WHEN: 6:25pm EST, January 9th, 2013
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: DVD on a 24” Philips CRT television
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Was feeling very sick and tired during the viewing, so it was not particularly easy to keep myself focused. I attribute this entirely to whatever stomach virus I had.
THE THEATRICAL TRAILER:
In commemoration of its 100th birthday, Universal Studios has released a special “100th Anniversary” DVD of Jurassic Park. Having recently picked it up, I decided to see what exciting special features made it onto this celebratory edition.
There are less bonuses on this bonus page than there were dinosaurs on that dinosaur tour.
Due to what I can only assume was an attempt to pressure Luddites into upgrading to Blu-Ray, I prefaced this viewing by watching the only feature available on the DVD: the theatrical trailer.
Bitter experience has taught me that trailers do not often reflect the true tone of a movie. A depressing dark comedy filled with suicide attempts and almost-incest can be made to look like a fun romp with Ben Stiller and Gene Hackman. An out-of-context dream sequence can grant dogs the power of speech. This makes it all the more satisfying to note that the original theatrical trailer for Jurassic Park successfully encapsulates the feel of the movie.
This truly gets me pumped to watch Jurassic Park. The voice-over narration is awfully cheesy; no one should ever be able to say, “The most phenomenal discovery of our time… becomes the greatest adventure of all time,” with a straight face. But despite this, the trailer showcases the two most important emotions the movie has to offer: wonder and terror.
Also, a shot of Laura Dern picking a leaf that didn’t make the film’s final cut.
The score swells. The gates open. The graceful leg of a giant beast moves through the frame. The first half of the film is dominated by images and scenes designed to capture our imaginations by showing us the beauty of a world lost to time. It’s a large part of what makes the movie so appealing. The kid in all of us is excited to see dinosaurs alive again, if only on the big screen.
Unless our inner child happens to be this little shit.
There are, of course, hints of the disaster to come (the raptor cage incident that opens the film, for instance), but for the most part, wonder dominates the first half of the film.
Whoever created the theatrical trailer correctly identified this as one of the core appeals of the film, and played it up. As John Williams’s score plays we see glimpses of flocking Gallimimus. We see long necks poking up above the trees. But we don’t see any of them long enough to satiate our prehistoric appetite. But then…
OH NO! DINOSAURS!:
“Hold on to your butts.” The ground trembles. The T-Rex lumbers into view. This was all a truly horrible idea. We have arrived at the meat of the film, the malfunction of the theme park and the rampage of the dinosaurs. While the spectacle of lifelike dinos is appealing, it cannot carry a movie. It’s time for some thrills and chills.
And eyes, and goats, and whatnot.
It’s amazing how quickly the trailer pulls a 180. One second Lex is asking if she can pet a Brachiosaur, the next Sam Jackson is requesting that we hang on to our posteriors, water glasses are rippling, and a T-Rex is chasing a truck.
The change is a bit more gradual in the actual film, but the same shift is present. We come for the sheer awesomeness, we stay for the thrills. It’s like a roller-coaster, and like the Pirates of the Caribbean, it doesn’t eat you if it breaks down.
Watching the trailer before the movie also got me thinking about what it does not advertise, namely the characters. What the trailer shows us is not a film about a paleontologist, or a paleobotanist, or a chaotician, or a lawyer, or two kids, or an old guy who makes dinosaurs. It shows us a film about a park full of prehistoric marvels/monsters. In short, it shows us a disaster movie. When you think about The Poseidon Adventure, you don’t think about Gene Hackman, you think about an upside-down ship. Did you know that Fred Astaire was in The Towering Inferno? Probably not, but I bet you knew that there was a burning building in it. I’m not saying this to put down any of the performances in Jurassic Park. I think the whole movie is impeccably cast and exceedingly well-acted. The performances simply are not the focus.
Thinking on this during my viewing, it occurred to me that most of the characters are made visually distinct through the colors of their costumes. Most of their outfits are dominated by one solid color. Grant wears blue. Sattler is salmon. Ian Malcolm, the cynic, is clothed all in black. Tim Murphy wears blue, like his idol Grant. The staff of Jurassic Park all wear various shades of gray, from the slate of the workers in the opening scene, to Hammond’s white suit. Nedry wears white, except when he’s betraying Hammond, when he shows his individuality by wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
At InGen, you can express your personality through your clothes, as long as they’re gray.
I suppose if you don’t have all the time in the world to establish each of the characters in your large cast, you could do worse than using a color scheme to help define them.