Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report (2002) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 01/02/2016

At the dawn of the 21st century (sounds silly to say such a thing, don’t it?), Steven Spielberg belted out three science fiction films in relatively quick succession: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Minority Report (2002), and then War of the Worlds (2005).  For me, these three films reawoken my interest in Spielberg, tainted prior perhaps by film school cynicism.  Heck, two of the three starred Tom Cruise, at the time one of my least favorite major movie stars…and I still liked the films.

Minority Report might be the weakest link in the chain of films, and yet, it’s still really quite interesting and in ways quite provocative.  Interestingly, the reason for its continued influence in thought and concept has a lot more to do with the production concept and design that looked to realistically predict human technologies of the future and other crazy things that extending technology would infect the world, particularly in regard to privacy and advertising.

The film’s biggest weakness is in its visual aesthetic.  Shot by Janusz Kamiński (Spielberg’s #1 go-to cinematographer), the team employed a combination of “bleach-bypassing” the film’s negative and a de-saturation of the color in the film, giving it this bright, “washed-out” look, meant to echo of film noir and black-and-white, but ending up looking like some very cheesy and artificial aesthetic.  This, like everything here, is my opinion, but to my mind this hasn’t aged well at all.  In ways, it really imposes itself throughout the film and wears deeply.

Taking Philip K. Dick to the big screen has always been a mixed-blessing, though as much bastardization goes into the ideas and stories, the resultant films still often end up being at least very interesting.  I don’t know if Spielberg was shooting for something like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) or maybe was shooting for something distinctly different from that film’s art direction, but there is a reason everyone still talks about the Scott film’s design,…and probably not Minority Report.

It’s a pretty good movie.  It’s interesting how much of it stayed with me in ways in the 14 years since I saw it.  Samantha Morton is compelling as Agatha, the pre-cog slave to the pre-crime system.

Interestingly, or perhaps not so, there is now a Minority Report show on TV from Fox.  I watched most of the first episode after re-watching this movie.  It’s absolutely horrible.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 01/11/2014

The kids had enjoyed the other Indiana Jones movies so much that I thought it might be worth watching the late film in the series again.  Felix remembered it from seeing it in the theater and I had condemned it to the vaguer parts of memory myself.  Sure, it wasn’t as bad as that second prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, but it did sully the franchise a bit, didn’t it?

You know, after watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) again recently with Felix and Clara, I didn’t really think that this century’s Indiana Jones was necessarily as bad as that one.  Or at least it’s as bad, certainly not worse?

The first thing out of Clara’s mouth upon seeing Harrison Ford in the film was, “Wow, he’s an old man.”  I guess aging from 1980 to 1984 to 1989 to 2008 all in a few months would make us all feel as old as Ford looks and sounds in this film.  Strangely, he reminds me vaguely of my father, vaguely of the self that I am rapidly turning into.  Not just gray-haired, but tired and old.

Fair enough, Ford was in good shape in the film and he doesn’t drag the action being old.  It’s quite nice to see Karen Allen again.  Her smile is still delightful and lovely.  Shia LeBeouf has never been my favorite actor but he’s not really bad in the role (I just wish it was someone more immediately likable).  And Cate Blanchett, even in a black bob wig (actually that’s not bad) but even with a pretty lousy Russian accent, I kind of always like Blanchett.

The stupidest thing in the movie is LeBeouf swinging from the vines at the behest of all the digital monkeys.  Second stupidest, maybe the alien story.  Then again, if you look back on the whole franchise, they all have lots of goofy magic and metaphysics.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no worse than Temple of Doom on any level.  The digital effects, particularly at the end, are a let-down, but it doesn’t deserve the utter derision that I think came its way upon its release.

Not that I’m asking for another.  I would prefer my Indiana Jones in his prime, jaunty, daring, wise-cracking, and not aged.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 12/14/2013

Man, I hadn’t seen this film since, well, probably the early 1990’s.  I remember seeing it in ’89 when it came out and totally enjoying it.  But, the kids and I have been doing our Indiana Jones thing, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and so we eagerly watched the trilogy’s original finale.  We’re still on the fence about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

The Last Crusade was indeed a return to form for George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Indiana Jones.  Maybe the Nazis just were the best counterpart in villainy for the fedora-wearing archaeological adventurer.  Definitely, throwing in Sean Connery as Jones’ bookish, remote father was a stroke of movie-making luck.  It’s a great pairing, and as different as the two men are, there is total screen chemistry between the two.  The relationship makes the film.  It’s great.

We had the same Lego-oriented weirdness that we experienced with both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings movies, in that Felix had completed the Lego video games based on the films so somewhere toward the ending, he noted what would happen based on how hard this segment was to complete.  Such a weird meta way to watch a film.

I asked the kids which of the films that they liked the most.  Felix said probably Raiders, but based on observation, they both seemed to enjoy Temple of Doom the most in the moment.

The film, of course, starts with River Phoenix as the young Indiana Jones.  I’d met him around this time.  Only a couple of years later he would be dead.  Another strange experience of watching what is actually a great opening sequence.

The film has some other great moments, like when the old knight says, “He chose,…poorly.”  When the villain ages and decays after drinking from the wrong chalice.    It’s a great film, definitely adding to the overall significance and legacy of the character.  One of those totally enjoyable summer adventure films that they try to knock out year after year and miss the mark way, way more often than not.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 12/06/2013

Often considered the low point in the Indiana Jones franchise until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) mooted that argument, it had been six year since I’d watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with my kids.  Which would have made Felix 6 at the time (Clara didn’t watch it with us).  That would have been something to file under inadvisable overall.  It gave Felix’s friend nightmares afterwards and freaked them pretty good at the time.

Turns out that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was notable as one of the key films that helped usher in the PG-13 rating, being a lot edgier, scary, violent than a normal PG film.  And most people, outside of myself, I guess, remembered it that way.  I remembered Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and the roller coaster-like mine race scene.  Seemed fun in my mind at the time.

Anyways, if you’re considering it with small children, keep that stuff in mind.  Sort of a moot point this round for us with Felix 12 and Clara 9.

It was only a couple months ago that we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), so I thought we might as well soldier through the series, more for Clara than Felix who has actually seen the films before.

Turns out they really enjoyed it.  In fact, they seemed to enjoy it more than Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I was mostly feeling put off by the many things that annoyed me about it the last time I’d seen it, namely Kate Capshaw’s Willie Scott.  The dance-oriented opening, comic shootout, scrum for a bottle of antidote and a diamond in the Shanghai dance club.  The whole thing continues to seem a lot more comic and contrived.  By the time they jump from the plane in rubber raft, down the snowy mountains and into raging rapids…  I was joking to the kids that the movie “sure started slowly”.

Actually, Clara thought Capshaw’s character was really funny.  She laughed a lot throughout at all of her reactions.

Interestingly, it seems that most of what’s wrong with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom seems to fall on George Lucas.  Did you know that this movie was a prequel?  I didn’t realize that.  Wanting to avoid the Nazis as villains, they moved back in time and came up with the Indian Thuggee cult, which winds up turning the film into some rather unfortunate stereotyping regarding India.  The “darker” material, part of Lucas’s vision of a trilogy arc annoyed a lot of people involved but they all gave in to his persuasiveness.  It’s not that it was all so wrong-minded but it just seems that if you delve into who contributed what, Lucas seems the center of the bad stuff.

By the end of it Felix was asking for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) for our next week feature.  It’s an interesting contrast to the last time we watched it.  I think I still haven’t seen the third film in the trilogy in over two decades.  So I am kind of looking forward to that.

Really, it’s drawn me to one other interesting turning point in my movie-going “coming of age”.  I would have been 15 when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out and I recall really liking it a lot at the time.  But then there is The Goonies (1985) a year later, also featuring Jonathan Ke Quan, and I was “over” the age of enjoying the kid flick movies as a kid.  I don’t know that it’s all that specific to the time or the movies but oddly enough, it comes up from time to time, especially in discussing The Goonies with people.  And through said discussions, I’ve come to place my transition between these two summers.  And I guess that makes sense in my world.  It’s still kind of funny drawing such a conclusion.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 08/17/2013

This viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark was for Clara, who had never seen an Indiana Jones movie.  We had a thing like this for her and Star Wars (1977) which we did in the past year as well.  For all my cinema “education”/sharing I do with the kids, these rather glaring omissions in Clara’s viewing knowledge occurred in part to her being too young when Felix saw them and having simply not revisited them.

I love Raiders.  I think it’s best of the Steven Spielberg films, perhaps the best of George Lucas as well.  Even as it was itself a sort of attempt to recreate a style of film from the early movie serials, it was massively inventive in itself.  And its set pieces are all so cleverly and deftly crafted, it’s quite pure joy to watch.

That said, this time I was less enthralled.  I still loved it but not rapturously.

It’s a very different relationship that one has with a film one has seen many times.  And this situation that I’ve created for myself, to write about a film each time I see it rather than crafting a singular, more definitive response requires me to analyze my specific interaction in a particular viewing.  It’s kind of a weird quirk.  One I am trying to come to terms with in the way that I don’t try to be necessarily expansive in any one post about any one film.

Clara enjoyed it.  It’s likely that we’ll be going through the series in the coming weeks.

Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 07/26/2013

I’d been holding off revisiting Jaws for some time mainly because I wanted to watch it with my kids.  A couple of years ago, having ventured into content of questionable appropriateness (e.g. Poltergeist (1983)), waiting for them to get a bit older seemed the right thing to do.  Finally, they were taking a trip to Australia this summer, so waiting for them to come back from that before potentially giving them the fear of the water that effected a huge portion of the population as a result of seeing Jaws in the 1970’s also seem apropos.

For a generation, Jaws has been one of “the” scary movies.  Expertly crafted by the very young Steven Spielberg, it was a film that created its own zeitgeist, thrill ride cinema at its earliest and best.  And the subsequent fear of the water, fear of sharks, and general misinformation that poured from the film and the Peter Benchley novel upon which it was based.

I was 6 when it came out.  I have vivid memories of the time, though I wouldn’t see it until a re-release a few years later.  It was, however, “the” film when my family got HBO finally.  Back then, HBO only had a half dozen movies that it played over and over again.  And through such a combination of elements, Jaws was one of those movies that I couldn’t tell you how many times I saw it.

It’s a brilliant film.  The production may have been plagued and potentially disastrous  but Spielberg managed not only the tension, drama, and adventure but actually got some quintessential performances as well.  None more quintessential than Quint himself (Robert Shaw).  This is one case of a character performance where it doesn’t seem like a performance at all.  Quint seems like a real person, or maybe that Robert Shaw just plain is Quint.  Certainly one of the best that I can bring to mind.  Richard Dreyfuss is great too as Matt Hooper.

Like Spielberg’s other early films, Duel (1971) and The Sugarland Express (1974), the director shows a real interest in average Americans, using non-actors in a big part of crowd scenes and local flavor.  While there are perhaps real parallels between Jaws and Duel, this is the film that made Spielberg Spielberg, or at least gave him the license to become the director that he would.

The kids really liked the movie a lot.  Clara noted that she was only frightened when the music started up (John Williams’ iconic score featuring notable nods toward Bernard Herrmann).  That and the surprise moments made to make you jump out of your seat.

The most imperfect element of the film is its shark biology.  This may sound sort of obvious to state but the film created or enabled such an image of great white sharks that it’s literally taken decades of information to overturn.  While the shark is sort of the perfect villain in the film, this perfect predator predating on people, the reality of a rogue shark isn’t something that seems as palpable now (though science still knows less about great whites than it would like to).

It’s a brilliant film, though.  Iconic throughout, from lines delivered to reaction shots staged to the film’s great final section on the Orca.  Quite satisfying, quite remarkable.  Still.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983) movie poster

directors John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller
viewed: 06/08/2013

The Twilight Zone was one of my formative favorite television shows.  I caught it on PBS on Saturdays as a kid and developed a number of favorite episodes.  I’ve come to think that it has led to my penchant for outdated science fiction.  Not to say that the show didn’t have its relevance in the 1980’s, just that it was a great image of its time and its creator Rod Serling.

When Twilight Zone: the Movie came out in 1983, I was well-aware of the tragedy that happened on-set with the crash of the helicopter and the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two young children.  That sad fact still haunts the film.  And worse yet, it haunts the film’s worst segment, and is in a sense what pulls the film down from any potential greatness.  I felt it at the time when I first saw it, and I’d say that it’s still true now, three decades later.

The anthology film has moments as a type of film, perhaps, but is almost inevitably challenged by the variance in quality of its segments.  Directors John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller each imparted something to the film, but it has to play as a whole, or at least it was meant to play as a whole, with far less narration opening and closing each sequence.  The film’s heart is in the right place, trying for the spirit of the show, but somehow only Dante and Miller deliver on it and Miller delivers the only sequence of greatness.  It’s arguable that Spielberg’s segment is among the worst of his career.

Focusing on the positive, Joe Dante’s redo of “It’s a Good Life” channels Serling and Richard Matheson via Looney Tunes.  After watching his Gremlins 2 (1988) recently, his taste for the anarchic antics of early animation seems deeply embedded if not beautifully realized.  It’s about a creepy boy with the power to make anything happen and the people who absolutely fear him.  Billy Mumy played the boy in the original and it’s one of the true classics of the show.  It’s pretty good here, too.

But Miller’s version of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, also originally from Richard Matheson actually maybe improves upon the classic episode that starred a young William Shatner.  It’s a acrophobic guy on the plane who is losing his mind, thinking the engines are being sabotaged by a gremlin.  The Shatner version is pretty great, though the gremlin left a bit to be desired.  The Miller version has an amazing John Lithgow in the Shatner role, a much creepier, cooler gremlin, and a perfectly paced and executed paranoia thrill ride of a run.  It’s the film’s most redeeming sequence.  The highlight without a doubt.  It’s been speculated that Spielberg realized the quality of the episodes and put them in order to improve.

It still doesn’t rescue the film.

The kids weren’t too into it.  The opening sequence with Vic Morrow as a racist facing being in Nazi Germany as a Jew, the deep South as an African American, in Vietnam as a VC, who knows what it would have been had nothing happened. It’s weak and a bit of a cluster.

They liked the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” part.  But they weren’t overly impressed.  Oddly enough, of the 3 episodes of the show that they’d seen,”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” was one of them.  This was the biggest flop I’ve played for them in a long while.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 04/26/2013 

In 1982, I was all about E.T.  I sat through it twice the first time I saw it.  I read the novelization of it.  I even got the Michael Jackson record thing with E.T.  I was 13, but I was totally into it.  I thought that Drew Barrymore was the cutest kid in the world.

That said, I don’t know that I ever actually saw the movie again.  At least after 1982.  I might have gone to see it again in the theater.  That was the old fashioned way of seeing movies multiple times.  Not necessarily pre-VHS or pre-Beta but certainly before we had them.  And when things didn’t go to pay cable right after the fact.

Anyways, I hadn’t seen E.T. in a long, long time.  The kids had seen it some years before, not with me.  Long enough ago that Clara didn’t remember it at all and Felix probably couldn’t remember it too well.  But after watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) the week before, certain parallel notions arose in my mind, though maybe it was just the style of the title, with two initials followed by the longer words for which they stood.  That and some crazy adventure for an alien being of great good and innocence.  Frankly, the parallels stopped seeming parallels after re-watching E.T.

E.T. is a good, probably not great movie.  It’s greatest strengths are the child actors Henry Thomas as Elliott, Drew Barrymore as Gertie, and Robert McNaughton as older brother Michael.  Director Steven Spielberg has always had a way with child actors, and E.T. was one of the films that really solidify that truth.

It’s also quite the snapshot of early 1980’s Southern California (as Everytown, USA).  I’ve always seen some parallels between the landscape of Poltergeist (1982) and E.T.  It’s almost as if they used the same landscape shots of suburbia.  Spielberg was producing Poltergeist at the same time and the film certainly feels a lot like a Spielberg movie in many places.

The nuclear family in E.T. is a broken one.  Dad is in Mexico with another woman.  The wounds on the family, particularly on Elliott and his mom (Dee Wallace) are still open and painful.  E.T. carries that other very Spielbergian sensibility of child endangerment and dissociation from the family.  Adults are almost entirely shot from the perspective of someone of either E.T. or Gertie’s height, simply waists and feet, no faces.  The mysterious government agents are just body parts, not men, until the very end when Peter Coyote shows up and has a face and a voice.

The magic that I felt in 1982 (in which I was far from alone) really doesn’t resound as powerfully today.  Felix and Clara enjoyed the film’s more comic aspects, like when E.T. gets drunk or gets dressed in drag, or simply gets knocked around.  As surprised by E.T.’s death and resurrection, neither of the kids seemed very overwhelmed by the emotion of the story.  I remember tearing up when I saw the film back in the day.  Again, I don’t think I was exactly alone in that.

I asked them what they thought about E.T. vis-a-vis A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which was sort of the notion of pulling E.T. out at this point.  Clara preferred the movie about the robot boy to the friendly alien invader.  And interestingly, I think that I too think it’s a better film.  While it’s certainly had less cultural impact, less commercial success, less notoriety, I think it’s a better film.

E.T. is as much a time capsule of a film as anything, so it seems.  While it was one of the films that really embedded product placement in its evil corporate form in earnest, it also maintains some image of a kid’s California life of the time, surrounded as one is with the cultural effluvia of one’s period: Star Wars toys, Hulk posters, Speak’n’Spells.  For me, it’s particularly evocative, as I stayed that summer in California with my grandparents and still vividly remember that time.  But that is the uniqueness of my experience, not the least objective.

It’s also sentimental and soppy and silly cutesy.  Some of the cutesy is still effectively cute (Drew Barrymore is still a doll as Gertie), some a little more groan-inducing.  And some of the “magical” images, such as Elliott riding his bike across the giant moon, flying in air, with the John Williams score grabbing at the heartstrings (heartlights?), it’s not necessarily ham-fisted but still most obvious.

Iconic, yes.  Masterful, maybe not.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 04/20/2013

I’ve been writing about the movies I watch for over a decade now.  All that really gives me is some sense of perspective on what I was thinking at the time that I saw a film, a particular instance, close to the actual experience of watching a movie and my immediate reactions, thoughts, feelings.  In the case of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it’s kind of interesting because of all of the films that I’ve watched in the past decade (nearly 1700), there are those rare few that really stick with a person, linger far beyond their watching, stay fresh in one’s mind despite having so much else that has had opportunity to push it out and take its place.

Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, from 2001, is absolutely among those.  Looking back on what I wrote about it in 2002, I gave it much shorter shrift than I did in my mind over the ensuing eleven years.  The film continued to haunt and linger, and while I always acknowledged some of its lesser qualities, it actually grew in stature over the time.  And so, as I was trying to think of movies to watch with the kids, it suddenly struck me that they might find this movie very interesting.

Adapted from a script that Stanley Kubrick had developed over many years, Spielberg got A.I. Artificial Intelligence into production shortly after Kubrick’s death in 1999.  Originally from a Brian Aldiss’s short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long,” Kubrick crafted a story of a robot boy seeking real life, a modern, sci-fi Pinocchio.  In its long journey from story to concept to film, bandied between two of the 20th century’s major American directors, A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a singular work of a multitude of visions.  But it’s also perhaps one of Spielberg’s best films.

Really, the most powerful thing in the whole film is Haley Joel Osment.  Fresh off his break-through role in The Sixth Sense (1999), this film further underscores the probability that he is one of the great child actors of all time.  There is something uncanny in his performance, but so utterly effective, so endearing, that the emotional charge of the film, this lost child abandoned to a cruel world, yearning for his mother hits like a ton of bricks.

The kids were really impressed by him as well.  In the beginning of the film, before his emotions have been “turned on” and even after as he seeks to learn how to behave, there is a creepiness to him, cute as he is, that somehow he is indeed “other” than human.  His journey through the desolation of this futuristic world where robots are ubiquitous yet have no status other than machine is an epic, sad, torturous affair.

The kids usually will say that they liked a film, but that it “was sad”, as if that is a criticism of it.  It is a sad story.  An effective one.

There are themes of abandonment that I believe are consistent in Spielberg’s oeuvre, but this time I specifically thought of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) this time through, correct or not.  There are Holocaust parallels common in his films, and aliens ultimately.

I think as I saw this film in 2002, then Minority Report (2002) and then War of the Worlds (2005), that something opened up for Spielberg in regards to science fiction, that his return to genre offered up three of his best films of the decade.  It also opened him up for me. Coming out of film school, the cynicism toward some of film’s major popular figures, especially those who evoke great sentimentality and/or commercialism, make them very suspect, more prone to critique.  But this group of films struck me, and as I delved into more of Spielberg’s filmography over the years (and particularly of late), I’ve come to a greater and greater appreciation of his work, his strengths, his qualities.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence does have some weaknesses.  The long, strange, drawn-out ending is certainly one of the most obviously imperfect, but this modernized fairy tale is also a powerful, evocative story, with a brilliant performance at its (and as its) heart.  I would posit that history will accept this film better and better over time.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993) movie poster

director Steven Spielberg
viewed: 04/07/2013 at Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, SF, CA

Twenty years ago, the year 1993, the film Jurassic Park, the big blockbuster of the summer, the breakthrough film for computer generated special effects.  In acknowledgement of this anniversary, Jurassic Park has been “spruced up” with a 3-D-ification and trundled out to the cinemas to cash in.

While I avoid 3-D if I can, I don’t mind catching an older film on the big screen if it was one that I wouldn’t mind watching again.  I had been considering Jurassic Park for the kids for a while, so this was up our alley.  We did indeed forgo the 3-D.

Frankly, I don’t consider Jurassic Park to be a great film.  Steven Spielberg has made better films before and since, and despite the film’s notoriety of employing digital effects so significantly and successfully, it is an enjoyable, at times memorable, fairly entertaining thrill ride of a movie.

Actually, the thrill ride factor I think is the way that I’ve come to think of the film.  The best bits of the film are bits: shots, moments.  The ripples in the water cup’s surface as the stomps of the T-Rex become audible.  The T-Rex in the wing mirror (“The objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”)  The refracting eyeball of the T-Rex as he looks inside the jeep.  The image of the velociraptor as its silhouette mimics its illustration on the wall.  The slide down the tree from the falling van.  The velociraptors hunting the kids in the kitchen.

The whole, however, is not the sum of its parts.  There are several “Wow” moments.  The first reveal of the living dinosaur (Clara actually said “Wow” in the theater at that — thus still effective 20 years later).  The sick triceratops.  The death of the lawyer on the toilet.  The death of the conniving tech assistant in his vehicle in the rain.

But like a thrill ride, it’s just a track through a series of diorama-like set-pieces, albeit some quite memorable flashes.  It actually scared the kids pretty good.  It’s effective, certainly, in that sense.

There is perhaps an even more elaborate discourse on technology regarding the film.  I reckon that I’m not knowledgable enough to be the one to articulate it well, but this film, whose crux is the digital beast has an interesting portrayal of technology within its narrative.  Being made before the dot-com/Internet explosion, the technologist of the film is Dennis Nedry (played by the puffy and slimy Wayne Knight, most notable as “Newman” from Seinfeld.)  He’s a bad guy, who tries to steal dino DNA to sell to a competitor.  He’s a junk food-eating slob.  He is callow, and while smart enough to design the systems of the park’s security systems, he finds an ignoble death.

While Samuel L. Jackson is the terse engineer who understands the work that Nedry has done enough to filter through its “2 million lines of code”, the tech hero is the young girl Lex (Ariana Richards), who is able to recognize the platform (“It’s Unix. I know Unix.”) and then gets in and hacks the system to enable doors to be automatically locked to withstand the velociraptors.  She’s “not a nerd” but a self-proclaimed “hacker”.  While a lot of this depiction comes down to the writers, Michael Chrichton and David Koepp, showing what they know or don’t know about technology, it is an interesting portrayal of the types that made the creatures “live” perhaps.

It’s always amused me the way computer screens are depicted in films.  Whether it’s a futuristic science fiction universe in which computers would theoretically be thousands of generations evolved from our present day to just showing what computer geeks of our time see when they are in “the matrix”, it’s always very dissociative from reality.  When Lex is in the Unix code (supposedly), she’s actually looking at a low-res 3-D map of the park’s buildings.  And the schematic that she finally stumbles upon is like an electronic blueprint, the audience never sees a line of code.

There is also a weird little moment when Wayne Knight’s character’s face appears on the computer screen with a cartoon body, remonstrating those who try to “break” his password.

This idea of technology represented in film often catches my eye.  I don’t know if there is anything of significance in it.  It just always strikes me as weird.

As for the film as a whole, it’s entertainment.  It’s good entertainment.  As cinema, … well, it’s good entertainment.  That the thrill ride based on technology of 20 years ago still delivers its thrills and chills is a testament to the workmanship on it.  Spielberg is no slouch, even when he’s slumming (as arguably he was on the film’s sequel).