Saturday, August 27, 2016

Stubs – Titanic (1943)

Titanic (1943) Starring: Ernst.F. Fürbringer, Kirsten Heiberg, Karl Schönböck, Sybille Schmitz, Otto Wernicke, Hans Nielsen. Directed by Werner Klinger, Herbert Selpin. Produced by Willy Reiber. Screenplay by Herbert Selpin, Walter Zerlett-Olfenius. Run Time: 85 minutes. Germany  Black and White  Drama, Historical, German Propaganda

So the title seems right, but the year seems wrong. It might surprise some, but James Cameron’s film was not the first depiction of the sinking of that ocean liner on its maiden voyage. But while Cameron made his movie to make money, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels commissioned the German’s movie to discredit the English and the Americans, blaming the tragedy on English capitalist greed, rather than human judgment.

Bruce Ismay (E.F. Furbringer), Captain Smith (Otto Wernicke) and First
Officer Petersen (Hans Nielsen) discuss the running of the Titanic.

This film shares more than just a title with Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. Like the latter film, this also tells the story of the Titanic sinking in 1912, mixing both real life people with fictional characters. Chief among these additions is German First Officer Herr Petersen (Hans Nielsen). No surprise, but the German officer is the hero of this picture. It is Petersen who is concerned about the ship’s speed and begs the rich owner Sir Bruce Ismay (E.F. Fürbringer) to slow the liner down.

First class was shown to be opulent, but its passengers as cowards.

But Ismay is driven by the stock market. Because of the ship’s cost overruns, the stock price for White Star Line has plummeted. And this, for Ismay and the board of the White Star Line, is a good thing. They want to drive the stock price down, even selling their own shares, so that they can swoop in and buy back the stock at bargain basement prices. They plan to buy the stock back just before announcing that the Titanic had set a speed record for an Atlantic crossing, a feat they’re convinced will drive the stock price to new heights. Ismay, who is onboard the maiden voyage, promises Captain Edward J. Smith (Otto Wernicke) a $5000 bonus for arriving on time and an extra $1000 for every hour he’s early. Smith, feeling trapped by the confrontational president of the company he works for, has no choice but to comply with Ismay’s orders.

The Germans from steerage prove to be courageous, what a surprise!

However, when it is apparent that the boat is sinking, Ismay demands that Smith get him on a lifeboat. When Smith refuses, Ismay, sounding very much like a Nazi officer, commands his subordinate to make it so. While Smith is ineffectual, Petersen promises to get Ismay on a lifeboat, if only so Ismay can stand in judgment for the tragedy his greed has caused.

The iceberg rips a hole in the side of the boat, flooding it with sea water.

Like Ismay, when push comes to shove, the first class passengers, mostly British and American rich, become cowardly, while the Germans in steerage, as well as Petersen and his ex-lover Sigrid Olinsky (Sybille Schmitz), are shown to be courageous. Sybille, a recently impoverished Russian aristocrat, helps Petersen save other passengers before Petersen orders her onto one of the last lifeboats. As an officer, he tells her, he has to stay with the ship. And after Sybille’s gone, Petersen hears the cries for help from a young girl, left to die in her cabin by her British capitalist parents. With the ship about to go under, Petersen leaps from the deck with the girl in his arms. He swims out to a lifeboat, the same one Sybille is on, and the two are pulled aboard.

Those who managed to get to the lifeboats survive, including Ismay.

Petersen and Sybille watch as the Titanic finally goes down, albeit in one piece, as opposed to breaking in two as we have been taught is what actually happened.

In this version, the Titanic sinks in one piece.

The film ends with the British maritime inquiry into the tragedy, where Petersen appears to be the only witness against Ismay. Despite Petersen’s condemnation of Ismay’s actions, the inquiry finds Captain Smith to be responsible for what happened to the ship under his command. Ismay is cleared and not held responsible. But as the epilogue text points out “the deaths of 1,500 people remain unatoned, forever a testament to Britain’s endless quest for profits.”

Part of the problem with viewing this film as effective propaganda is that I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think Bruce Ismay was a villain. Maybe no previous film about the Titanic sinking, and there had been several by the time this one was made, concentrated as much on the business side of the tragedy. Certainly, Cameron’s version of the story, which is the one everyone is most familiar with, did not make Ismay out to be a hero. He pushes Captain Smith to go faster, though I don’t remember the stock market shenanigans of the White Star board getting as much screen time as it gets in this film. In both films, Ismay, unlike most of the male passengers, survives the sinking by getting aboard a lifeboat reserved for women and children. Certainly, this is not the actions of a heroic man.

Titanic seems like an odd film to make, given Germany’s situation at the point in the war it was being made. The tide was already turning against them, so why spend the time and money on a film like this? The goal of such an endeavor seems to have failure written all over it from the get-go. What could Goebbels have expected would happen after someone watched the film? The Germans weren’t fighting the Allies to end corporate greed.

In the end, Goebbels banned the film from being shown in Germany, since by then the Allies were already bombing almost nightly and the German people weren’t in the mood for a film about mass death and panic. Further, undercutting the film’s effectiveness was that seeing steerage separated from the rest of the passengers by locked gates was similar to the situation going on in Germany’s many concentration camps at the time. Desperation to survive against all odds was nothing new and not escapist fare.

The movie did get released in German-occupied Europe, but at the end of the war was considered lost. Found in 1949, the film was almost immediately banned in most of Western-Europe, but dubbed in Russian by the Soviets and screened across the Eastern-bloc as a sort of “trophy” film from the war.

It’s hard to view a Nazi propaganda film with an attitude better than detached disinterest. Obviously, I don’t condone Nazi atrocities or their goals and aims. But when I heard this film existed, I had to admit I was curious about it. I can’t really comment on the film’s production values without sounding like this is a film I would take seriously. However, footage from this Titanic did find its way into 1958’s A Night to Remember, including two clips of the engine room flooding.

I would say that this is not a film you need to watch. I’m not sure which, if any, Titanic-based films I would really recommend. The ones I’ve seen, and I’ve not seen them all, have their pluses and minuses. While one may have way better special effects (Cameron’s Titanic), another may do a much better job concentrating on the actual events and the people involved. 1514 people perished when the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. There is no need, in my opinion, to mix in fictional characters with real people in order to show the breadth of the tragedy.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings

In the realm of feature animation, stop motion isn’t a form that is seen that often, likely because the technique is very time-consuming. However, if done right, a studio can produce some very top-notch results, as proven by Laika. While I have not seen their first feature animation Coraline or their follow-up ParaNorman, I have seen, and was absolutely blown away by, The Boxtrolls, which has some of the best stop-motion work that I had seen up to that point. For this reason, I had been curious about their latest foray into this area of animation, Kubo and the Two Strings, and ended up getting much more out of it than I had anticipated.

Years after washing ashore on a beach, Kubo (Art Parkinson) takes care of his mother (Charlize Theron) in a cave on top of a mountain, while during daylight hours he tells stories to a nearby village by manipulating paper with his guitar. At night Kubo returns to the cave, where his mother tells him stories about his father, however she can only remember the details for so long. One day, the village is having a festival meant to celebrate passed loved ones, which Kubo decides to participate in in hopes of being able to communicate with his father. However, Kubo ends up staying out past sundown, which he is not supposed to do, and ends up being hunted down by a dark power.

Though the story is more that of the hero’s journey, there is enough of a spin on it that it comes off as more unique, helped by the movie’s world and setting. This helps to make the film easier to follow, which isn’t really a bad thing, and there is just enough depth in the narrative to make it believable and its mythos easily picked up by any viewer without having to explain that much. Without spoiling anything, the story, while kept upbeat by a number of humorous moments, also gets surprisingly deep in the way it handles a particular subject, and the final act actually had me in tears once the credits began to roll.

The animation, as come to be expected from Laika, is incredibly top-notch. Of note is the animation of paper, which can be seen folded into origami shapes and brought to life by the magic Kubo possesses in his guitar. The paper is animated so well that their movements feel very natural, especially when it can be seen folding and unfolding at will. Also of note is a scene involving a fight against a giant skeleton creature, as seen in trailers and TV spots, which is reportedly the largest rig ever produced for a stop-motion feature. The characters also interact seamlessly with water and smoke effects, and multi-layered scenery involving the village demonstrates just how much Laika is willing to push the envelope with stop-motion.

The voice acting is very good, especially amongst the lead characters played by Art Parkinson (Kubo), Charlize Theron (Monkey), and Matthew McConaughey (Beetle). While I am not that familiar with much of the actors’ previous works, their performances in this movie are excellent, working well with each of their respective characters’ personalities. The other voice actors, including those of the antagonists, are also done well, and the actors of the villagers (including a cameo from George Takei) do well in making their respective roles sound realistic. The music is also excellent, though some scenes without it work very well, plus the soundtrack includes a perfectly-timed cover of the Beatles song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

If you are a fan of animation, especially in stop-motion, I would highly recommend seeing Kubo and the Two Strings. The animation is some of the best that has ever been produced and, while the story does get kind of deep, there is generally a more light-hearted tone as there are a lot of funny moments to keep it entertaining. It will make you laugh and cry, but most importantly, Kubo is a great movie for anyone looking for solid entertainment and storytelling this summer, animated or otherwise.

Stubs – How I Won the War (1967)

How I Won the War (1967) Starring Michael Crawford, John Lennon, Roy Kinnear, Lee Montague. Directed by Richard Lester. Screenplay by Charles Wood. Based on the novel How I Won the War by Patrick Ryan (London, 1963). Produced by Richard Lester. Color. United Kingdom War, Comedy, Drama

In the autumn of 1966, after The Beatles had stopped touring and before they entered the studio to record what would become their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, John Lennon took some time to make a movie. This would not be a Beatle’s first solo venture into filmmaking, Paul McCartney had written the soundtrack for The Family Way (1966), but this would be the first time one of them had appeared on the big screen without the other three.

How I Won the War would reunite Lennon with Richard Lester, the director who had helmed A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), so there had to be a sense of trust built up between the two of them. When Lester called, John was probably all too willing to do the film. The difference this time, and perhaps for the first time since the Beatles had conquered America in 1964, a Beatle would not get top billing; Lennon’s name would be second on the billing block.

John Lennon gets second billing, but Michael Crawford is the star.

The distinction of the star of the film would go to actor Michael Crawford. For anyone of a certain age, Crawford is best known for originating the role of the Phantom in the epically successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, The Phantom of the Opera, which would make Crawford an International superstar. But in 1967, he was a relative unknown and his fame was dwarfed by Lennon’s. However, he had worked with Lester previously as well, in The Knack… and How to Get It (1965), the director’s first film after A Hard Day’s Night. The Knack had been a bigger success in the UK than it had been in the U.S.

Shot in Germany and Spain during the fall of 1966, How I Won the War would also use a fair amount of stock footage from World War II, the setting for the film. The story is told as a flashback by Lt. Ernest Goodbody (Crawford), now a middle-aged veteran, who speaks fondly of his contributions to the war effort.

Goodbody, who is eager to fight, is given his first command by General Grapple (Michael Hordern) who after lecturing Goodbody about the threat of the "wily Pathan" (an ethnic group on the Indian subcontinent), gives him the assignment to set up an advance cricket pitch behind enemy lines even though Goodbody lacks higher education and a sense of leadership.

An injured soldier's wife shows up on the battlefield.

His company, Third Troop of the Fourth Musketeers, is a lackluster group made up of Clapper (Roy Kinnear), an overweight inductee who is preoccupied by his wife's supposed infidelity; Gripweed (John Lennon), a dispirited Cockney; Juniper (Jack MacGowran), the designated fool, who sometimes appears in clown face; the Melancholy Musketeer (Jack Hedley), a coward; and Sgt. Transom (Lee Montague), the only regular soldier, who tries to cover up Goodbody's many mistakes.

Sgt. Transom is the only regular soldier in the outfit.

Through a comedy of errors, the troop manages to make a nearly unrecognizable cricket pitch on uneven ground and with crooked lines. After that, they are sent to France and onto Germany, all along the way, there are battles, much of it actual war footage which is tinted. Goodbody soldiers are killed in each battle, but even in death they continue to march along, though now they are monochromatic, in a color that matches the tinted footage. This pattern continues to repeat itself until all the soldiers under Goodbody’s command, save one, is killed, including Gripweed.

Alone, Goodbody is captured near the Rhine by the Germans. He relates, in a flashback within a flashback, his version of events to German officer Commandant Odlebog (Karl Michael Vogler), who is himself more artist than warrior.

Even Hitler makes an appearance in How I Won The War.

Odleblog, who finds the idea of war quite inhumane, is simply following orders. He ends up in control of one of the last intact bridges, which he hopes to sell to the Allies. But in the end, Odlebog ends up under the business end of a tank navigated by Grapple, who makes a rather inexplicable reappearance. 

The one remaining soldier from Goodbody’s unit ends up being Melancholy Musketeer, the unit's persistent deserter. It is Melancholy which a now middle-aged Goodbody ends up reminiscing with at the Fourth’s reunion.

Having seen a fair number of Richard Lester films, I can honestly say that while he is usually spot on, there are the occasional miscues, as there are with any director. How I Won the War falls into the miss category. Obviously, Lester’s not a director who is afraid to take risks and try various techniques, but sometimes you can try too hard. I have not read the novel, but it is my understanding that it is more subtle than the film in trying to get its message across about the pointlessness of war. Subtle is not a word to use to describe How I Won the War. This is more like a cacophony of film styles mixed into one. Multiple characters talk directly to the camera; there are flashbacks within flashbacks; heavy symbolism with those who have died still being Goodbody’s responsibility; and rather absurdist characters, including one who dresses for a time in blackface.

There seems to me, the casual viewer, that there are certain films from this time period (the mid-1960s) that seem to revel in being nonsequitur and hard to follow. Films like Casino Royale (1967), Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and Head (1968) come to mind as being chaotic and incoherent. These sort of films, though quite a departure from the tried and true Hollywood film which brought the viewer into the dream-like world and guided them through the story to the conclusion, rarely work. To paraphrase PDQ Bach, who said in reference to concert notes in the program that you can’t read once the lights are turned down, these films leave the viewer “in a confused slumber.” There must have been something in the water back then that allowed these films to be greenlit, produced and released. I wonder what that could have been.

Michael Crawford, at this point in his career, reminds me more of Peter Noone, the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits (another 60s British pop band) than the menacing Phantom of the Opera he would become famous for. It’s hard to judge anyone’s acting abilities in this kind of movie, though I will say Crawford does have a certain likable presence.

Crawford plays Lt. Ernest Goodbody

Despite his second billing, John Lennon really only has a very small part in the film. The Gripweed character, like most of those in the film, is sketchy at best. Goodbody, early on, says how important Gripweed is to his composing his memoirs, but Gripweed is killed before the war is over. I’m not sure when I first saw the film, if it was before or after the incident on December 8, 1980, but there is something about seeing Lennon shot and killed on the screen that is disturbing. Maybe it’s me, but it seems, of course in retrospect, to hit very close to home.

Lennon plays Gripweed.

The most notable thing that came out of this film as far as Lennon was concerned, was that while he stayed in Almeria he rented a villa with such lush vegetation surrounding it that it reminded him of the Salvation Army garden near his childhood home in Liverpool. He was thus inspired to write the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” during the filming.

Roy Kinnear stands out, mostly because he was a familiar face from Help!, as well as other Lester films. Considered a fat man then, Kinnear’s weight plays into much of the humor surrounding his character.

Roy Kinnear is a familiar face from the Beatles film Help!

Jack MacGowran’s Juniper character stands out, but mostly for his lunacy. I’ve never heard this mentioned, perhaps because this is a “foreign” film, but his appearance in blackface seemed to go without protest, while similar scenes in Yankee Doodle Dandy were removed for a time due to racism concerns. While a song and dance sequence might be excised rather easily, removing Juniper’s character from How I Won the War would have been much more difficult. It’s not that I was offended by the display, poetic license and all, but surprised by it is more to the point.

Of the other characters, Lee Montague’s performance as the only regular Army man in the Musketeers is also very good. He stands out in the cast. Karl Michael Vogler as the artistic German officer with whom Goodbody shadows is also very good.

A note about prints of the film; for some reason some eliminate the tinting of the war scenes. Apparently this is true with the one shown on Turner Classic Movies, not the version watched for this review. Interesting since that would have been serviced by the same company that owns the film, MGM. Honestly, it took me reading about the film to understand the connection between a soldier appearing in green from head to toe and the previous green tinted war footage, without the tinting, the soldier's appearance in pastel colors would seem even more surreal then it already is. With the tinting, there is at least some connection to the colors.

Dead soldiers continue to appear in pastel colors from head to toe.

How I Won the War is obviously intended as an anti-war film and was one of the first of this type to come out in the mid to late 1960s. The problem is that its message is somewhat muddled by its story-telling techniques that seem more bent on losing the viewer rather than helping them to reach a conclusion.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Celebration of 700 Reviews

As has been stated previously, the focus of this blog has largely shifted over time to reviewing movies, both in the way of exploring what came before and trying to stay current, as well as pretty much dropping comic book reviews entirely. Though this batch of 100 reviews is a bit film-heavy, video games have begun gaining more of a presence again. As we continue into the next 100 reviews, we continue our efforts to look at movies, and occasionally video games, in an unbiased fashion.

Below is a list of links to every review from 601-700, broken up every 25 links for easy navigation. Each review will also be color-coded as such: Movie, Video Game.

603. Laura
604. Pitfall
615. Ant-Man

632. Mad Love
637. Spectre
640. One Week
642. Star Wars
648. Roadblock
649. Dave
650. Rashōmon

654. Head
657. Duck Soup
660. Zootopia
671. Rush Hour

677. Keanu
684. Warcraft
694. Big Night

Movies: 96 (442 Total)
Video Games: 4 (213 Total)
Comic Books: 0 (27 Total)
DLC: 0 (18 Total)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition

Somehow, the American box art was impossible to find.

Back in January 2013, Capcom released DmC Devil May Cry, a pseudo-reboot of the legendary game series. Developed by Ninja Theory, the game released to heavy controversy between the gaming press and existing Devil May Cry fans. I had written a review of the game while the controversy was still hot and, not completely understanding what it was about, managed to do the one thing a reviewer should never do: I had lost my objectivity. Admittedly, my review was a little antagonistic towards existing fans and I didn’t address a lot of the game’s faults in an attempt to blindly defend it. Months later, I had plenty of time to reflect on what I had written and, feeling embarrassed beyond belief, gradually lost the will to contribute to this blog.

In 2015, Capcom released the Definitive Edition of DmC, but I remained hesitant to play it due to my new feelings about the previous review. However, that changed with the release of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, at which point internet comments had compared the behavior of the news media to that of Ninja Theory in 2013. I looked into this comparison and realized exactly why older DMC fans had been (perhaps a little excessively) venomous toward DmC: like the claims of misogyny thrown at male Ghostbusters fans, Ninja Theory, more specifically game director Tameem Antoniades, had insulted the existing fans while the games media downplayed legitimate criticisms (boiling them down to “people just don’t like that Dante has black hair”) in an attempt to sell the game.

With this new understanding, I felt it was finally time to confront my past mistake by playing and reviewing DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition. Enough time has passed that the hardcore DMC fans have calmed down and there is now more of an opportunity to provide a more objective viewpoint. Now that I’ve explained my intentions with this review, let’s dive in and see if this was really worth stirring up a controversy over.

[Warning: The rest of this review contains spoilers for both DmC Devil May Cry and Vergil’s Downfall]

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Stubs – Jurassic Park

Stubs – Jurassic Park (1993) Starring Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Michael Crichton, David Koepp. Based on the novel “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. U.S. Color, Science Fiction.

The summer blockbuster owes its roots to two men: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Their films: Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, etc. set the bar very high for Hollywood. $100 million of box-office became the standard of success and budgets grew exponentially as a result. Every summer, films had to be bigger and do better at the box-office. People expected spectacle and these two delivered. Both men got rich and powerful with their success and forever changed Hollywood; which is why their recent bemoaning of its state rings sort of hollow.

Michael Crichton was a writer who had seen his own success, starting with his novel The Andromeda Strain published in 1969, which had been made into a movie in 1971. He had apparently had the idea to do a story about dinosaurs since grad school. He was at the time working with Spielberg developing an idea that would be the hit TV show E.R. In 1990, prior to publishing the novel, Jurassic Park, Crichton demanded and received a non-negotiable fee of  $1.5 million for the films rights, which Universal bought for Spielberg and Crichton received another half million to write the screenplay.

Of course, this being Hollywood, once Crichton was done another writer was brought on board, David Koepp. Crichton’s screenplay, which only used about 20% of the book, would go through more excision at the hands of Koepp and Spielberg. The book is much more violent and bloody than the movie and there are characters who survive the movie, who do not survive the novel. Crichton wasn’t yet thinking sequel, though that would change after this film was released.

The film had a long pre-production, over two years, but finally got underway on August 24, 1992, with Hawaii standing in for Costa Rica. Filming also took place in this little town some people occasionally use for filming, Hollywood, using stages at both Universal and nearby Warner Bros.

Filming completed on November 30th, but that’s when the post-production phase began. That would last until April, 1993. The final film would not be completed until May 28 and was released on June 10, 1993.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is in the need of advice for his new business venture. At great expense, he’s developed a theme park featuring genetically altered dinosaurs. Problem is prior to the opening, one of his workers is killed by a Velociraptor. Hammond's nervous investors' interests are represented by attorney David Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), who accompanies them to the island. Gennaro has also brought with him Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a mathematican and chaos-theory expert, to look at the set up.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), center, is flanked by attorrney David Gennaro (Martin Ferrero),
Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil)
on a helicopter flight to the island.

Hammond invites palaeontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil) and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to his island to give him and it their seal of approval. Almost as soon as they arrive, Drs. Grant and Sattler are surprisd to see a herd of Parasaurolophus and a trio of Brachiosaurus.

Gennaro, Hammond, Macolm, Dr. Grant (Sam Neil) and Dr. Sattler look on in amazement at a herd of dinosaurs.

At the park’s visitor center, the group learns that the dinosaurs’ cloning was accomplished by carefully extracting the DNA of dinosaurs from mosquitoes preserved in amber. To prevent breeding, all the dinosaurs are cloned as females. Where the DNA strands were incomplete, scientists have used DNA from frogs to fill the gaps.

The gates to Jurassic Park.

Before they got out to tour the grounds, Hammond’s grandchildren, Alexis (Ariana Richards) and Tim Murphy (Joseph Mazzello), arrive and join them. But things do not go as planned. Not only don’t the dinosaurs appear, but one of them, a Triceratops, gets ill. With a tropical storm approaching, the tour is cut short. At night, most of the employees depart Isla Nublar for mainland Costa Rica, all except the group, the park’s game warden, Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck), chief engineer Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) and Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the architect of the park’s computer systems.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Ray Arnold, the chief engineer at the Park.

The group, minus Dr. Sattler, return to the tour, while she stays back with the park’s veterinarian Gerry Harding (Gerald R. Molen) to study the Triceratops before Harding departs the island.

During the storm that follows, Nedry, who is in cahoots with a rival corporation, plans to steal dinosaur embryos. To make his escape, he deactivates the park’s security system. When the power goes out, the automated Ford Explorers, used for the tour, stall and most of the park’s electric fences, designed to keep the dinosaurs away from the tourists, stop working. Without the fence to stop it, a Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes and attacks the tour.

Freed from her enclosure, a T-Rex attacks the tour of the park.

Grant and Alexis escape injury, but they are the only ones. Malcolm is injured, but Gennaro, who is hiding, is devoured and Tim, who is trapped in his vehicle, gets pushed over the embankment by the raging T-Rex.

Also trapped in the storm, Nedry gets lost and goes off the road, crashing his jeep. When he gets out to try and wrench his car free, he attracts the attention of a Dilophosaurus. For a guy who works at a dinosaur-themed amusement park, Nedry knows surprisingly little about them, treating the dino like a dog. Nedry appropriately dies like a dog, though the movie doesn’t really show us the attack. The embryos, stowed away in a fake-bottom shaving cream can, end up buried in a mudslide.

Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) about to get his just rewards.

Hammond sends Muldoon to retrieve the tour group and Sattler goes with him. When they get to the Jeeps, they find Malcolm and what's left of Gennaro. Grant and the children appear to still be alive, but there is no time to search for them, since the Tyrannosaurus Rex returns. The three escape in their Jeep just ahead of the dino.

Grant and the children are on a survivalist/nature walk and come across broken shells of dinosaur eggs. Apparently, the dinosaurs have mutated from just being female. Apparently, the frog DNA they used to fill in the gaps, the West African bullfrogs, can change sexes in a single sex environment, a capability the dinos have inherited.

Dr. Grant with Hammond's grandchildren Alexis (Ariana Richards) and Tim Murphy
(Joseph Mazzello) go on a nature walk after surviving the T-Rex's attack.

Back in the control room, Arnold is unable to undo what Nedry had done, so he and Hammond decide to reboot the entire park’s system, not sure what will happen. The reboot works, but there is still the power which has to be turned back on manually, at a shed on the other side of the compound. While the others retreat to an emergency bunker, Arnold sets out for the maintenance shed.

When he doesn’t return, Muldoon and Sattler go out to look for him. On the way, Muldoon becomes aware that they are being stalked by Velociraptors, freed when the electricity went down. Muldoon stays to hold them off and Sattler runs to the shed. Once inside, she manages to turn the power back on.

Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) goes out with Dr. Sattler to look for Arnold, but he won't return.

Meanwhile, Grant and the children have come to one of the 10,000 volt electric fences and have to climb over it, which is easy with the power off. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that the electricity is coming back on. Tim is afraid of heights and stalls his descent off the fence and Grant is too late to prevent the boy from being shocked and thrown from the fence. Grant manages to revive the boy without any lingering side-effects.

Back in the maintenance shed, Sattler is attacked by a raptor who has managed to get inside. Looking for a place to hide, she has a run in with what’s left of Arnold, his arm. She manages to escape, but Muldoon is not so lucky and meets the same fate as Arnold.

Grant, Alexis and Tim finally reach the Visitor’s Center, and Grant leaves them in a banquet room with food still laid out as he goes searching for the others. After gorging themselves on the days old food, the children realize they are not alone. A pair of Velociraptors have found their way into the center, which the children are forced to battle.

The kids are forced to battle a pair of Velociraptors at the Visitor's Center.

Reunited, Grant and Sattler head back to the visitor center and the four of them go to the control room. Alexis restores full power and they can finally call for help. Their escape route however is blocked by two raptors, but the group is saved when the Tyrannosaurus suddenly appears and kills both raptors. Hammond pulls up in a Jeep with Malcolm, and the entire group flees. Down at the helipad, Grant tells Hammond that he’s not going to endorse the park, an opinion Hammond seems to agree with.

Hammond takes one last look before fleeing the island.

On the flight back to the mainland, a flock of pelicans fly nearby, a reminder that the fearsome dinosaurs have evolved into birds.

Let’s start our criticism of the story with that last bit: Dinosaurs evolved into birds. Then why weren't the gaps in their DNA filled with bird DNA? You can blame the book for this, but this is a really nice device rather than anything close to scientific fact. And that’s the problem with the science in the movie and the book. Few of us are geneticists so there is a real tendency to BS us with a lot of scientific words that may or may not be truthful.

It’s sort of like listening to a politician of any party. If you have no other knowledge on the subject they’re speaking about a lot of what they say makes sense. But it’s when you do know something or see the results that you realize they don’t know what they’re talking about.

But in the summer of 1993, audiences weren’t interested in learning science, they wanted to be amazed and seeing CGI dinosaurs walk across the screen was more than enough to carry this film about the $900 million worldwide box-office number, making Jurassic Park the biggest film of all time, up to that time. But records are made to be broken and Jurassic Park's mark has since been eclipsed several times, including by its own sequel, Jurassic World (2015), which finished its theatrical run with $1.67 billion worldwide.

The special effects, which are what the movie was really all about, were state-of-the-art for their time and still seem to hold up pretty well today. It is the practical effects, when they interact with non-CGI dinosaurs, where things don’t stand up as well. By comparison with their computer cousins, these look more like a couple of guys in a dinosaur suit. But there is really very little of the practical special effects.

Considering that the human characters are of secondary importance, the acting is pretty good, but not great. All of the actors seem to have that amazed look down pat. For the most part, Neil, Dern, Jackson and Attenborough are well-known and respected actors and Jackson had not become the box-office juggernaut he is today.

"All-right everyone look amazed on three. 1...2...3."

I don’t mean to leave out Jeff Goldblum. He had a real knack for showing up in blockbusters, though rarely as the lead actor. He seems to play the same part over and over again in these films, the smarter-than-everyone else scientist with a little Woody Allen nebbish-ness thrown in for good measure. He plays that part here and once again, an important, but secondary role. In fact, the movie could probably be told without the Malcolm character at all.

For the most part, Jurassic Park is a nice film to put in a time capsule. Not the greatest film ever made, but certainly one that shows Spielberg at his zenith as a cinematic story-teller. While he would certainly direct more important films, he would never direct a bigger movie (though he would have his name on several that were). No one used special effects better than he did, though I’m sure Star Wars and possibly Star Trek fans might not agree. He is also much to blame for movies' over-reliance on the FX, as everyone tries to imitate his success with them.