“Think they’ll have THAT on the tour?!”

After some debating as to whether or not she was ready for it, The Wife and I decided to take a plunge as regards The Daughter.

We watched Jurassic Park with her.

Which she promptly pronounced “very unscary” at the end.

Oh well. She got a kick out of the dinosaurs, at any rate.

I had to see Jurassic Park twice before I really appreciated it. The first time I saw it, I was living in Allegany, NY. At the time, there were only four movie screens in the town: three at the local mall (which were the nicer theaters), and one at a theater on the grounds of a local hotel called The Castle (which has long since been demolished).

The Castle Theater was…well, there’s no other way to describe it. It was an awful place to see a movie. In fact, several years later, I would decide to simply stop seeing movies there at all, and if something came to town that I wanted to see and that’s where it played, I’d go to Buffalo to see it instead. What was wrong with the Castle Theater? Well, so many things. First, it was run by a single employee. This fellow would sell some tickets until the concession line got too long, at which point he would slide over and sell some stuff over there. Then he’d go back to tickets when that line started piling up. And so on.

And he’d sell tickets or popcorn for so long that the movie would invariably start late. Sometimes it would start very late. I remember one movie starting thirty minutes late, because the single employee was still selling tickets and Cokes. He couldn’t get away from the counter to perform his third duty: running the damned projector. Ugh.

That was bad enough, but the Castle committed other awful Crimes Against Cinema. If you’ve read Roger Ebert for any length of time, you’ve seen one of his rants against theater operators who try to pinch pennies by turning down the brightness on the bulbs in their projectors. This results in daytime scenes that look like they’re taking place at sunset, and night-time scenes that are very hard to follow. In addition to that, they would keep the volume way down in that place, so movies tended to be very hard to hear during quieter segments. This tended to really hurt Jurassic Park because (a) the entire middle act takes place at night, (b) the film’s dialog mix is quite soft to begin with and occasionally characters are talking at the same time, and (c) because the projector could be heard whirring away during all but the loudest scenes.

So the theatrical presentation made Jurassic Park a very hard film to enjoy, so much so that my second viewing took place in a Buffalo theater. And it was almost revelatory: entire plot points suddenly made sense, and instead of a murky scene involving a giant blob, the T-Rex sequence became sharp and visible and, as a result, pretty harrowing.

At this point, I don’t have anything terribly new to say about Jurassic Park. Jeff Goldblum has all the best lines, and for some weird reason, I always thought that Laura Dern gets prettier and prettier throughout the film, as she gets dirtier and sweatier. (I don’t know what that says about me.) Sam Neill is always fun, as is Wayne Knight. Its effects hold up extremely well, and are enhanced by the fact that the film was made when CGI was only just becoming very powerful, so not every effects shot actually used it. For some reason, it struck me that no one in the film carries a cell phone. The kids in the movie are OK — not Spielberg’s best urchins, but not awful, either. Jurassic Park was an event movie when it came out, but now, nearly twenty years on, it’s what it always was: a very competent monster movie.

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2 Responses to “Think they’ll have THAT on the tour?!”

  1. Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness says:

    I remember sitting in a totally full theatre when I saw Jurassic Park and it was 'an event'. Those freakin' velociraptors got a bad rap in my mind ever since then. They are just as 'gangsta' as they wanted to be. I don't like them or trust them.

  2. M. D. Jackson says:

    Daughters are resiliant in that way. What will scare your daughter will likely come completely out of left field and it will probably be something that you and your wife never even thought of as being scary.

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