WHEN: 6:55pm EST, February 16th, 2013
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Had spent the day watching movies (Primer, Side Effects, Screwballs). Was a little preoccupied, worrying about something. Ate off-brand Cocoa Krispies and a banana.
GRANT, THE PALEONTOLOGIST WHO KNEW TOO MUCH:
To begin, I would like to draw your attention to that heartwarming scene in Snakewater, Montana in which Dr. Alan Grant comes close to verbally abusing a child.
You know the one.
This scene does several things. It introduces Grant as a man who hates kids, giving him an emotional obstacle to overcome later. It gives the audience additional cause to fear the raptors upon their eventual escape. It also establishes Grant as an expert super-genius in dinosaur behaviorology. Wait a moment? That doesn’t quite make sense.
Grant is a paleontologist, but even as one of the best in his field, he displays a more definitive knowledge of dinosaur behavior and biology than is possible for him to posses. In his own words, “Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution, have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?” Yet, he has a pretty good track record in predicting the actions of these animals.
“You keep still, because you think that maybe his visual acuity’s based on movement, like a T-rex, he’ll lose you if you don’t move.”
“But no. Not Velociraptor. You stare at him, and he just stares right back.”
“That’s when the attack comes, not from the front,but from the side, from the other two raptors you didn’t even know were there.”
“Point is, you’re alive when they start to eat you. So, you know, try to show a little respect.”
And he was able to put all this together just by looking at their bones? Sure, you can get a rough idea about the intelligence of an animal by looking at the size of its brain, but to accurately predict its behavior, you would have to look for other clues. In fact, the jury is still out on whether or not Velociraptor hunted in packs.
Grant’s repeated claims that the T-Rex’s visual acuity is based on movement are equally, if not more, suspect. From the fossil record, it looks like Rex could see pretty damn well. Yet, upon reaching the park, Grant’s bizarre predictions once again prove accurate.
Rex sees the flare, doesn’t see Grant. The prognostication point goes to Grant.
So, if Grant isn’t getting his dinosaur knowledge from the fossil record, where is this sneaky bastard getting his info?
THEORY ONE – THE MONTANA SCENE TAKES PLACE AFTER THE EVENTS OF THE MOVIE:
Ready to have your mind blown? The Montana scene (until the cut to Hammond’s helicopter) actually takes place after the events of the movie. The reason Grant is able to so accurately describe raptor attacks is because he has lived through them.
When mocked by the obnoxious child, Grant goes into full ‘Nam Flashback Mode over the death of Muldoon, hence his creepy slicing motions at the kid. He still isn’t in a mental state to properly deal with the horrors of Isla Nublar.
“Gee Mister, I didn’t realize what the dinosaurs had done to you.”
It’s the perfect explanation! Except that it’s stupid, and there’s next to no evidence to support it. There’s also the fact that Grant mentions T-Rex’s visual acuity during the visit to the island as well. But I have an explanation for that…
THEORY TWO – GRANT IS A TIME TRAVELER:
Grant has had experience with these animals before. This much is evident. He knows how they hunt, he knows how they see, and if you recall, he knows how they sound.
You see, when visiting Wu’s lab, he watches the birth of a baby raptor with delight.
“I love this baby!”
It is only when he hears its infant shrieks that he becomes concerned, and asks what species it is.
“I hate that baby.”
The only logical explanation is that Grant has, at some point, dealt with raptors before. Enough to know their calls, but not well enough to recognize their young. As a paleontologist, you would expect the opposite to be true.
Since he is genuinely stunned by the existence of the park, the only option left is that Grant is a time traveler. No doubt he is a time thief who has stolen history’s priceless treasures, and has hidden them *drumroll* in Cretaceous era Montana. His paleontology gig is merely a cover while he searches for the treasure he left in the past.
It explains how he knows the sounds of raptors. It explains how he knows about T-Rex eyesight. It all falls into place. Well, unless…
THEORY THREE – THE WRITERS WERE JUST A LITTLE LAZY:
Of course, it could be that the writers needed to get some information to the audience, and Grant was the most convenient mouthpiece. That might be it.
See, in the book, Grant merely theorizes that the Rex can’t see him when he is standing still; he doesn’t predict it ahead of time. But in a movie, this wouldn’t read. The audience would stand there agape, wondering why the dinosaur isn’t feasting upon his bones. In order to make the T-Rex attack scene work for the movie, the audience needed to already have it in their heads that the Rex could only see you if you moved. So they slipped it into Grant’s raptor speech (which in turn serves to prep the audience for the idea of scary raptors). Easy as pie.
In Crichton’s original screenplay, Grant has a very different speech indeed. When Sattler makes a guess about Velociraptor’s behavior, Grant takes the scientist’s approach, and replies with the following:
The science of paleontology can’t answer these questions. Novelists and artists who dream a vision of the Jurassic period can attempt these questions with their imaginations. What we scientists can say is considering the mass and kinetic articulation of these bones, this animal had a vertical leap of about twelve feet. Not as entertaining as fiction, but absolutely fact without prejudice.
It’s more in character for a paleontologist, but not as dramatic. I guess we can just chalk this change in Grant up as a small casualty of the movie adaptation process.
“I love science (even if I have to fudge it sometimes).”
This appears to be one of many changes that were made between Crichton’s screenplay and the final draft written by David Koepp. It might seem like a shame that the more scientific approach was left behind, but would Jurassic Park have been such a gripping cinematic experience if it had stayed in? It is impossible to say, but it is food for thought.