Regular readers of mine will know that I am in love with all things Jurassic Park. For some reason, the combination of extinct predators, techno-thriller and Michael Crichton – who’d become one of my favorite authors – held an irresistible appeal for me, and has done for all these years. I first read the book (or attempted to; I had to skip some bits!) back in 1993 when I was just 11, and I’ve re-read it at least once a year since. I even still have my tattered and battered movie tie-in paperback which I’d show you if it wasn’t packed away somewhere with the rest of my books. I think it was the first time, for me, that fiction really took something extraordinary, something impossible, and not only made me believe that it had really happened, but that it was happening to me as I tore through the pages.
(Of course, this may have had something to do with the fact that my reading prior to JP consisted mainly of things like The Babysitters Club, Point Horror, Christopher Pike, Sweet Valley High and Virginia Andrews…)
As for the movie, it’s definitely in my Top 3 of all time. In fact if you made a rule that my all-time favorite movie list could only include movies for all cinema-going ages, it would be No. 1 without a doubt. But on the two occasions I went to see it when it hit cinemas here in the summer of 1993, I didn’t see any of the good stuff because my fingers were in the way. I was terrified. And even though I’ve seen it countless times on VHS, DVD and TV since, I always wished I’d been brave enough to appreciate Jurassic Park in its full cinematic glory.
So when I heard a couple of weeks ago that it was coming back to cinemas for a couple of weeks to mark the trilogy’s release (and digital remastering) on Blu-Ray and special edition DVD, I nearly squealed with delight. (Okay – so I actually squealed.) I went to see it last Wednesday and it was even better than I’d hoped it’d be. Amazingly I even managed to notice a few things I hadn’t before, and I realized how utterly fantastic its screenplay really is.
There isn’t a single wasted word in Jurassic Park, let alone a wasted scene. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that a lot happens before anyone steps foot on Isla Nublar, but it’s all effortlessly taken care of in a few minutes on screen. Dr. Alan Grant tells us everything we need to know about him with a single line delivered amid the dust of the Montana desert: “I hate computers.” Denis Nedry explains why he’s breaching JP’s security to steal dinosaur embryos after handing his lunch bill to the man who’ll buy the stolen goods: “Don’t get cheap on me… that was Hammond’s mistake.” The scariest moment in the movie doesn’t even involve words – it’s just a shot of the velociraptor fence, chewed through. And the whole movie is summed up in two “bookend” shots – when Grant and friends arrive at Jurassic Park, the door of the jeep swings open right in front of the camera, showing us the Jurassic Park logo properly for the first time. Everything is new and exciting and, as Hammond says repeatedly, built with no expense spared. At the end, when the same group is fleeing the island and a pair of T-Rex jaws, we get another close up of the jeep door but this time the logo is obscured with mud and dirt, and the atmosphere has turned to panic.
It really is a master class in movie-making, burying exposition and Show, Don’t Tell, and with the possible exception of the Raptors in the Kitchen scene, its ground-breaking special effects stand the test of time and technology.
Go see it if you can. And if you like a bit of techno-thriller, the late Michael Crichton is your man. (Also, he created ER so if you’re a fan of that, you’ll probably enjoy his books too.) Jurassic Park is an obvious stand out and a good place to start, but there’s also The Andromeda Strain, Timeline, Congo, Airframe, Prey and the surprisingly good sequel to Jurassic Park (and not at all like the movie), The Lost World. Crichton left a wealth of good reading behind. Try some of it if you haven’t already.
What to hear something strange? Writing this post I couldn’t remember the name of State of Fear, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, where I found out that a new Crichton novel, Micro, is scheduled for release in November of this year. Crichton was about a third of the way through it when he died, and so his agent and publisher hired a writer to finish it, relying on Crichton’s notes and files. And do you know who they picked to do it? Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone. The author of my favorite non-fiction book is finishing the novel left unfinished by the author of my favorite fiction title. Weird, right? Great too, but weird.
And if you want to feel utterly unproductive, he’s a fun Crichton fact for you: he regularly wrote 10,000 words a day. A day!
Thanks to everyone who entered Friday’s giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Tweet Treats. The winner (by random number generator and the order in which you commented) is… drum roll, please… MARIE! Congrats Marie. Pleas check your inbox for a message from me.
The Results Not Typical blog tour is in full swing. Today I’m over on soon-to-be-published author Maria Duffy’s blog, Write Now Mom, writing about the single best thing you can do to make your writerly dreams come true. You can also now enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of five copies of Results. Click here for a full list of all blog tour stops.