Saturday, April 13, 2013

Someone Grab the Dodo! (Jurassic Park)

Watching Jurassic Park.  (Or get all movies on Blu-ray and stuff for less than half price here, but sale ends at midnight.)

Things that stand out:

They went straight to dinosaurs.  They didn't try any other animals first.  I'm not saying that one needs to go Passenger Pigeon, Dodo, Mammoth, [intermediary steps], Dinosaur.  What I am saying is that it makes sense to try something easier than a dinosaur as a first step.  Also a movie in which every, "We have to pick up everything and run," moment included grabbing the dodo as one would grab a cherished pet while fleeing a house on fire has a certain appeal to it.

Paleontologists wouldn't be out of a job if dinosaurs were alive anymore than archaeologists would be out of a job if human beings were alive.

Everyone talks about the t-rex appearing with no "boom boom" at the end.  No one talks about the t-rex appearing with no "boom boom" when he eats the flocking-this-way herbivores in front of Grant and the kids.

The "boom boom" itself doesn't actually give that much of an advanced warning (witness Malcolm in the back of the Jeep) so there's no reason for them to be inconsistent about it.  It wouldn't exactly ruin everything.

I know people talk about why the hell didn't Grant and the kid climb sideways around the tree so that the electric jeep wasn't above them, but here's something I haven't heard much discussed: why the Hell didn't they send hunter man with Samuel L. Jackson?  Seriously, can anyone provide anything resembling a good explanation for why it wasn't:
"Three minutes I can have power back on to the entire park."
"Good, I'm going with you, just let me grab a gun first."

Anyone at all.

In the book it's very clear that John Hammond, who in the book is a complete and utter asshole (then again just about everyone is a complete and utter asshole in a Michael Crichton book), never had control.  But in the movie it really isn't.  Yes, the dinosaurs were breeding which:
  1. Lesbian dinosaurs!  How did the religious right not have their brains explode?
  2. No, wait, they're not lesbians.  They're TRANSGENDER DINOSAURS!  How did the religious right not have their collective brain explode?
  3. Grant says that it's been known to happen that males switch to females.  This makes sense, within a male is all of the genetic code necessary for a female.  Duplicate the X, drop the Y, a female genetic makeup you have.  The dinosaurs change from female to male.  If the dinosaurs were genetically female I'd have serious questions about where the Y chromosome came from, but instead it works off of the, "We all start off female," system and prevents the differentiation that causes males to become male.  All of which means we're talking about something very different than an amphibian changing from male to female.  In all likelihood we're talking about an XY biological female changing into a biological male.  Does that have any precedent in amphibians (or anything else) or is Grant/Crichton just pulling things out of his ass?
but, even with them breeding it still reads as Hammond's only movie mistake being trusting Nedry.  If he did start a new park he'd make sure to do a better job of screening personnel and make sure that no one person had the power to fuck everything up.  The idea that his control was an illusion doesn't really exist in the movie.

In the book where dinosaurs are getting off the island unrealized because their monitoring system is programmed to go off if there is too few (and since they're breeding there are too many) yes, Hammond never had control he only thought he did (if that sounds familiar, Anthony Hopikins 1999 Instinct), but in the movie, Hammond had control until Nedry.  His only problem was giving one person too much power and having that person be one without moral fiber.  That's it.

Strawman Hammond had a point in the movie, Ellie was wrong.  There was only one mistake, easily correctable next time.

Backing up a bit.

Little Timmy has good luck with things falling on him, they always have a Timmy or larger sized hole in them.

When the dinosaurs are flocking this way, Grant says that they're moving like a flock of birds trying to evade a predator, neither he nor the kids think that the "predator" part of that statement is worthy of consideration until the t-rex bursts out of the trees.

Death by electric shock is one of the few situations in which someone can come back from the dead absent a defibrillator being involved, as such Timmy coming back from the dead is within the realm of possibility, but it still happens too much in movies.  On the other hand, "Oh my god, Timmy stopped  breathing," followed by recovery will always be believable and thus probably not ever feel like it's over done to the extent, "Crap he's dead" *CPR* "And he's alive again," does today.

John Hammond's desire to go in Dr. Ellie Sattler's place may well have been due to sexism, but it also could be sufficiently explained by the fact that of the two of them he was definitely hands down more responsible for what was going on, or any number of other reasons.  The problem with it is that Dr. Sattler's immediate, "We can discuss your sexism later," response feels less like she's a woman who is ready to call out sexism when she sees it and more like the scriptwriter is looking to score, "I recognize that there is a thing in the world called 'sexism'" cookies.

"It's a velociraptor."  No, it's a featherless Utahraptor, but Utahraptor hadn't been discovered when the script was written and the filmmakers wanted something bigger than velociraptors as their antagonists.  As for why they're so pissed off and intent on hunting humans.  Probably because someone went and plucked them.

When you realize that the one in front of you is a decoy and one beside you is ready to kill you, you don't say, "Clever girl," and attempt to spin to face the one beside you.  You pull the trigger and back the fuck off. (Or charge the decoy, but in that case you have to be damn sure it'll be dead by the time you're both in the same place)  If you're lucky your previous aiming will mean that pulling the trigger kills the decoy, regardless the noise of the shooting might surprise the one beside you enough to delay her reaction.

Linear motion is easier than spin.  When she's beside you have to spin to face her she has the advantage.  If you back up then she has to spin while you backing up brings her in front of you, you just have to aim off to one side.  You have the advantage.  If you learned nothing else from chess it should have been that forward forking power fucking matters.

That's why you want to move, not spin in place.  Backward has the disadvantage of being slower than forward but has the advantage of putting your opponent in front of you.  As for why you pull the trigger: why waste the time you just spent aiming at the decoy?  It hasn't moved, your gun hasn't moved, you can use the sound of the gunshot as a distraction, pull the bloody trigger.

If you can't turn off the light, point it at the damn floor, put it under the seat, put it under your shirt.  Smash it (while pointing it at the floor.)  Do something other than say, "I'm sorry."

The t-rex is adorable.  Can I have one?  (Not seriously, I don't have nearly enough land to let it stretch its legs, and I'm not big on carnivores that require me to send anything bigger than crickets to the slaughter.)

If you're going to drive through a hurricane to rip off a park full of dinosaurs, use glasses holders available at any stores that sell either sunglasses or reading glasses (or both) not to mention actual optometrists.  Failing that find or make a rope piece of string and use it to strap your glasses on because the last thing you want to have happen after releasing all the dinosaurs from their pens, less the raptors, is lose your glasses.

Don't throw away the raptor claw.



  1. Sound points, all!

    On the magical sex-changing dinosaurs... there's a way it *could* make sense for females to turn into males, but it's not the way the kind of same-sex-turned-opposite-sex-to-breed works in most amphibians. It still could theoretically work for the dinosaurs, though, but not through the way they explained it in the film.

    Some animals, including birds and some reptiles (and therefor, maybe dinosaurs,) among others, use a ZW sex-determination system instead of an XY. In ZW genetics, males have the homozygous (ZZ) designation, so the females (ZW) have all the necessary components for a male.
    The wiki article seems decent:

  2. Straight to dinosaurs? Yeah, dinosaurs are cool. :-)

    The thing that the "velociraptor" did was introduce the idea of fast, small dinosaurs to the general public. Until then the general perception had been big and slow.

  3. The whole point is that Hammond isn't doing this for science, he's doing it to Share the Fun! Dodos and passenger pigeons might be first on the list for scientists, but he's building a theme park! You don't want dodos, you want T-Rex's! I think that's the same carelessness that's referred to later - he had the whole park planned out, but didn't put enough thought into the animals' behavior and how to safely maintain them.

    1. Two things, second one first.

      I think he did put enough thought into the animals' behavior to safely maintain them. He didn't put enough thought into human behavior. In the book the problems were many, in the movie the problem was Nedry. No Nedry, no loss of containment. That said, he didn't put enough thought into the animals' behavior in other areas.

      Which brings us to thing one. "he's building a theme park!" Probably one of the most unrealistic things in retrospect, which I take no points off for because the real world equivalent didn't exist yet, is, "Are there going to be any dinosaurs on this dinosaur tour?" Disney's Animal Kingdom proved that, with a little bit of forethought and the ability to adapt to change it is entirely possible to get the animals so they're visible for the tours.

      Hammond is building a theme park but he builds it like a really badly designed zoo. Look at the enclosures passed on the tour, it'd be nearly impossible for someone on the average tour to see a dinosaur. That's not how you build a theme park.

      If it were to be realistic the tour should have been like tours in Disney's Animal Kingdom: dinosaurs visible throughout, the means of containment invisible to the causal observer.

      But the real theme park opened five years after Jurassic Park was released so I don't hold it against the producers or writers that they completely failed to grasp what a real animal based theme park would be like.

  4. For some frogs (which is part of what they used to fill out the dino-DNA), the difference isn't genetic. What'll happen (and this also happens in some fish, the clownfish, for instance) is that, if there aren't any women around, one of the frogs will switch over.

    In Clownfish, it's the dominant member to do so.

    In octopi, you're born male and then age into female.

    So, they got the gender-swap wrong. Hey, maybe it's a dino trait but... I'm not aware of any reptile or aviary animals and I think for one very good reason. More equipment. Laying eggs requires that you have internal equipment. Inseminating another member of your species also requires equipment.

    Maybe Hammond accidentally created not female or male dinosaurs, but hermaphrodites. That means they wouldn't be transgender, T-Rex is very comfortable with hir gender, thank you very much. It's just that you two legged mammalsnacks are thinking that zie needs to be one of two other options that just don't match hir. That doesn't matter. Zie doesn't need your approval... although zie could use some of that nice protein you're made of.

  5. There was an incident of a female chicken who changed into a rooster. Since it's probably the closest relative of a dinosaur you'll find today, the answer is:

    It's absolutely possible.

    1. s/he couldn't reproduce. However...

      the researchers turned some hens genetically male, if that was not misreported (The author seemed to think having testes and being genetically male were the same thing).