Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #5: Owen Grady

For many fans one of the flaws in the third Jurassic Park film came in the form of most of its supporting human characters. In The Lost World, John Hammond at least bothered to assemble an actual team of experts skilled in their respective fields, and the big game hunter Roland Trembo was surprisingly nuanced. However, in the Jurassic Park III, aside from Dr. Grant most of the humans were almost too dumb to live. The fact that the whole catalyst for the adventure began with someone disobeying a direct order from the governments of the United States of America and Costa Rica and the expressed wishes of

Owen Grady

John Hammond to stay away from Site B, is proof of this.

However, nether The Lost World or Jurassic Park III were able to come up with that right winning combination of characters. The Lost World may have had Ian Malcolm, but his warnings weren’t tempered by Grant’s love for dinosaurs. In contrast, the Dr. Grant of Jurassic Park III was a much different man from when he first set foot on the island in the original film. In fact the Jurassic Park franchise wouldn’t see a lead character that could really hold his own, on par with traditional adventure movie heroes until Owen Grady in Jurassic World.

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Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #4: John Hammond

It would take a person of great vision to dream up something like Jurassic Park, and not just as a film or a book. After all, such a person would have to possess not only the resources, both financial and scientific, but the passion to undertake such an endeavor.  It is even said by the characters in the Jurassic Park films and books that an one can build a zoo, and for that matter any one can build a theme park with rides. Jurassic Park, and subsequently, Jurassic World, are something else entirely.

This is an idea, one that common sense says is not a good one, and even the experts

John Hammond

brought in to the island to go on a tour of the facility say the same. A person, or in this instance, a corporation is using genetic engineering to bring dinosaurs back from the dead, and use them as amusement park attractions. At the head of this whole endeavor, is that person with great vision, John Hammond, the founder of InGen.

Right from the start, Hammond is a spellbinder, teasing Grant and Ellie with the wonders of his island, telling them, in the film,

                “Come on, sit down, sit down…I’ll come right to the point. I like you, both of you. I can tell instantly about people. It’s a gift. I own an island, off the coast of Costa Rica. I’ve leased it from the government and I’ve spent the last five years setting up a kind of biological preserve. Really spectacular, spared no expense. It’ll make the one I’ve got down in Kenya look like a petting zoo. And there’s no doubt, our attractions will drive kids out of their minds… And not just kids. Everyone.”

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Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #3: Dr. Ian Malcolm

One key character for any science fiction or horror cautionary tale is the voice of reason. The character who is not only an expert in his field, but is quick to point out to the others just how wrong they are, even if they don’t want to hear it at the time. In Jaws we see that in both Quint and Hooper. When the rest of the sailors and would-be shark hunters in Amity celebrate the apparent capture of the shark, Hooper is quick to insist upon performing an autopsy to determine if this is the actual shark for which they hunt.

Naturally Hooper, like many other voices of reason in fiction and film is seen as a “wet blanket” at the outset. After all, when the town of Amity is what’s known as a “summer town” and their economic success hinges on summer tourism. The shark attacks lead to a massive decline in visitors which affects their bottom line, leaving them all to eager to get back to some semblance of a normal summer, and they don’t want to hear that they still have some more hunting to do. Same is true for Jurassic Park. No one wants to hear that the park filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs could possibly turn deadly. They want to get pictures of kids standing in front of a roaring T-Rex safely ensconced behind a

Dr. Ian Malcolm

fence, not the dinosaur breaking free and eating said kids.

In Jurassic Park this role is fulfilled by Dr. Ian Malcolm. As Mike Cosper notes in The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo Truth,

“Malcolm is constantly reminding the others that the consequences of their actions are unpredictable. They don’t know what will happen as a result of their toying with nature. They’ve greatly overestimated their powers in a complex world. More than that, Malcolm is a voice of reason and humility in the face of such profound confidence in human ingenuity…The story proves him correct.”

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Happy 2018! And a Request to My Readers

 

Well, here we are, January of 2018. It’s been quite a ride to get here hasn’t it? I’d like to take the time to once again thank you my dear readers and subscribers for taking the time out of your day to read my posts. Last year saw my series on Peanuts and E.T. and the start of a series on Jurassic Park, as well as some introspective posts.

I confess, had it not been for those series, my blog would have been very anemic. With the passing of my grandmother last spring I was in kind of a fog throughout summer, but having those long projects helped me power through the pain.

Thank you also to those who commented on my posts. I really enjoy interacting with all of you, which brings me to my next point.

I’ve been noticing something: this year I will be reaching 200 posts. Thus, I would like to turn it over to you my readers, and do a little informal Q and A session on my blog. Please. Ask me anything about my writing process, how I got started writing, and any other questions you have. I’ll try to answer the best ones for my big 200th post.

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Meaningful Gifts

This Christmas season has been especially hard for my family. Among other reasons, it is the first we’ve had since my grandmother Elsie Bogart ( on my mom’s side) passed away from cancer this past spring. There are a number of things that make it hard to have her gone this time of year. The smell of her cooking on the stove. Her calling me to tell me see watched the rebroadcast of my old college Christmas concert.

But perhaps where it gets hardest is when I look at my well loved collection of Charles Dickens novels that I received for Christmas of 1995 when I was only in 5th grade. That year Grandma and grandpa told the grandkids we could ask for only one special thing. My younger sister was obsessed with the story The Nutcracker and wanted a doll of her own, while our baby sister wanted an Bitty Baby Doll from the American Girl collection. I had wanted a copy of the book A  Christmas Carol.

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That’s What Great Christmas Specials Are All About, Charlie Brown

Times certainly have changed since I was a kid. Looking through my mom’s extensive collection of Christmas DVD’s I see plenty of movies that had been made specifically for television had been shown on network TV for a couple years. With the rise of cable and streaming services it’s much more cost effective for studios for focus this output to where people are paying for them as opposed to worrying about interruptions to network television.

Yet despite this, there are three specials that have been shown continually for a half a century. All three of them are animated, which is more surprising considering those tend to have a shelf life of five years at best before being retired to cable. Those three are A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In fact in a letter to a critic for TV guide, one person bemoaned the fact that those aren’t on cable or as far as legal streaming goes, the websites for ABC, CBS, and NBC are the only places to find them for free.

Matt Rouse for TV Insider explained when asked about the propriety rights to CBS that exist for Rudolph that prevent it from airing on Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas,

“CBS has exclusive rebroadcast rights to the original…Rudolph special, which is why it wouldn’t show up on a cable outlet that’s part of the ABC-Disney stable. I get the confusion… These are precious properties, which is why they don’t air everywhere.”

 

These three specials are mentioned in the same breath as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.  Like the classics of Dickens and Capra the networks initially dismissed all three specials, but time has vindicated them as it did their festive forbearers. There have been some other good specials, such as the Animaniacs Wakko’s Wish, The Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special, and Winnie-the-pooh and Christmas Too. Sadly these three  have been retired from the airwaves to make room for more reality competitons. Yet Rudolph, Charlie, and the Grinch specials remain favorites. Continue reading

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Life Finds A Way: Celebrating the Jurassic Park Franchise #2: Dr. Ellie Sattler

The monster movie has been a fixture of cinema since the Golden Age of film in the 1930’s. From King Kong scaling the top of the Empire State Building, to the monster of Frankenstein being chased by angry villagers, to Dracula seducing his prey, to more modern monsters in human flesh like Norman Bates, Jack Torrence, Pennywise the Clown, and the Joker, these creatures have shocked us, thrilled us, and in the case of Kong, brought us to tears. One other fixture for the monster movie, along with the creature, is a beautiful woman who is being chased by the monster.

Even Spielberg’s Jaws was not immune to this trend as the film opens with the beautiful

Dr. Ellie Sattler

blond swimmer, Chrissy, getting eaten by the Shark. Other women in the film play either a passive role, such as Sheriff Brody’s wife, Ellen, who tends to sit on the side lines, or in the case of Mrs. Kittner, who’s son is eaten by the shark, slaps Brody in the face for allowing people to go swimming despite him following orders from the mayor to not close the beach. Then in the late 70s thanks to Princess Leia in Star Wars, and Ellen Ripley in Alien, the women began to fight back against the monsters who chased them.

These two characters had a tremendous impact on women in science fiction and horror films that would follow. This is especially true of the character of the paleobotonist Dr. Ellie Sattler in the film Jurassic Park. Not only was she strong, confident, and intelligent, she marked a change in the damsel in a Spielberg film. As Lester Freidman notes in Citizen Spielberg,

“In fashioning the character of Dr. Ellie Sattler, Spielberg attempts to depict a woman who combines professionalism and maternalism; she has a successful career and wants a family. …Ellie remains a relatively feisty and dynamic character throughout Jurassic Park…Like the vast majority of female heroines in monster movies, Sattler spends much time screaming and crying in the best Faye Wray tradition. But she remains far more active than most of the frenzied women in these movies who serve mainly as helpless sacrifices needing masculine rescue, as frail victims ( often in scanty underwear) perishing in the first act, or as raving hysterics shrieking their way through vents. Ellie Sattler is a powerful and aggressive heroine who represents a distinct improvement over most female figures in horror movies and within Spielberg’s other productions. ”

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