In 1993 a bearded fellow by the name of Steven decided to make a film based upon a bestseller by Michael Crichton, I am sure you might have heard of this movie. Jurassic Park anyone?
Now, in 1993 I most definitely did not utter the words in the title of this article. For starters I was only 6 years old, and secondly I did not see the film until it was released on VHS (oh yes, remember the days of tracking?) maybe a year after it was in cinemas.
Now, I hear you asking, why in 2010 am I writing about a film released in 1993? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
I was lucky enough to be bought the 4 disc tin of the Jurassic Park Trilogy by my lovely girlfriend for my 23rd birthday this year. I had not watched them for ages, I was psyched, and the tin it came in was sweet and the special features were begging to be watched. However, first things first; I had to watch Jurassic Park again.
The first film was an adaptation of the novel written by Michael Crichton in 1990. Spielberg had gotten wind of it when the pair had hooked up to make ER The Movie. That project fell through for a variety of reasons and work went into the science fiction drama.
The story, as I am sure you are all aware, centres around a theme park where genetic advancements have permitted the resurrection of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period and before and the experiences of a group of scientists, lawyers, staff and children who are the first to experience it go terribly wrong.
Now, I love this film, really love it. It is magical, so is the book. But, and I am sure you will agree, with things so magical one forgets what exactly it is that does that, but you know it is there. You can almost taste the moment it is so close to the tip of your tongue. Though, upon my re-watching this film, I realised what it was.
As you go through the film you encounter dinosaurs from the get go; a skeleton in the desert followed by a feeding brachiosaur, then a herd of every dinosaur you have ever owned a plastic version of to the baby raptor hatching to the ill triceratops in the field. As you encounter these special effects, you are aware of the CGI or anamatronics utilized to create them. The final on that list, the triceratops, is amazing in the way the cast interact, but it is still a very static robot. But that is the last point you see special effects.
Once the power is out, the storm is hitting and the cars are just waiting patiently and defenselessly outside the T-rex paddock it all changes. The goats leg hits the roof of the car and then you get that final gulp of flesh, then a glimpse of the two-fingered hand on the fence; and then it steps out. It’s the T-rex, it’s walking out of it’s paddock. But, it’s not CGI not anamtronics, it’s an actual bloody dinosaur! This aspect of the film is completely overlooked in the bonus features or Trivia on IMDB. Steven Spielberg managed to get a hold of a live tyrannosaurus rex, and a trained one at that!! I don’t know where he got it, who trained it, but I want to know where it is now. Maybe they have it roaming a pen out the back of Skywalker Ranch with ILM, or maybe it’s moved to his own island retreat with the money it made off the film and it’s sequels. Costa Rica for irony’s sake? God only knows.
The reason I am getting to, mind, is that I have not seen a dinosaur since. I know that sounds ridiculous, but there is method to my madness. My friends and I refer to the moment I recalled in the film as a T-Rex moment, and we have not had once since, in my opinion. With all the technological marvels of the past 10 years; Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and now Avatar, not one of these has made me sit up, swear, and honestly believe that what I am seeing on my screen is real and alive.
We rave and shout about technological marvels of recent years, about 3-D films and intelligent mass-population software, but it is a film released almost 17 years ago that captures my heart and imagination. A film that uses simple and relatively infantile techniques carries enough flaw that I believe it to be there. Maybe it is because I knew these creatures once existed that makes my mind more acceptable to the illusion, the same reason maybe that I do not believe in James Cameron’s Pandora?
Regardless, I challenge you to find me another T-Rex moment, I am sure you will be hard pressed.
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