Jurassic Park - 18th February 2011

Another week and another brilliant midnight movie. I just can't emphasise enough how good it is to see ANY movie on the big screen, let alone one that you love or that is legitimately amazing and I am sorry, as wonderful as home screening equipment gets, unless you have an ACTUAL cinema in your home, nothing beats the experience.
This screening of Jurassic Park, for example, was sold out but not by a regular mainstream audience that you'd expect for, what was once, an enormous blockbuster but by the people who were kids or early teens when the film came out and are now, many of them, shlubby, crazy haired fan boys (and I say this with love, as one of them) that have some how turned this multi-million dollar film with, at one time, state of the art special effects into a cult B-Movie. I am sure Spielberg would be delighted as that is exactly what the film is, it's a hokey, cheesy, exciting, thoroughly cliched yet thoroughly enjoyable monster movie. It features thin stereotype characters and an unbelievably weak plot, it is really no more than a stalk and slash movie with dinosaurs, but is all the better for it.
Lastly, to keep its B-Movie credentials, while everyone in the cast, minus maybe Bob Peck, is a recognisable name to most movie fans, none of them are exactly A-List. All of the three leads (Neil, Dern & Goldblum) are known for quirky, left-of-centre, performances in art house, cult or genre films and Richard Attenborough fills the staple of the monster/B-Movie genre as the older, yet very well known character actor and statesman of film making that makes you say 'wow! what are they doing in this film?!' A role usually reserved for someone like Vincent Price or Donald Pleasance.
His appearance is also Spielberg maybe having a bit of an in joke because, basically, Spielberg makes two types of films with, in my opinion, varying degrees of success: One is the blockbuster popcorn genre flick (normally with a focus on fantasy, aliens or monsters - basically anything he once saw in 1954) and two is important and worthy films, usually on a grand scale and in a very similar vein to the films of Richard Attenborough, between the two of them, when it comes to these types of films they could leave you feeling depressed and guilty for days!

I have a mixed relationship with Spielberg, mainly because he falls into the realm of 'things I just don't understand really why they are so successful' along with Star Wars, Harry Potter and Football (soccer if you are American), not because he doesn't make populist films, of course he does and so on that level, I get it but I just don't see how he makes populist films any better than anyone else makes populist films and I don't understand why he is held in such high regard by other film-makers.
He gets bigger budgets, the latest effects, normally a big name cast or at least a good cast, he works with the best screenwriters and from some of the best source material it's true but, as a director, I don't see, on screen, what the big thing is, I just don't understand.
I think, for me, it's because he doesn't have much of an edge, isn't cynical at all and isn't particularly thoughtful or deep. Even his, supposedly serious films will basically come down to a story of good versus bad, this is right and that is wrong and rarely is, if ever, on a subject on which we don't all agree, the Nazis were bad, right?
His best film, in this regard, is the under appreciated 'Catch Me if you Can' which has a much more anarchic and interesting sensibility to it.
Lastly, another reason why I think Spielberg isn't bad, in fact he often makes good films but he isn't particularly that interesting to me, is that his out look and humour is child like and enthusiastic, often heavily sentimental rather than genuinely touching or romantic and with the visual or verbal jokes that he has in his films more likely to generate a groan or a polite laugh of knowning recognition than anything resembling a more difficult or challenging joke that might illicit a hearty guffaw. That is certainly true for Jurassic Park, where the jokes range from the knowing groan (A T-Rex being seen in the rearview mirror of a car that reads 'objects in this mirror maybe closer than they appear') to the childish (a little girl gets sneezed all over by a 'friendly' vegetarian dinosaur).
Despite all that, though, I do like a handful of his films and they tend to fall into his blockbustery popcorn work rather than when he attempts to do anything with any purpose, those films are Close Encounters, Jaws, The Indiana Jones trilogy, the aforementioned Catch Me if you Can and now, Jurassic Park.

I can admit that I had probably only seen Jurassic Park a couple of times on TV when I was younger and, for whatever reason, was never one of those films I carried with me into adulthood. While Jaws and Indiana Jones remained close to my heart, I am not sure my young self saw or appreciated what I now understand and that is, like I said in the beginning, it's one big, glorious, silly monster movie. You see, weirdly, growing up I was and still am a huge fan of Westworld.
Now Westworld was also a Michael Crichton project, which he also directed, about a theme park, full or robots, that goes wrong. The idea of man creating something through technology or science, greedily trying to make money off it and it turning out to be an enormous mistake is where both films obviously parallel but where they mainly differ wildly, is in tone. Westworld is a thoughtful, dark, unnerving, intelligent piece of science fiction and Jurassic Park, the film, is a big, effects filled romp of a monster movie that feels like a theme park ride itself, both in style and also in the fact that, while there are jumps and thrills you never fully feel like anyone is in actual peril. All of the main cast survive (in the case of the little boy this is ludicrous!) and the four people who do get eaten, one of them is a lawyer hiding in a toilet (funny death), one of them is a smoker and nonchalant who goes down into a dark basement by himself (so in Hollywood logic must either be the lead hero or die), one of them is a legitimate surprise because you actually like him (Muldoon) and the last one is not only fat and silly but also caused the whole Park malfunction in the first place (meaning he is not only a funny but also a justifiable death, using Hollywood logic).
It is this last character, Dennis Nedry, played by Wayne Knight that also separates Jurassic Park from Westworld because it is the idea that greed and the selfish actions of one man cause the creatures in the park to run amok. Yes, of course, all the way through the experts are questioning Richard Attenborough's ideas and safety procedures (why would you genetically develop a T-Rex, for what purpose ever?) but the plot still shows that up until Newman from Seinfeld tries to steal some biological dinosaur samples, seemingly without really thinking any of his actions through at all, everything was fine with the park.

Once I eased my mind off the problems I have with Spielberg films generally and  realised it was just a fun b-movie, I relaxed and completely saw what all these other t-shirt wearing, larking about fans in the cinema saw in the film. Firstly the effects still completely hold up, the CG work, in parts, even pleasingly mimics the animatronic work of previous dinosaur films, especially in the movements and the way they were shot and I think the genius in it was using so many actual dinosaur puppets/robots created by Stan Winston because they look terrific.
There are some splendid set pieces and I especially like the scene with the two raptors in the kitchen chasing the kids, there is, however, one problem with all the action scenes and that is there really isn't much the humans can do but run away, stay still or be eaten because they never really got the better of the dinosaurs or had any weapon that you could possible imagine bringing the T-Rex down save a bomb or something and that never happens, of course it makes little to no sense that if we are in a world that can genetically develop dinosaurs from blood found in an ancient mosquito, that they haven't also developed a big dinosaur gun or something but anyway.
The score is magnificent as well and has just the right amount of whistle-ability, adventure, excitement, tension and blockbuster booming to keep the film moving along at a pace pleasingly. It means you never really feel any of the movie's 2 hour running time and there isn't, exactly, any boring bits when John Williams can help it.
I talked a bit about the actors earlier and they are all very good, the part of Dr.Grant, played by Sam Neil, unfortunately doesn't have the Inidana Jonesy, hero feel to it that it could've done, despite him doing some heroic things and whilst Goldblum is pleasingly Goldblum, I am not sure whose idea it was to have him get injured and then to be out of commission the rest of the film, so all he does is lounge around, greased up, with his shirt open to the waist, what did the dinosaur pull all the buttons off his shirt? Still it's all part of the cheesy, hokey fun of it, especially with a live audience because they always laugh when he appears.
So all in all, while it'll never be my favourite Spielberg movie, it was a lot of fun and a great midnight movie.
7.5 out of 10 T-Rex T-Bone steaks
Points from the Wife 8 out of 10

Taken - 20th February 2011

Just Go With It - 14th February 2011