has matching ends of the same seatbelt, and can't buckle.  So, he knots them together around his waist.  Firstly, this is awesome because it's a tiny little character detail that shows us that Dr. Grant is resourceful, and will clearly be well-equipped to hold his own during the impending danger we all know is coming.  

Secondly, it's a cheeky little nod to the resourcefulness of life that Malcolm preached all movie long.  The dinosaurs in the park are all bred to be female so that they cannot reproduce.  Likewise, Grant's seatbelt consists of two female ends and cannot be buckled.  But in both cases, a solution to the problem is created, and that small little moment in the helicopter mirrors one of the film's main messages.  Genius.

1.  Every single storytelling reveal in Jurassic Park is done through reaction.  It's never, "A dinosaur!  LOOK THERE HE IS!"  Because that is two-dimensional and unsophisticated.  Instead, it's the sound of the rumbling footsteps as the water ripples back and forth in the cupholder.  It's wondering where the goat went and then seeing its bloody leg drop on the sunroof.  It's seeing Tim look at Lex frozen in place, spoonful of Jell-O wobbling in mid-air as she shakes with fear.  It's seeing Dr. Grant's reaction to laying eyes on a living, breathing dinosaur before we ever even see what he's looking at.

Basically, it's genius.  Because the unknown is scarier than the known, and parceling out the information a little at a time freaks us the hell out and makes us want to know more.  We see the footprint and hear the echo before we see what made it, and combined with character reactions, we get a full portrait of how we should be reacting, as an audience.

Ladies and gentlemen, this movie is flawless.  I rest my case - or at the very least, my endless gushing.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...