Apr 23 2010

Article XXIII – In Which We Delve Into the Origins of Your Humble Writer


Let me set the scene for you.  It’s 1993.  I (your humble writer) am eight years old.  Up to this point in my life, there has been nothing but monster trucks and dinosaurs.  Every book I own is somehow related to dinosaurs.  Posters, toys, t-shirts – I’ve got it all.  And I think I’m set for life.  Yeah, I wanna be a paleontologist.  I’ve got a plan that takes me all the way through my life, working with these amazing creatures.

Then I see a little movie called Jurassic Park and my life changes forever.  Paleontologists…they spend all their time in the desert, searching and digging and basically doing the most boring job on the planet (disclaimer: this is not the most boring job on the planet).  They speculate as to what these creatures might have done, all from looking at the remains.  Naturally, my eight-year-old self realized that this wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life.  Jurassic Park showed me that I could write obnoxious film review columns on movies with dinosaurs in them.

I’m going to stop everyone right here and say that if you haven’t seen this movie, you will probably get nothing out of this column.  I doubt I’ll give you a summary.  Instead, you should go buy 3 copies of the movie.  Right now.

Now that you know that this film motivated my love of movies, where do I even begin?  With the dinosaurs, obviously.  This film is pretty much hailed as the start of using realistic CG in a story.  Sure, before this, there were other movies that had used the technology, and some of it was even good.  But Jurassic Park set the standard for what computer generated imagery would look like for years to come.  You’ve all heard stories about how James Cameron had to wait to see Lord of the Rings to even contemplate Avatar?  That’s what Jurassic Park was to every big budget filmmaker in the business.  Kubrick watched it and called up Spielberg with A.I. Lucas realized he could begin work on his Star Wars prequels. **cough cough** terrible idea, George **cough cough** Peter Jackson went back to his fan fantasies of Lord of the Rings and King Kong.  And unless you’re blind, which I’ve actually been told 20% of my readership is, you can see how monumental Jurassic Park is.

King of the World

Obviously, it also inspired yours truly to set out and write an Impossible set of articles for you all to enjoy at my expense.  Bleeding fingers be damned!  The typing must go on!

This movie is a typical Spielberg film.  What do I mean by that?  It’s got plenty of action and thrills, spectacular visuals, and a fairly character driven plot.  It also has a happy ending, which is something that I normally really don’t like about Spielberg.

So, the dinosaurs.  Originally, the dinosaurs were going to be a very realistic type of go motion, designed and animated by Phil Tippett.  After Spielberg found that lacking, he gave ILM a crack at it – after all, their work on Terminator 2 was pretty good – why not?  By combining stop motion technology and writing some new software for computer modeling, they were able to create the realistic creatures you see on screen.  Even by today’s standards, this movie is fantastic, visually.  By my standards, this movie is pure gold.

A funny little story: the bit in the film where Grant says he’s out of a job and Malcolm says “Don’t you mean extinct?” was from a real life conversation Spielberg had with Phil Tippett regarding go-motion.

This is not CG. The people are though.

Why does it work so well where other movies fail so utterly and completely?  The simple answer is, “I have no idea.”  I’ve got some theories, though.  Mixing the CG with realistic looking Stan Winston-produced animatronics has to be a step in the right direction.  A lot of people apparently couldn’t tell the difference between the robot dinosaurs and the fake dinosaurs.  Judicious use of CG also must have helped.  The entire movie is supplemented by the CG rather than bathed in it.  Spielberg uses just enough that you want to see more, but you are definitely happy with what you’ve been given.  Any other ideas should be emailed to me so I can add them in to this column later and pass them off as my own.

I realize it might be taboo to bring in my knowledge of the book, but bear with me for the character analysis.  In the book, each character is a walking cardboard cutout.  They have no personalities.  In the movie, each of the characters has little eccentricities and quirks, likes and dislikes that make them realistic.  Malcolm, in particular, is great.  His feelings are clearly presented, and his personality and sense of humor often add to the situation.  Alan Grant’s initial dislike of children makes him an interesting character, and putting him with Lex and Tim for the majority of the story gives him time to grow and evolve (hah!) until he is obviously okay with the kids.

What do I think of the movie, overall?  I would think it’s obvious.  This is the movie that made me want to make movies.  I saw the potential in bringing whatever you want to life to fit a story, and I was hooked.  Sure, this might not be the most perfect movie ever made.  But this film is exemplary of what Spielberg is best at: spectacle and fun.  There may be a handful of movies out there that entertain as perfectly as this one.  Others might be more meaningful, some might make you laugh more, others may even be more visually interesting.  But this film takes every element and rolls it up into one perfect package.  You get a flavor of all aspects of film: romance, adventure, science fiction, comedy, and drama all in one.  What more can I say?  It’s magnificent.

...Should...have sent...a poet

Sooo…as for what all of you vultures really want to know: is it possible to do this in real life?  Is the science in this movie sound enough that in our lifetimes (2-5 months in most cases) we will be riding around on top of tyrannosauruses?

Step by step:

1. Find an insect with dinosaur blood in its abdomen.  Yes, this is theoretically possible, but in reality, not only would you have to have an insect from the right time period, but there would be no guarantee that it was dinosaur blood.

2. To extract the blood, you’d have to separate it from the insect’s blood, and then there’s the problem of having the DNA deteriorate over time.

3. Then all you need to do is put together the entire genome.  Essentially, this would be like putting together a billion piece jigsaw puzzle in the dark with every piece the exact same size and shape.

The Answer: FUCK YES IT’S POSSIBLE.  I’ll see you in the world of tomorrow my friends!

**rides off on the back of his triceratops**

2 Responses to “Article XXIII – In Which We Delve Into the Origins of Your Humble Writer”

  • Maggie Says:

    This was the movie that did it for me, too.

    Months later I found a giant mosquito in my bedroom and I tried to extract the blood.


  • corey Says:

    NO mention of Jeff Goldblum? Obviously you left out the best part of the movie. What is Jurassic Park without his talent? FIL?!

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