Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#WeirdEd Week 108- Jurassic Park

by John Larriva

JURASSIC PARK is a damn miracle.

This movie is Spielberg at the height of his powers*. His command of tone, story, and technical wizardry, and how he intertwines them, create a total package summer blockbuster that is hard to top. This is a massive movie that spends the first half stopping for deep, philosophical conversations about the nature of nature, man's place in the world, and where or if science should draw any lines. It expects the audience to come along and keep up.

The wonder in this movie, the joy, it's magical. And it manages to hit those notes a bunch of times. Grant seeing the brontosaurs for the first time. Grant's look of absolute joy laying on the triceratops as it breathes. Grant and the kids in the tree calling out to the other dinos.

Grant, who is an expert in his field, hates technology. I love this, because I hate the conversation that comes around every five minutes on Teacher Twitter about technology in classrooms. There's always some who love to dismiss teachers who don't use technology. They're failing their students. They hate learning. They're doctors with leeches. So Dr Alan Grant's plight rings true to me. Dude is one of the best. And not only does he hate technology but it seems to hate him right back. He can't even touch  monitor. The metaphor goes so deeply that on the helicopter he can't even buckle his seat belt. He's gotta think around it and tie two female ends together. By the way, I'm sure this is an accident, but Grant finds a way with two female seat belt ends and all the dinosaurs find a way and they're all female. I'm probably reading too much into that.

The teacher and technology metaphor isn't completely fair, I'll grant you, since the tech expert in the film is the human bad guy- Dennis Newman- er- Nedry. A greedy, fat, slob who's pretty much all the worst possible programmer stereotypes rolled into one character.

Hammond, the main man in charge of the park, has no idea what the technology he has can do. He's not thinking consequences, he's thinking how awesome it all is. He just wants to get that technology into the hands of the boys and girls of the world. Check it out, kids, look what this does. Less understanding, more rushing forward blindly. He tells a story near the end about his first con- the flea circus. How all the rides moved and kids would come and pretend they could see the fleas and it was all nothing, meaningless.

I worry about that as a classroom teacher. What if I'm running a flea circus? Jurassic Park, as Eli points out, is just a bigger version of the same thing. Now I have more tech, more fancy, more money, but is it still all an illusion?

This post will run on and on so two more points to remember for the chat.

First, how many times must we prove something is a bad idea before we agree it's a bad idea? There are four of these movies now and the premise of the latest, which I haven't seen, is "Everything that happened in JURASSIC PARK sucked, but we can fix it now."  But there are two other moves that prove no, you can't actually.

Second, the mix of models and CGI is marvelous and it's what makes the movie work so well. With modern eyes we can tell where the green screen is and what's matted and puppeted. And Spielberg builds the movie so well you do not care. Not only that, but it holds up. The T-Rex attack is an all timer and it hasn't aged a day. The raptors in the kitchen, same thing. The perfect blend. Almost as if going too hard one way isn't the way to do it. By the way, this same philosophy is what made MAD MAX: FURY ROAD work so well, and it's why THE FORCE AWAKENS is a great watch.

Ok, one more thing**- Jeff Goldblum is the best part of this movie. He's so cool and he has all the best lines and he's sexy as hell.

*you can literally say this about 95% of Spielberg's movies

**one more again- Muldoon has the best death and the most badass final line- "Clever girl." Nedry's death is horrifying. And I sympathize with the blood-sucking lawyer needed to go to the bathroom, though I wouldn't have left the kids.

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