Shrink at the Movies: “Jurassic Park” (1993) in 3-D (2013)


Saw “Jurassic Park” (1993) today in its 3-D re-issue. It holds up, even after 20 years, in terms of intense suspense and a pleasing sense of wonder — even during the scary parts. Its “Icarus flying too close to the Sun” theme still resonates, especially when we have the Monsanto and GMO food war raging in the present day.

Like the “Titanic” story, the idea of someone (or a group of people) thumbing their nose at Mother Nature for commercial gain only tempts Fate. I personally have problems with the late Michael Crichton’s ideas (author of the original novel version) and his notorious “global-warming-is-a-hoax” conservative opinions, but his overall message that maybe Mother Nature knew what she was doing in making the dinosaurs extinct is a powerful one.

From a psychological perspective, themes emerge such as the extreme hubris of entrepreneur John Hammond (played by grandfatherly Sir Richard Attenborough in a dramatically watered-down version from the book’s character), which is a warning to all of us to apply critical thinking to what we do and consider all sides when the stakes are high (like the risk of people being eaten by cloned sharp-toothed wild animals when we envision a redux of a pre-historic petting zoo).

Another theme includes confronting our fears, which every character does, eventually, when faced with sudden death in the teeth of a hungry oversized reptile. I kept wondering what most of us would do in the same situations. At least the little boy character admits, somewhat sheepishly, to throwing up after an attack from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I think he speaks for all of us had that been a reality. The scares are made all the more intense, delightfully, in the new 3-D format, and help to underscore the feeling of “being there”, no doubt activating our parasympathetic nervous systems with the simple addition of plastic glasses.

Still another theme, much more subtly, is about the paternal instinct, as evidenced by Sam Neill’s character’s initial reluctance to children, who seems ultimately won-over (and not necessarily by the most charming kids, making Neill look like a pushover). I guess every screenplay needs to show “development” of a character arc, and his is getting in touch with his latent paternal instincts. Somewhat unsatisfying is not seeing the buffoonishly-greedy John Hammond get eaten by his own little darlings (as happens in the novel) — (and by that I mean by the dinosaurs, not by the grandchildren).

Even Laura Dern’s character’s subtle feminism makes its way known throughout the script, making a good point that science and survivalism are not solely a man’s business (as if it ever were, merci beacoup au Marie Curie).

Jeff Goldblum as the reluctant philosopher (and chaos theorist, years before we knew bazinga about any “Dr. Sheldon Cooper”) simply says what many of us are thinking, about the folly of Hammond’s idea and not leaving Nature (the hell) alone in the first place. We’ve apparently come a long way in our expectations of male body fascism, too, in 20 years — the seemingly gratuitous shot of Goldblum’s bare torso, in not-very-cut, 1990-era straight-guy shape, drew laughs in the audience I was with, apparently busting the “beefcake-who-really-isn’t” shot by director Spielberg (believe me, I love Spielberg, but never send a straight director in to do a man’s beefcake shot; it just won’t work — bring in Joel Schumacher or Bryan Singer, but leave it to a professional on the subject). I also find it offensive that the worst villain in the story, a crooked I.T. saboteur, is played by an obese actor, furthering the very old Hollywood notion that villains are either overweight, people of color, foreigners, gay, or unattractive, in that “only bad witches are ugly” kind of way.

And I wouldn’t be complete discussing themes in “Jurassic Park” without a nod toward our respect for animals in nature and how they can evoke our better instincts of patience and compassion. The scene with Sam Neill and the kids sitting high in a tree and lovingly petting a benign dinosaur with a headcold, or Laura Dern tending to a sick gentle giant who has fallen sick in a field, reminds us to be respectful and kind to animals whenever we get the chance — pre-historic specimens, or not.

When a movie can evoke in us humility in the face of the evolution of Nature, self-awareness, feminism, and an appreciation for young humans and prehistoric animals, it’s a movie worth converting to 3-D and paying to see in theatrical release all over again. Like the banner displayed in the great hall of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs rule the earth once again.

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