For the record, "Triassic" was the first of the three dino periods. I remember all this from a junior high science project that I did.
Today we have the movie "Jurassic World" which, belatedly it seems, continues the whole phenomenon begun by author Crichton. I read the book with great interest before seeing any of the movies. He is missed in the world of literature. He admitted he wasn't a great writer. He was a superb storyteller and had an insatiable scientific mind, probing what was possible on the edge of known science.
An op-ed writer poked fun at Crichton's writing, making note of the two-word sentence "(insert name) sighed." Once I read that, I couldn't put it out of my mind when reading Crichton's stuff. Successful creative people always invite some derision. The op-ed was a typical pooh-pooh job.
All of Crichton's books lent themselves to movies. The mix was totally perfect for "Jurassic Park." Not that dinosaurs were new to movies. Anything but. Remember "The Valley of Gwangi?" We can go all the way back to "King Kong" which had some scary dinos. The advent of CGI made the concept more powerful. The time was right for "Jurassic Park." And then we got the two sequels.
In this day and age in which Hollywood desperately tries sticking with "branded" stuff, stuff with a proven track record, it's amazing we've had to wait so long for the next movie. But finally in 2015, this franchise came alive again. Maybe the pause was due to Hollywood realizing there might really be a limit to our enthusiasm about the dino theme.
The 2015 movie does prompt nostalgia. I would suggest the nostalgia isn't prompted so much by the movies themselves. The new movie makes us look back in our own lives, to remember the stage in our lives when the first three "Jurassic" movies came out. Those three belong in a certain window in time. Our family had our dog "Sandy" for the first three movies - he is of course gone now. I was with the Morris newspaper at that time. I made the trip to Alexandria MN to see the first movie, accompanied by the newspaper custodian, Howard Moser. Howard is in a nursing home today. I'm not in the workforce.
I saw "Jurassic Park 2" in Alexandria too. And then for the third installment, I waited to see it on VHS tape at home. "Jurassic Park III" seems to be having a good run on cable TV. My opinion of that third movie has gone up since I first saw it. Initially I thought the movie was conflicted, since it had humorous or absurd aspects that seemed incongruous. Over time I have learned to overlook that apparent weakness. The movie has charm with its ending of a reconciled married couple, putting a joyful smile on the face of the son who had been through all the travail with those pesky dinos. It might seem silly that a single family's issues would seem so important in the face of the enormity of an island filled with flesh-eating dinos. Call "Jurassic Park III" an acquired taste. I eventually acquired it.
OK, so what's the verdict on "Jurassic World?" I watched it a few nights ago, having checked out the DVD from our Morris Public Library. For one thing, this is a movie that will not stick with me. I give it an 'A' for effort. The moviemakers give us an elaborate product in which surely there are no problems with special effects. We are spoiled with the quality of CGI. It isn't enough to simply see good CGI. Scenes that would have made us practically faint with fascination in the 1960s, make us yawn today. One truism remains: There is no substitute for a good story.
I had to strain to try to follow the plot details and character relationships in "Jurassic World." In this sense it seemed like a "movie made by committee." It's a common problem in Hollywood.
The movies whose story lines grab you, do not make you work to understand the stories or characters. "Jurassic World" definitely tried to set up some interesting character relationships. Not only did I feel confused at times, I just didn't care enough about the characters to try to sort it all out. It felt like work.
In "Jurassic Park III," one could easily see the issues of the central family, and feel some emotions about it. We all know people like that, people who get married but mysteriously encounter issues that prevent a comfortable ongoing relationship. We learn in that movie that the ultimate cement for fixing that marriage was the son, the son who smiled so warmly at the end when he saw the hurdles were overcome.
The "bitch" character in the new movie, that obsessively career-centered woman, evokes no sympathy from me at all. Many of us have had to work with someone like that. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We see this military-oriented guy who we know has a target on his forehead for ultimately being dino food. I wasn't certain of his exact status: Was he just military-minded or did he represent the military, ready to try to employ dinos in wartime? He was too obviously constructed as an unsavory character. Oh, the movie needs that.
The theme park in the movie has a new hybrid dino, designed I guess to be more fascinating than a T-Rex. If the public can't be wowed by the standard T-Rex, I would suggest there's no hope. I guess the public was getting bored with the standard dinos, just like we get bored by CGI. What does it take to entertain people nowadays? I would suggest a good story with good, believable characters. Maybe it makes too much sense. I guess it's hard to promote such movies in the "coming attractions" portion of a night at the movies.
Plenty of us are still entertained by a good story and characters. We're huddled away in a refuge somewhere, or something.
Naturally "Jurassic World" gives us a couple of charming kids, boys, one of whom has long hair that makes him look like he belongs in that famous Life Cereal commercial of the 1970s. We see the boys in a gyrosphere ride. The new hybrid dinosaur, having escaped, attacks them. The boys escape and find the original Jurassic Park visitor center. They repair an old Jeep? Would it really have been functional after so much time? We know they'll survive. The island's dino birds get loose. They descend on the park's visitors. I wonder what insurance companies were willing to have policies on that place?
The unsympathetic lawyer character in the original "Jurassic Park" movie had concerns about safety. He thought it might threaten the whole financial enterprise. Turns out he was no dummy. He's the guy, you remember, who got eaten by the T-Rex. He was caught sitting on a toilet, remember? Someone was trying to send a message about lawyers. This was not lost on Weird Al Yankovic.
That military guy directs that the raptors be sent to attack that big bad new dino (called "Indominus Rex"). But alas, turns out the new dino has raptor components in his DNA, so it communicates with the raptors, dulling their will to attack. Instantly I was reminded of the dog who communicated with the bears at the zoo in "Anchorman."
Well, the movie continues on with these filthy and violent dinos attacking all over the place, until I have completely lost interest in such stuff. I suppose we will yet see another "Jurassic" movie. It's irresistible because of the fame of the franchise. Hollywood is wedded to known quantities. I might take a pass on the next one. Maybe instead I'll seek a DVD of "The Valley of Gwangi."
The comic books of my youth were full of interesting creatures, characters and story lines that I would swear would make for great contemporary movie fodder. Think outside the box, please.