Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 13th 2018
Dinosaurs are awesome
I am a sucker for dinosaurs. I'm one of those old guys who go to dinosaur and megafauna exhibitions at museums with all the screaming kids. I used to be able to quote statistics for heaps of prehistoric creatures, and it was the names of ancient animals that started my hobby of etymology. I own all of the Walking With TV series. I have copies of dinosaur films dating back to the 1920s. Two of my published stories feature dinosaurs pretty prominently. Yeah, sometimes we don't grow up in too many ways. And, I am glad to say, I have passed this on to my son. My daughter, maybe not so much, but not for lack of trying.
So, now we know where I stand.
The Jurassic Park logo
I first became aware of Jurassic Park when, being the dinosaur nerd I was, a good friend got me the book by Michael Crichton for my birthday in 1992. I read it in a day or two. I re-read it less than a month later. I've read it again several times since. And when I heard there was a film coming out I saw it at the cinema three times. Thus my fascination with the franchise began.
Jurassic Park (1990): Novel by Michael Crichton
The book is a fantastic place to start with this series. The scientific explanations seem realistic (even if they are not 100% accurate, but this is science fiction, after all) and the characters feel real. The motivation of the bad guy Nedry actually makes sense, being purely for commercial gain, and the secretive nature of everything and paranoia woven throughout the novel makes his opportunity to install the backdoor into the computer system seem plausible. The scenes of the dinosaurs are remarkably well-written and genuinely scary. The ending is not a 'happily ever after' one, leaves things open for a sequel, and is actually more realistic for all that. One of the best dinosaur fiction stories ever written (and I have read a lot of them) and also one of my favourite science fiction novels.
The Lost World (1995): Novel by Michael Crichton To me, this felt like a sequel, written for the sake of cashing in. Professor Malcolm is revealed to have survived (even though he did apparently die in the first book) and he and a new professor find a different island where the dinosaurs were reared before being released into the theme park. People go missing, a baby tyrannosaur is helped, but in the end, it seems disease is going to wipe out the dinosaurs. I was not a fan of the book, unfortunately; it felt too much like a rehash of the original in parts and it just didn't grab me. Having said that, it is not a bad book; it just didn't appeal to me. For example, another mate likes it as much as the first one.
Then we have the films.
Jurassic Park (1993)
The story follows pretty closely to the original book. It does leave some stuff out, the science is (of course) glossed over a little more, and the ending is more upbeat. Three things make this film a brilliant science fiction film, a classic of its kind. The first is the choice of actors. Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern and Wayne Knight are especially well cast. The two child actors, maybe not so much, but you can't have perfection. The second is the atmosphere that is built the set design, the lighting, the believability of everything we see. And third, and most importantly the dinosaurs. At the time, these creatures were the product of state-of-the-art special effects, computer generated and animatronic; they still stand up, even in the light of what today's computers can produce. And it's the little things in the movie that help make it. Who can forget the ripples appearing on the glass of water as the T-Rex stalks the car? I admit it I still enjoy this film.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
This sequel is, unfortunately, just there. The story concerning a second island where the dinosaurs had been allowed to run free and plans to use these beasts to open a new Jurassic Park Theme Park is fine, if not convenient. But that is all it is fine. The acting is not brilliant; in fact, the best acting comes from the CGI dinosaurs. I do have to say, though, that while impressive from a special effects standpoint, I found the scenes of the T-Rex in civilisation slightly underwhelming. However, it is not a terrible film by any means and is not a bad way to spend an afternoon, so long as you don't think about it too hard.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
While the story-line is a little flimsy Professor Grant being recruited to go the dinosaur islands to help a couple find their missing son and another man I prefer this film over the previous sequel. I would like to point out that most critics disagree with me in this regard. The introduction of the Spinosaurus added something extra, and bringing Sam Neill back was a good move. The convenience of the teenager surviving and the raptor eggs being used the way they were and the phone in the excrement smacks of a heap of deus ex machina story-telling, but which writer hasn't done that in the past? Still, another decent film.
Jurassic World (2015)
And then we came back with a tour de force of science fiction action adventure storytelling. Everything that made the first film so awesome was here, but with the added bonus of better CGI and animatronics, child actors who could act and a new dinosaur that might have stretched the realms of scientific plausibility, but was one of the nastiest creatures developed for film. The theme park has been re-opened, and the nephews of one of the operating managers is visiting, a terrifying new dinosaur hybrid escapes and we have the standard flee from dinosaurs story-line. It is a decent story, the leads Chris Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard are well cast, and the special effects are incredible. Okay, there are flaws for example, Dallas, an office worker, outrunning a T-Rex? Seriously? but who cares when this film just does not let go for its entire running time?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
The concept of this film is totally different it's an ecologically based story-line with an all-too-realistic opening, based on the world created in the franchise and that automatically sets this apart. It is not as thrill-packed as the previous films, but it is also a little more heartfelt and there are more dinosaurs than ever before. It is also not as good as the previous film, but I prefer it to the two original sequels. Basically, a volcano is going to destroy the island, no-one will help the dinosaurs, so Chris Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard (reprising their roles) decide to help an illegal rescue mission, despite having become estranged since the last film (I know a standard sequel trope). But the dinosaurs are actually being rescued to be sold, a human clone becomes involved and the ending is an odd new world thing. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum reprises his role from the first two films, and who can forget that dinosaur playing possum?
I would also like to point out that the death of a CGI dinosaur the brachiosaur as the island finally succumbs actually brings a lump to the throat.
Five films, two books. A third Jurassic World film is due for release in 2021; until then, this is more than enough to make for an enjoyable weekend.