I watched the original Jurassic Park the other week. The other night I saw Jurassic World. Below are some ramblings. Many spoilers. Click 'read more' to read more.
The Brontosauruses haven't held up all that well, and the Jeff Goldblum character is an outrageous pervy lech in that one scene with water drips. Gross gross gross. Overall though, the original Park is fantastic, with this weird and offbeat sense of humour, a long way from the Whedonisms we have to come accept as jokes in current blockbusters (Joke example: Thor kills one robot. Thor asks, 'Is that the best you can do?' 10,000 more robots appear. Captain America says, 'You had to ask'. End of joke). In Jurassic Park, there's that scene at the start with Sam Neil spending a lot of time traumatizing a kid with a raptor bone. He doesn't stop at making his point, he keeps pretend-slicing him up, long after he gets the idea. Kids just get on his nerves. In another scene, having been chased by a real T-Rex and having dodged a real falling Jeep, he plays another great trick on children by pretending to be electrocuted by a giant fence- genuinely traumatic recent events be damned. Feels a bit like Roald Dahl. Entertainment which is kind of for kids, but which kind of hates kids.
Being old and fixated on meta-ness, I noticed this time around how aware that film was of the fact that it is a 'ride'. I remember the lunchboxes from school, but forgot that in the movie they actually mention them in dialogue. Jurassic Park works because it is both the fictional story and the ride/product, at once. The two layers support each other and create tension. What's wonderful about the original movie is the sense of humour it's able to have about this, while still being genuinely scary. It balances self-awareness with genuine danger. That scene with the T-Rex in the rain is terrifying. They do a similar thing in the new movie - pointing out that the theme park and the movie are one thing, but its world-weary and resigned. Hammond is a dreamer and idealist, but Jurrasic World shows us what a dinosaur theme park would actually be like: crowded, a bit tacky, relentlessly commercial. It's the jaded version - utopia in practice is disappointing. Characters talk about how the park needs new content all the time, cause 'no-one is impressed by a dinosaur any more'. Its just business. The first movie kind hates kids ('you snuck into this? Serves you right. You are going to get terrified'). This one kind of hates the audience, for always wanting more.
The other crazy thing about the old movie is that scene where they spend like five minutes teaching you about DNA and how the technology of cloning the dinosaurs works. It's like a TED talk within the film. The movie is excited about the science of it, about science in general. Hammond is excited about it, infectiously so. In the new movie, the finished park, no-one is really passionate. They take a more common cinematic approach - the science-y kid gets to run through the lab and say the names of some amino acids, and the DNA critter gets five seconds of screen time so we get the reference. We're back into the realm of science-as-magic, like how Iron Man's suit can break into 50 pieces, fly across america, and land on his body without a bruise.
In Jurassic World, the balance between horror and theme park ride is tilted clearly towards being a ride. The characters seem to blithely accept that things will, sooner or later, go wrong, and people will get munched. Most people on the island don't seem to think that this is really a bad thing, and are determined to speed things along by making the worst possible decisions. In the original, there are actually very few characters, and there is no bystander carnage. All the onscreen deaths are fair and just. Like in Wonka's factory, the bad eggs get eliminated one by one, in appropriate ways- the chubby thief is humiliated in mud, then blinded with acid, then he hits his head on the car door frame, and then he is munched. The gutless coward gets munched off a toilet seat.The hunter gets out-hunted by the raptors, fair and square. Oompa loompas could have sung a song after each. In the new movie, they're all like "lets send in 10 guys with remote heart rate monitors in to try and stop the monster and then die" and then they die. (Pro tip, if you are called in to fight monsters, and someone is monitoring your heart rate from a control room, fake a tummy bug. Especially if its in a jungle). There's no urgency or sense of reality as things turn bad. The violence is arbitrary, crowd violence, like the cities that are always flattened in movies these days. Impersonal and un-affecting disasters. The poor nanny character who does her best is killed in a truly horrible way, tossed from beast to beast presumably because it was a fun thing to animate. In the old movie people die, but each death is meaningful and individual. How many people die it Jurassic world? A dozen? Fifty? Less, for sure, than in all the cities in San Andreas, Avengers, Into Darkness. The thousands of visitors to the island is Jurassic World are us, with all our needy, whiney, fickle annoyingness. The first movie was about dreamers, and imagined wowing the audience in an imagined, perfect park. This one has a staff of day-jobbers, and you get the feeling they kind of wish they could just feed us all to the pterodactyls.
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