January 12, 2010

Jurassic what..?

I watched Jurassic Park last night and - as with a number of Spielberg films - I was struck with two conflicting emotions-

1) Spielberg is a consummate film-maker able to hit all the right emotional high-points needed to make a really good movie.
2) There are so many huge logic flaws that the movie itself makes no sense.

Let me talk about the second point. Any movie has to create its own reality. The reality can be as far-fetched as needed as long as the rules are created and then adhered to. Jurassic Park sets its own reality using the 'amusement park ride' format near the start. They identify that dino DNA from mosquitoes in amber has been extracted, mixed with frog DNA, sequenced and used to hatch dinosaurs. Whether you think that is credible or not is irrelevant. The fact is THAT is the reality the movie makes and it sticks with it pretty well for most of the way.

Now let me explain the logic flaws that ruin the movie outside of that reality.

1) The arrival at the island. Why would you put a helicopter landing pad in the middle of the island where the approach has to be through narrow, steep valleys with huge windshear and a vertical drop down the side of a waterfall? If the helicopter landed near the park itself I could understand it but the visitors then have to take a jeep ride from the helicopter pad to the park itself. Does that mean that the amusement park is actually in the middle of the island? If so, why? The boat dock is obviously at the edge, the visitors eventually will be coming by boat (presumably) so why trek them through the island when you could station the park near the shore and turn it into a seaside resort as well? It makes no sense.

2) The Brachiosaur. As the jeeps head towards the visitor centre they cross a wide open stretch of land. On one side is a 20 story high Brachiosaur, on the other is a lake with other large dino's visible in the water and on the shore and yet neither Drs Malcolm, Grant or Sattler notice either of these until the jeeps stop and one of them glances to the side. It makes no sense.

3) The Visitor centre. Kinda small for a place meant to deal with large crowds visiting the island, don'tcha think?

4) The Raptors. The most dangerous animals on the island are - apparently - the Velociraptors. Deadly enough to need a special, ultra-secure cage built just for them. A cage which they position conveniently next to the visitor centre. Does this make sense? All the other animals are behind high electric fences with special double-access gates situated a car ride away from the visitors. But the Raptors? No, they're right next door. It makes no sense.

5) The T-Rex attack. In my mind one of the best set-pieces Spielberg has ever put together. I loved it when I saw it the first time and I loved it when I saw it last night. But here's the question. How can the T-Rex cross from the goat cage through the fence to the vehicles? We see later on in that sequence that if you go through that fence there is a huge drop on the other side. In fact the T-Rex throws one of the cars over it and into the top of a tree below. But didn't we see the T-Rex come across from the goat cage and rip the fence apart not 2 minutes earlier? It didn't appear to jump a huge gap, or climb any sort of incline or cliff to do that. So where did the drop come from? While we are talking about this sequence, when Dr Grant gets Tim out of the vehicle in the tree, if they just stood where they were on the branch, the vehicle would have fallen away  from them leaving them without a problem. However as soon as the car started to fall they chose to get underneath it and race it to the floor. It makes no sense.

6) The Lawyer: Everyone loves to see the lawyer get it in a movie. I'm no exception. The lawyers death by T-Rex was brilliantly staged. Escaping from the vehicle at the first sign of danger, hiding in the toilet and -... Hang on. A toilet? In the middle of a ride where the guests are not supposed to leave their cars (The Samuel L Jackson character says earlier on 'I knew we should have put central locking in the vehicles')? Why is there a toilet there? For the workers? If so why is it an elaborate 'guest style' toilet with signs  and multiple cubicles etc.? Why not a Porta-potty? It makes no sense.

7) The Boat. Imagine you are a ship's captain and you had the task of transporting a group of folks who work for a multi-millionaire industrialist. Now imagine you were supposed to leave your mooring in the middle of a tropical storm with hurricane force winds. Would you do that? Or would you tell everyone to hang tight and wait until the storm passed through? Personally I would hang around and wait. But the boat captain transporting the workers from the East dock on Isla Nublar decides to go in the teeth of the storm. It makes no sense.

8) Why the evacuation? The announcements clearly state that everyone who wants to go should be at the dock by a certain time and, conveniently everyone who works in the labs and the computer rooms goes - apart from Nedry, the Game Warden Muldoon and Samuel L Jackson. So why is there an evacuation? Especially when Hammond has brought his grand kids here for the weekend. Who's going to serve them food, or make the beds? And who set's out all the food that Lex and Tim eat when they get back with Grant? It makes no sense.

9) The siting of the dock. We've already established that the helicopter landing pad is situated in a weird place. But how about the East Dock? Apparently in order to get to the East Dock everyone has to go through the main doors of the park ride and through a number of the animal pens to get there (as Nedry finds out when he takes the petrol jeep and tries to find his way there). This wasn't the case for the helicopter pad where they were able to roam unrestricted across a large section of the island (other than the first gate immediately next to the pad). So why put the dock in a place where you have to travel through the park to get there? It makes no sense.

10) The Kitchen. I love the kitchen scene with the Velociraptors. Brilliant tension and great settings. But doesn't that kitchen look a bit big? I mean have you ever seen a kitchen that was so large? Ever? Especially as it wouldn't be needed for catering or a large number of people as we have already identified that the visitor centre is quite small. So why the huge kitchen? It makes no sense.

11) The Finale. Your four protagonists are cornered in the main atrium of the visitor centre. Two Velociraptors are boxing them in and are ready to pounce when suddenly... a T-Rex appears from camera right and grabs one of the Raptors. Where did it come from? Why didn't anyone see it? Why didn't it make that ominous 'thump.. thump' noise that it made on each of its previous appearances? I can understand why Drs. Grant and Sattler wouldn't see it -  after all they couldn't see a 20 story Brachiosaur until it was pointed out to them - but wouldn't the kids have seen it? It makes no sense. Then, to top it all off, the four of them run outside just as Hammond and Malcolm appear in a jeep to pick them up. Where did they come from? Up until then they were in the Emergency Bunker. Are we to take it that it was in a separate area to the visitor centre? If so, how did they get there without being attacked by the raptors? It makes no sense.

I still think Jurassic park is one of the seminal films in movie history. The effects are pretty seamless even for a movie that was released 17 years ago. It marked the dawn of the new era of CGI movies. It is still the original and still the best. But this just goes to prove that there are a number of huge holes in the plot that appear if you just do a little bit of critical thinking.

For a more detailed list of errors, goofs and the like consult the IMDb entry for Jurassic Park .

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