Saturday, June 4, 2022

Jurassic Park (1993)

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The archaeological dig of paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in Montana is interrupted by the arrival of filthy rich founder of InGen John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). He comes with a proposal: He will guarantee funding for their project in the next three years should they agree to travel with him to Costa Rica to show them his new investment and get their opinions thereof. Along with his investors’ attorney Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and gifted Mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the group fly via helicopter and arrive at Jurassic Park, an open-air amusement park that features dinosaurs genetically created by extracting DNA from dinosaur blood preserved in fossilized mosquitos. Among the dinosaurs brought back to life are the brontosaurus, velociraptors as well as the much-dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s all fun and games until the park’s security system is compromised, resulting in the ancient predators roaming around free to hunt for prey.

Mid-30’s me finds himself amused and grinning ear to ear when the T-Rex finally makes an appearance at the one-hour mark and starts eating everyone that moves. Ladies and gentlemen, the magic of cinema. I wonder how amazed my then 8-year-old self was when this film was originally released in 1993. The good old 90’s, when dinosaurs, aliens, and unsinkable ships ruled the box office. This must be the reason why Hollywood is churning out all these “requels” in the last few years. There’s just no beating nostalgia.

As for the premise, this film has carved a name for itself in the public’s consciousness by focusing on a what-if scenario that any kid out there might have already been dreaming of, that of reviving dinosaurs and how would the experience be should they end up co-existing with humans. Separated by millions of years, nobody really knows how that scenario would play out, but that doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to imagine, right? That’s what Jurassic Park does but comes short by confining the dinos on a secluded island far away from civilization instead of having them immediately go Godzilla on us. In the sequel, perhaps?

As for the CGI, it goes to show how the industry has progressed through the decades. After almost 30 years, you can see an obvious difference when it comes to quality. Nevertheless, this kind of CGI is revolutionary on its own back then. Artistic license is employed liberally. Lest we forget, this is a popcorn flick, not a documentary. Regardless of the inconsistencies as to how dinosaurs actually moved or looked like, it’s not as if everyone had a PhD in Paleontology to actually know what’s real and what’s not, nor does everybody have to. Just let your imagination fly and enjoy the experience.

It's also fun revisiting the movie after a few decades have passed. While we still end up viewing it with nostalgic rose-colored glasses, the attention appears to shift. If before we used to be amazed by the dinosaurs in action and the appreciation ends there, as an adult rewatching this, you end up noticing some other peculiarities and practical stuff any fully functioning adult would. It’s no longer about sheer amusement, but rather the realities of everyday life.

If anything, watching this again after almost 30 years makes me wonder how credible the science here is. Can they really clone dinosaurs from blood preserved in fossilized mosquitos? And then of course you have the ethical concerns related to that. It also brings to fore a specific interest in the field of Archaeology and how it works. And then you also have that tricky relationship between science and business. The beauty of Jurassic Park is that if you just want to have a good time and leave your brain at the door, you can do that, too.

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