I had two English profs in my first year at university. The second one had a pretty specific paradigm to advance - she was British Indian and her ethnic and cultural background basically set the whole tone for the semester's reading list. It was interesting, but ultimately didn't make for the kind of overview I was expecting when I picked the course. I remember, though, when she told us about the Indian version of Hollywood, called "Bollywood" for some reason. She told us that in India, people demanded everything from every movie, or it wasn't worth their time, so a Bollywood movie would have action, romance, scares, songs, explosions and choreographed dance sequences all in one go.
Jurassic Park has no songs or dancing, but I'm pretty sure it's a gigantic box full of every reason people go to the movies.
I took a bit of extra time to write this post. It didn't help. Star Wars filled me with things to say. Jurassic Park doesn't do that. It's a bald-faced wonder that uses such a simple and immediate idea so plainly and yet so tremendously that there aren't shades to it. Mr. Spielberg, who I don't think I can refer to by his first name anymore, took a word out of the dictionary, a word out of childhood imaginings, and just threw it on film and said "done." If someone tells me there's another dinosaur movie I'm going to laugh at them.
The hokey sort of "man learns to appreciate kids" storyline is actually pretty subdued and done through scenes that are always something else - a bit of comic relief, a span of stress release, an escape from a plummeting car - so I didn't mind it. It helps that the guy playing Grant just looks like the universe spit in his face and he's very mildly annoyed about that, so when he's at ease it's immediately visible. I thought there were a lot more characters in the movie, but it's a smaller crew than I realized.
Malcolm's a sleaze and a creep, but he's not dumb. I felt like we've hit the film era where his behavior is seen as uncomfortable - Sattler (thank you Rachel) blows him off casually and continuously, Hammond hates him, and he's got a history of destroyed marriages, he tells Grant. I feel that his being a sleaze is a deliberate counterpoint to Hammond, who looks like Santa Claus and someone else's grandpa (he looks nothing like my grandfather). Hammond is friendly, jovial, and promises wonders that he can immediately deliver on. He's a man in white, with a clean conscience and a true and sincere belief that he's done magic that the world should share in. Malcolm is his opposite in every respect - young, slicked hair, no relationships, a naysayer who passionately argues for the power of no. You don't deserve wonder, says Malcolm, because the very process of attaining wonder cheats you out of it. Hammond wanted to have his cake and eat it too. Even the scene where they're reading the map - Hammond's about the space and the path, the qualitative ideas about where to go. Malcolm takes over and tells Sattler to follow the nitty-gritty: where go the pipes and wires, you shall follow. He's the man in black and proud of it. These two clash perfectly. The word is juxtaposition (thanks Brian) and it's done so well.
I'll take a moment to shout-out to all the bit players. It's a great cast and every role matters. The kids... a bit less. Lex was always going to end up terribly dated like that useless computer system (has anyone ever had a system that bad?) and Tim's supposed to be like a Dr. Grant wannabe? I don't know.
The ultimate theme in the movie is about hubris, which is a great word that I'm glad I know. That big majestic theme that knocked me off my metaphorical feet when they arrived at the island is one partner in a pair of musical ideas that speak to the themes of the movie, and it comes in as the helicopter enters this set of thickly forested valleys that are like gates to the heart of nature. The ultimate accomplishment is also the ultimate trespass, as Malcolm points out; the piece of music is bold, inspiring, smashes it out of the park - but when does it come back? When the T. Rex shows up to eat some raptor. It's not the theme of Hammond's triumph - he doesn't actually have one - it's the power of nature and the triumph of life. We just get to intrude on it for a little while. He's never had control, you see - there were eggs in the park, dinosaurs that became male to resolve the needs of life when Hammond tried to cheat. At the time they arrive at the park, it's already beyond his control. The hubris and selfishness of the old man is marked out in this one moment where he hears gunshots and screams at Grant about it. I think he was screaming at him for having the gall to shoot at one of his creations. They mentioned some sort of safety plan that would see all the dinosaurs die off within a short time and he dismisses it, which costs another two lives in a snap.
Hammond has thin fences, he tries to feed a T. Rex which wants nothing more than to hunt for dinner. He forgot locks on the cars, assuming people wouldn't dare do things any way but his - actually, thinking about it, that happens on the tour too when the scientists escape from their seats. The whole park relies on the idea that things will go his way; of course it broke down. He made raptors and they proved too smart for him, and still he just chuckled about them like they were no worse than a tame tiger at the zoo. The whole plot is kicked off when a raptor proves its power over their safety protocols, and all he can think of is the inconvenience of dealing with the lawyer. He's mildly sexist, can't stand naysaying, and thinks that everyone should fall and praise his vision, not even thinking what it means to people - the corporate lawyer out for money, the I'm not even going to bother trying to spell that word but the two doctors whose life's work is about to be rendered trivial forever, the warden who lost a man to the most dangerous creature ever. How like a god, indeed. The man's the image of the stereotypical God and it's right that someone call him out on it.
As usual, we get to my favorite part at the end. I saw that they actually built the T. Rex and of course they did, I would have too. There are a few others - the brontosaur and the triceratops - that are obviously real physical effects, and I think the wonder and reactions of the actors in those scenes are exceptional in that they are real. I don't care who you are, your job does not involve getting to interact with something that awesome on a daily basis. Everything they choose to show is treated with all the force and wonder that it deserves, and the only thing that stood out as poor was the gallimimus herd (thanks again Rachel). The raptors are properly terrifying and personal, while the T. Rex didn't even scare me because it was just so awesome. I talked about the two partner themes in the movie; the first is of course the "power of nature" theme with the brass lead. The other is on strings and piano, it's subtle and rising and is all about the wonder. Because it is absolutely that. I said euphoria in the first impressions and good god did I mean it. What a big vision to put on a small screen. The music tells us how very wondrous it is that these creatures are alive and walking among us on this earth. It doesn't go away when they mention the T. Rex. It's not bombastic or threatening. It's hope, possibility, joy and sheer wonder. How like a god, I said, yes, but Hammond did brush the sort of... how can I put this? The very edge of the divine. He was never meant to have it, but he did manage to clear away the dust and let these people get a glimpse, for one moment, of all the power and glory. It transformed them, and as they're flying away he knows that it's lost now, but that for a small, shining, brief moment, he had in his hands the power to make dreams come alive.