WHEN: 9:35 am EST, November 24th, 2013
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: DVD on a 19” AOC LED computer monitor/digital download on an iPhone 3
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Groggy. Chilly/wearing an off-brand Snuggie.
A TRIP INTO THE PAST:
Jurassic Park may be the high water mark for dinosaur blockbusters, but it all started back in 1925 with Harry Hoyt’s The Lost World, a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 work. In a quest to verify claims of prehistoric beasts alive and well in South America, Professor Challenger’s team of scientists and adventurers found themselves trapped on a deadly plateau where ancient life still reigns.
Comparing The Lost World to Jurassic Park is a fascinating exercise. Both films stand as a testament to mankind’s ongoing curiosity regarding the planet’s past. In the ways they contrast, we can see how much times have changed. (We now know that Brontosauruses aren’t a thing, and that blackface isn’t cool.) Today, I’m going to focus on one odd aspect of Jurassic Park that The Lost World brought to my attention: in the 68 years between Challenger’s expedition and Hammond’s island, man has gotten significantly worse at hunting dinosaurs.
THE LOST WORLD IS ALL ABOUT ASS KICKING:
The Lost World‘s Professor Challenger, along with scientist/hunter Sir John Roxton, reporter Edward Malone, and the rest, show up ready to play. They may not have brought enough general provisions, but they’re well stocked in munitions. The moment they arrive on the mysterious plateau, Challenger’s crew keep their weapons at the ready, just in case shit starts going down. Fairly reasonable, considering they’re surrounded by unknown predators. When an Allosaurus bursts into their camp their first night, they immediately commence emptying their ammo into it.
“Pew pew pew!”
When this fails, Ed Malone, the token journalist on the expedition, hurls a burning log into the animal’s mouth to scare it away.
And to make it look like a wiseguy, see.
They use this opportunity to escape to a series of caves, where they cower in fear, thankful to have their hides intact.
They take advantage of the shelter just long enough to kick it up a notch.
There is no sense in which this isn’t badass.
Hell yeah, old-timey ingenuity!
JURASSIC PARK SUCKS AT GUNS:
Alright, so if a handful of Edwardian gentlemen can take on a truckload of terror-lizards without blinking an eye, I’m sure that a well-equipped crew from the nineties will be able to take on a few glorified zoo breakouts. Yet, every time anyone in Jurassic Park has a chance to use any type of weapon, they screw up royally. Hell, the entire narrative is set off by JP security failing to down the Raptor in time to save poor Jophery the gate-keeper.
If ever there was a time to shoot a dinosaur, this would have been it.
Many of the times firearms might be effectively used against the dinosaurs (notably at the moment of their escape), nothing is done, simply because there are none available. When the T-Rex breaks loose, there is nothing in the cars but flares and night vision goggles. Near the enclosure, there is no safety bunker stocked with weaponry, just a flimsy rest stop.
Now, I’m not saying that anyone in Jurassic Park should be indiscriminately spraying bullets everywhere; non-lethal would work, as long as it’s been tested and shown to be effective. But the fact is, aside from the weapons locker at the compound, there are no defensive tools of any type available.
Once shit goes down and the guns come out, you almost wish they hadn’t. Nobody seems to be able to use them effectively. Only Grant and Muldoon ever get one in their hands, and only Grant gets off a shot. He’s able to severely damage a window.
That’ll show that glass.
After this failure, Grant decides that the gun just isn’t worth the bother.
Let’s hope the Raptors aren’t as good with guns as they are with doors.
Since Grant is a digger, not a fighter, we can excuse his poor weaponry skills. Muldoon, on the other hand, has no excuse. He was the dinosaur supervisor. HE HAD ONE JOB.
“Hmm, no Raptors. I’d better let my guard down till they kill the shit out of me.”
While it may look like he’s ready to fire here, as we soon see, it takes him an eternity to line up his shot. So much time, in fact, that the raptors have a chance to ambush him before he can fire a single round.
Muldoon is the opposite of a clever girl.
None of these things are really plot holes. There are a multitude of reasons within the story why the Jurassic Park team royally failed at controlling the dinosaurs. Hammond was overprotective. They didn’t want to expend the money on proper security. No one expected anything to go wrong. So why bring this up now? Well, I think the reason Jurassic Park’s employees aren’t too good with a six-shooter might have a little bit to do with residual embarrassment over The Lost World, and the period of time it represents.
The Lost World is really cool. It’s a fun story with groundbreaking special effects. It’s even a passable adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel. Unfortunately, it’s also a little awkward to watch today.
No, I’m not talking about the blackface, but seriously, yikes.
It was inevitable that Jurassic Park would invite comparisons to The Lost World and the novel from which it is derived. Hell, Michael Crichton straight-up stole the name for Jurassic Park‘s sequel from Arthur Conan Doyle. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how the conservation-minded nineties might balk at a group of scientists and explorers who burst onto an unexplored plateau, guns a-blazing. It’s an embarrassing reminder of a time when different attitudes prevailed, when exploring and observing were less emphasized than conquering and taming. While these themes are much more subdued in the 1925 film, in the novel, Challenger’s crew deliberately wipes out an entire species of intelligent missing links. Nothing like a little genocide mixed into your scientific adventure, right?
As I said, uncomfortable.
So along comes Jurassic Park. Again, the topic of mankind’s first interaction with dinosaurs is being addressed. How can this new film distance itself from its outdated predecessor? Well, one step you can take is to immediately and firmly condemn Hammond’s experiment, rash decision-making, and the entire concept of discovery, for good measure.
Professor Challenger killed all the ape-men, your argument is invalid.
Suddenly Malcolm’s frighteningly dogmatic “rape of the natural world” speech makes a little more sense. He’s not just talking about Hammond’s island, he’s talking about Challenger’s expedition, too.
Of course, talk is cheap. Once these people are trapped with the dinosaurs, they’re going to have to at least try to defend themselves. You wouldn’t want the audience to write off the whole cast as a bunch of bleeding hearts, would you?
Unless the heart in question is bleeding because a raptor has just gnawed it out of a chest.
And what about Muldoon? It’s essential that he be on hand. A Jurassic Park without a game warden would just be ridiculous, and the man has to be a badass or no one will respect him. You could make him evil, but that has its downsides as well. It would be a little cheap if all the people the dinosaurs killed were shitheads. Muldoon needs to be a likable gun-toting menace to prehistoric life. So what can you do to make sure he wouldn’t feel at home in Arthur Conan Doyle’s world?
Muldoon, meet your new best friend, Sir John Roxton.
The answer is, of course, very simple. Give Jurassic Park’s staff access to guns, but don’t let them use them effectively. Make them difficult to get at, and then never show them in use. This ensures that the audience won’t question why no one is defending themselves, while distancing Jurassic Park from possibly embarrassing comparisons to its predecessor.
If the poor gun usage was a deliberate attempt to distract from humanity’s fictional dinosaur/ape-man blasting past, I’d have to say that it was super effective. I never really thought about how bad with weapons anyone was until right after I saw The Lost World, and I’ve seen Jurassic Park 48 freaking times this year. So, good on ‘em.