In 1993, a movie changed my life forever. For two hours, I believed dinosaurs could once again roam the earth. It was a beautiful dream. Twenty-two years later, a sequel came along that rekindled that dream. Last Friday I saw Jurassic World. It was good. Not as good, nor as life changing, as the original. However, it was well worth the wait.
I spent the weekend reveling in my dinosaur books, making new dinosaur drawings, and generally getting back in touch with one of the great loves of my life.
Of course none of this would be complete without me making a little fan art.
It’s safe to say the reason you watch the movie Godzilla is to see Godzilla. Same goes for King Kong, the monsters in Ray Harryhausen’s movies, Alien, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Citizen Kane, and Pacific Rim. When a movie promises a cool monster (often right there in the title), there really is no other reason to see that movie.
But how much of the monster do we want to see? Back in 1975, Steven Spielberg told us we didn’t want to see the shark in the first reel. That’s between 11 and 22 minutes, based on my quick search. His logic was sound: to build suspense you need time. He also found ways of showing the effects of the shark without actually showing the shark itself. By the time you saw Jaws, you knew exactly what it was capable of. The physicality of the monster was imbued with the terror of what you already knew about it.
What we now know about the making of Jaws is that Spielberg had other reasons to limit the screen time of the shark. The mechanical shark they had built didn’t work very well. They had to figure out how to make this ridiculous contraption look both real and scary. The less they used the shark, the less chance it would come off looking like what it was: a waterlogged robot.
Of course, Spielberg had no problem letting us see the monster in three more movies. Does that negate his famous decree? I’d have to ask someone who has seen Jaws 2-4.
Historically, the reason we haven’t seen much of a movie monster has been for technical reasons. Special effects were time consuming and not always reliable to produce satisfactory results. Harryhausen spent years of his life moving small figures a frame at a time so they could appear alive onscreen. Very few people had that kind of skill and patience. There are maybe hundreds of movies featuring a dude in a goofy rubber suit “terrorizing” actors. I wonder if those movies ever fooled anyone. I suspect they were seen, even at the time, as a nice diversion, but were never actually scary.
This all changed with Jurassic Park. Suddenly, computer graphics allowed a much greater range of non-humanoid monsters. Directors didn’t have to limit screen time simply because of logistics. The new digital animation could look as real as anything else in the frame, and it didn’t have to be there on the day of filming. Teams of artists and programmers had as much time as the budget allowed to get the monster looking right.
Now the question of how much we want to see a movie monster is dependent on a cocktail of elements: human characters, plot, and special effects. Are all your human characters simply waiting around to get eaten? Is your plot centered on a few set-pieces of the monster destroying XXXX? Nobody will want to see your monster, no matter how well rendered it is.
It used to be that monsters weren’t shown because of technical limitations. Fortunately, that isn’t the case anymore. But that doesn’t let filmmakers off the hook. They need to find ways to make the monster compelling and the movie suspenseful, regardless of the monster’s screen time.
Personally, I’d like to see the monster enough to get to know it, but not so long I become comfortable with its presence.
Of all the photos I’ve taken at Reed, this is by far the most beautiful and breathtaking and I feel somewhat ashamed I hadn’t captured it yet.
Like Steven Spielberg and Schindler’s List, I had to wait until I honed my craft to take on a project of such importance and magnitude. Yesterday, a sunny spring day on campus, I felt my powers of photography had achieved their necessary peak. Thus I present the air intake for the basement level of Eliot Hall:
We haven’t met, but I have a big favor to ask. I’m a lifelong fan of yours, since ET came out when I was 3. Far be it from me to impose, but this is a matter I cannot entrust with any other director. Please make Jurassic Park 4. Make it for me, make it for the children, make it for selfish money reasons: I don’t care. Just make that movie.
Let’s face it, neither of us is getting any younger. Jurassic Park is fantastic, but how long has it been? Almost twenty years? Way too long. Not to be rude, but The Lost World was kind of phoning it in, and JP3 wasn’t even directed by you. The world needs another Jurassic Park movie, and we need it from you.
Jurassic Park is far and away the best dinosaur movie ever made. I know because I’ve seen a lot of dinosaur movies. They range from terrible to pretty bad to campy. People think they can slap some dinosaurs into a movie and sell tickets. They don’t care about dinosaurs like you and I do.
You took a great story (possibly Michael Crichton‘s best work) and used the most advanced technology available to bring those dinosaurs to life. Not only that, you crammed that movie with dinosaur in-jokes and little homages to the people who spent their lives researching dinosaurs. Jurassic Park has layers. It does not, however, need to be your final word on the subject. There is plenty more to explore.
I know you’re busy so I’ll end this letter with my humble suggestions and be off. Get Tom Hanks and Cate Blanchett, hire a screenwriter who actually cares about dinosaurs, and get your pal George Lucas to make the visual effects. You can shoot it quickly between AcademyAward movies if you want, I don’t care. Just make it so I can go out and see it, please.