' ' Cinema Romantico: If I Were a Jurassic Park Extra

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

If I Were a Jurassic Park Extra

I recently rewatched “The Lost World” (1997) not so much to prepare for the upcoming “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which I have no plans to see, as simply see how “The Lost World” came across a quarter century after I first saw it the day it opened, at midnight, back in those halcyon days when I could watch a movie at a theater until 2:30 in the morning, get to sleep a little after 3, and somehow still show up for work no problem seven hours later. Anyway. What I found was in some sense what I remembered, a movie forsaking the elegant build of the original for a much more ungainly rhythm, feeling as rushed as the plot, underlining how it is mostly just a movie of set pieces, some of which really are quite good, that adhere to the truth of sequels spoken in “Scream 2” by Jamie Kennedy’s character seven months later: “the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore.” The characters, meanwhile, are mostly superfluous, save for Pete Postlethwaite’s big game hunter, bringing a gravitas the movie does not even deserve, and Jeff Goldblum returning as Dr. Ian Malcolm, spending the entire movie trying to find an escape hatch from the island just as Goldblum spends the entire movie trying to find an escape hatch from the movie itself. There was another character, however, whom I had forgotten. 

That character is Carter (Thomas Rosales Jr.), one of the Jurassic Park version of the Star Trek redshirts, on hand just to get stomped by a dinosaur. But before Carter gets stomped by a dinosaur, he ensures that another character is eaten by a dinosaur first. He ensures this by slipping on his Walkman earphones to listen to a little mariachi music when the group, trekking through the island’s interior to try and reach a communications point, takes a break, meaning he doesn’t hear when Dieter (Peter Stormare), the kind of jackass who thinks calling the men’s bathroom the ladies room is funny, says he’s going to “the ladies room.” Before long, Dieter gets lost and gets eaten. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Wait. So, this guy is on an island with freaking dinosaurs and no fences and he decides putting on earphones and listening to music is a good idea? What is this, narrative amateur hour?” But reader, let me tell you something. After I survived a harrowing trip through Boston traffic with my sister many moons ago and collapsed on my bed in our hotel room, all I wanted to do was put on my headphones and listen to some music. When my preexisting condition was really acting up in 2009, I survived three minutes and twenty-nine seconds at a time for several months through Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” piped into my headphones. And so. If I was on an island where dinosaurs were running rampant and knew, a la Sam Rockwell’s Guy in “Galaxy Quest,” that I was just on hand to get eaten by one, I damn sure would take a moment to listen to some music too. That means the critical question isn’t why would someone listen to music in such a situation, but what song would I have listened to on Isla Sorna in 1997?

Forget that “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G. was #1 on the Billboard chart the week “The Lost World” opened. I was always a 2Pac guy. But at that point, I was also in the final stages of transitioning out of rap as my principal genre. Which means it’s possible I would have been listening to No Doubt and my girl Gwen, maybe singing “Sunday Morning” or something. But in the spring and summer of 1997 I was specifically obsessed with Sheryl Crow’s self-titled follow-up to “Tuesday Night Music Club.” “Maybe Angels” was always my favorite track, and I liked imagining “Superstar” as the closing credits song to the “Die Hard” in a Movie Theater screenplay I had penned around that time, and I think “A Change Would Do You Good” would work well in the made-up scene I am about to describe, but I most enjoy imagining that in taking a rest by sitting on a log on Isla Sorna and listening to some music, I would have cued up the album’s biggest hit “If It Makes You Happy.” 

Because I like imagining the camera in front of me, a little low, so as to pick up the velociraptor creeping up behind me as Sheryl laments “I belong, a long way from here.” And then, as she downshifts at the end of the first verse, that’s when my character hears something troubling and turns to find himself face to face with the velociraptor right before Sheryl soars into the chorus as the velociraptor grabs hold of him (me), an ironically anthemic shuffle off this mortal coil.

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