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Face-Off: Jurassic Park vs. Jaws

04.04.2013by: Paul Huffman
For last weeks Face-Off, the release of G.I Joe: Retaliation prompted a testosterone filled match between Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel, with Dwayne Johnson ultimately winning the verdict. Our readers seems to agree. That said, bring on that new Riddick flick Vin...we still love to love ya.

Legendary director Steven Spielberg has given us what stand today as two of the best "monster" movies ever to hit the big screen. A film has to be pretty damn special to earn the lasting legacy that Jaws and Jurassic Park have earned, and these films definitely qualify, this will probably be the hardest Face-Off to judge that we've ever concocted. What will be great to discuss is the two very different tones and vibes these films give off, as always it's what our readers have always preferred...both these films would be deserving of a victory, but only one can win. Let's discuss. Jurassic Park 3D will be released this Friday, and needless to say I am so damn there! Any chance of getting a Jaws 3D? Yeah...I went there.
Cast
Sam Neill. Laura Dern. Jeff Goldblum. Richard Attenborough. Bob Peck. Ariana Richards. Joseph Mazzello. And the great Samuel L Jackson in a bit part. The whole team played their parts to perfection here. In essence, Sam Neill and Goldblum did not have that long to play off each other and I think that's why we went both of them to return for the fourth so much. I really dug Attenborough's performance as John Hammond, he portrayed a man so passionate about what he was doing and it was infectious. Laura Dern was also great and sold the terror of the situation perfectly while stile maintaining strength, she delivered that "run" line perfectly. The rest of the supporting cast did their jobs well, I can go on and out about the colorful characters that were sprinkled throughout, but I wont.
Roy Scheider. Richard Dreyfuss. Robert Shaw. Lorraine Gary. This group of main characters sprinkled with the various supporting brought to life a certain element that Spielberg knew would work. He made it a point to avoid casting big stars to keep an "everyman" vibe to Jaws, and he succeeded. I loved the great chemistry and believable love between Scheider, Gary, and their children. I loved Dreyfuss with all his knowledge and willingness to get down and dirty. I loved Shaw as quint with all his mystery and his hardened outer shell, the man has earned his scars. The famous troubled shoot began to be evident on the actors faces, especially during the third act and it made things that much more intense. I'll say this as a bottom line, how great these actors and characters meshed with each other, it gave Jurassic Park a lot to live up to.
Creatures
I think I just have to give Jurassic Park the edge here, simply for the fact Spielberg wasn't concerned with keeping the Dinosaurs hidden to add to the terror, he wanted to flaunt them in all their glory. The very first glimpse of the "long necks" and the subsequent amazement from the cast with John Williams score blaring gets me every time. Then there's that amazing animatronic T-Rex, the feeling of seeing that thing brought to life is still hard to put into words even today. JP has to win in this category also for just giving us more to sink our teeth into. Raptors, Dilophosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Gallimimus, oh my! Jaws is great, but that T-Rex foot slamming down inches away from Grant and those kids was a defining cinematic moment for me.
Bruce, the nickname for three mechanical sharks built for the film...gave them all hell in the film and behind the scenes. I loved the creative decision to keep the shark hidden for most of the film, as it was definitely the most effective way to go and pretty much stays damn true to life, it's this strategy that scared the sh*t out of viewers for its initial release. I mean for most of the duration of the film, all we see is a damn fin, I wish I could have been around when this film was first released before we became so desensitized to terror that modest. But it worked.
Kills
We have the beginning of the film pulling their best Jaws, keeping the raptor off screen while a pour worker screams for his life, "shoot her"...poor schmuck. We have our precious T-Rex that finally got his desert in the form of that asshole lawyer who just "had to go", Nedry's death via the venom spitting Dilophosaurus (a kill shot which was a fiction created for the film), Muldoon's chill inducing fate via that raptor , and Sam Jackson's very strongly implied death. The strongest of these? Probably Muldoon's demise...he even got a classic line out of it, just seeing that raptor inches from your face staring you down so you can get a brief acceptance of what's about to happen to you, clever girl indeed.
The famous opening scene that tells us apparently skinny dipping in the ocean is bad for your health, then there's that poor guy who meets his end right in front of Brody's kid. Now I'll talk about the two deaths that have to give Jaws the edge in this category, one being the audacity these folks had for doing away with that young boy during the beginning with that terrifying scene of the boy disappearing in a flash with nothing but a pool of blood to let us know what happened. The other being Quints death, being already half swallowed by Bruce with the screams of sheer pain and the look of terror on his face...not something that quickly leaves you.
Memorable Lines
"Dr. Grant, my dear Dr. Sattler... Welcome to Jurassic Park."

"Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists."

"Hold on to your butts."

"Clever girl."

"Shoot her! Shoot her!"

"Ian was right, life found a way."

"Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

"You never had control, that's the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too, I didn't have enough respect for that power and it's out now."

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."

"Smile you son of a BITCH."

"That's some bad hat, Harry."

""Slow ahead." I can go slow ahead. Come on down here and chum some of this shit."

" Ha, ha - they're all gonna die."

"Boys, oh boys... I think he's come back for his noon feeding."

"This was no boat accident."

"*Quints entire "Indianapolis" speech*."

Musical Score
I can't wait to experience Jurassic Park 3D, in large part to hear John Williams' score blare through those theater speakers again. Most recently, me and my brother have discussed the simple sheer joy of hearing the iconic score in the background during the Jurassic Park ride in Universal Studios California. That main theme is just one thing, another one of my favorite cues are the characters first introduction to the Dino's. While there are terrifying cues in JP to be sure, the infamous music here perfectly captures the magnificent fictitious wonder that science has been able to afford us.
The famous tidbit is that when Williams first presented this iconic score to Spielberg, he initially thought it was a gag. The rest as we say is history, terrifying musical history. There are great moments when the music sports a methodic pace to let us know of the sharks presence, the terror built up brilliantly. Other moments there was no music to slowly make us aware of the sharks presence, he surprised us and it was then Williams brilliance kicked in with a vengeance. In the Making of Jaws special, Williams has stated his favorite musical cue is in the scene where Hooper harpoons the shark with that line to the flotation barrel.
Legacy
On various critics lists, Jurassic Park has earned the distinction of being one of the most terrifying films to hit the screen...even getting certain scenes singled out for special mention (that being the sequence where Lex and Tim are stalked by Raptors). Perhaps the films biggest imprint is on the film industry, the computer generated imagery that pulled off inspired the sh*t out of various filmmakers that knew they could follow in the footsteps Spielberg left to help pave the way. Jurassic Park filled us with wonder, dread, and everything in between. Our own Eric Walkuski stated in his review of JP3D that seeing it in that setting made him feel like a kid again, not every film can be given that distinction and Jurassic Park deserves that honor.
Apart from it being the film with the most success until Star Wars came along and knocked if off its mantle, it seems that, at least for its time Jaws influence surpassed the world of filmmaking and hit the general public in a way that not many films do. Beach attendance took a hit after the release of Jaws, that's power. The film is also noted for changing studios projections for great Box Office success from the previous winter timeline to the summer for typical high budgeted pictures. Another interesting aspect of the film is the negative stereotype its perpetuated about the behavior of sharks, the author of the original novel stated he would never have written the book if he had been more knowledgeable about their habits. All that aside, Jaws gave opportunity for films like Jurassic Park to be made...the reigning Godfather of the monster film if you will. All the elements came together to pull off a true classic.
Jaws
So there you have it, folks! I love Jurassic Park, I have a blast and am swept up in it all every single time. But the same can be said for Jaws, and I respect the impact it made on the world a bit more. It tapped in to what we discovered was a very real fear, I can only imagine the feeling of the millions that saw it during its initial run. The musical score has transcended the film, some of the lines have transcended the film, it's embedded itself in popular culture. Jaws is legend. But that's just my opinion. What say you? Strike back!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Stephen Spielberg film is your favorite?
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