Romesh Ranganathan on Jurassic Park, and a very strange flute

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Romesh Ranganathan writes about movies every month in Film Stories – and here’s his column about Jurassic Park movies.
Romesh (@RomeshRanga

I love Jurassic Park. I love dinosaurs, I love Jeff Goldblum, I love the way Sam Neill pulls off his sunglasses in that bit and I love the story of how they made the water vibrate like that when the T-Rex was coming.

My mum took my brother and I to watch the film at Crawley cinema, and for some reason decided to pack her own snacks. For other families, this might mean crisps or popcorn contraband to dodge the scourge of foyer overpricing. For my mother, this meant foil-covered pieces of deep-fried mackerel that were spiced to a level that, upon unwrapping, caused an audience member along from us to react as if he suspected a chemical weapon had been unleashed. We were the only Asians in the screening, so stereotypes were effectively reinforced.

Regardless of this horrendous breach of cinema conduct, I loved that film so much. When the T-Rex appeared, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I felt the same adrenaline as if I had seen it out of the window. I loved the Jurassic Park plates. I loved the information video. I loved the logo. I thought everything about it was perfect, and Samuel L Jackson’s cynical grumping really connected with me: “We have all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo and the computers aren’t even on their feet yet.” I loved that line. It suddenly occurred to me how difficult it was to make an actual Jurassic Park, and I was so grateful to John Hammond for making it all happen.

The thing I loved the most, however, was the raptors. I, like everyone, had no idea that raptors were so hardcore. Sam Neill explaining how dangerous they were to that stupid kid was great, and they were set up to be the film’s most memorable protagonists. You can’t make the T-Rex the biggest threat in the film. The T-Rex is all blood and thunder, but they are easily heard, and once you go inside they don’t feel too much of a threat, unless your inside is a toilet cubicle. Raptors, however, can get everywhere, and they can hide in cupboards. They can look through a door and they can look for you in the smallest of places. They’re amazing, and I left the film in love with a new villain. If any of my friends do anything that shows even a modicum of nous, I will often reward them with a “clever girl”.

Which is why I found Jurassic Park III so infuriating. Raptors had been set up as straight-up gangsters of the dinosaur world. Now I don’t think Jurassic Park III is a bad film at all, in fact I love the Pteradon aviary sequence. What I don’t love is the maddening decision for Alan Grant to discover that there was a way to play a Raptor skull like a flute. We are, as a result, treated to an awful sequence at the end of the film where he has a sort of chat with them. It was fucking dreadful. I left the cinema that day livid. I could not believe that they would mug off the raptors like this. Little did I know that in Jurassic World they were to become bloody pets. I like Chris Pratt, not enough to learn what his name is in the Jurassic World films, but I like him. But the sight of him riding a motorbike flanked by trained raptors was worse than seeing a Britain First rally come past your house.

My point is this: I want raptors to be pricks again. That’s what we all want. And if they don’t, well the truth is I will just keep watching the films anyway.

Romesh Ranganathan’s new book, Straight Outta Crawley, is available now.

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