In defense of the sci-fi misfire

Dern_l Prompted by the DVD release of Jumper last week, I wrote this gallery about some of sci-fi’s greatest misfires. And there have been some… complaints, to put it mildly. "How dare I put Jurassic Park or Blade Runner or [unbelievably] Event Horizon on a list like that? They’re classics. Untouchably awesome."

Now, I’m not going to explain myself. I stand by the list 100%. What I am going to do is clarify what I mean by a misfire. To me, that term means that there was a kernel of an idea there that was fantastic, original, and noteworthy — but it wasn’t exploited to its fullest potential. Yes, the CG in Jurassic Park was beautiful, and yes, there were some scenes of both true majesty and genuine horror. But too much of that movie was about people gazing longingly at dinosaurs and not about actually doing anything with those dinosaurs. Not until the last 20 minutes, where JP threatened to turn into Aliens, before chickening out and airlifting everyone to safety — everyone we cared about, anyway.

Blade Runner‘s the same way: stunning to look at, incredibly influential, full of heady ideas, but dramatically inert. There was so much more one could’ve done with that world, with those characters.

Both of those films deserve a place in movie history. Just as both of those films could’ve been a lot better.

addCredit(“Laura Dern; Everett Collection”)

Comments (63 total) Add your comment
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  • Tom

    I agree about JP. It’s such a bore. i didn’t care about any of the characters. Even 15 years later, I have the same reaction – just indifference. However, despite its flaws, I still think Blade Runner is an interesting film. But compared to the other ’82 sci-fi films, particularly John Carpenter’s The Thing and E.T., it loses points for not being as engaging or emotionally involving.

  • Arden

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but a list coming from Entertainment Weekly does tend to carry more weight than a list from some Joe Blow blog. I think people were just trying to make sure this list didn’t speak for the masses.

  • FM

    Well, the thing about Blade Runner is that, really, it’s the understated delivery that makes the piece rise above other sci-fi in a lot of ways.
    The world feels real and tangible because the story exists IN it, not ABOUT it.
    Scott didnt feel the need to explain those giant billboards, or describe the inner workings of a replicant, becasue the people of THAT world wouldn’t have blinked twice about such things.
    We were meant to view the movie as PART of that world. And it works, and THAT is why Blade Runner is great.

  • Eric Friedmann

    I’d sooner have more confidence in a movie list from one of Roger Ebert’s books before that of EW.

  • Dan

    Eh, you’re wrong.

  • Snarf

    So what your saying is great idea, bad execution? Still think JP holds up 15 years later (an I thought the movie was far superior than the book)

  • Janine

    What I loved about Jurassic Park is that you didn’t have to be a movie critic to enjoy it. I was 14 when it came out and I still love it as much as I did then. And unlike a lot of recent action movies, you didn’t need to take notes to keep up with who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. I was actually one of the few who loved Jurassic Park 3. Who really expected great plot points and character development? All I cared about was how cool the dinosaurs were and how cute that Billy guy looked in his black t-shirt.
    And as far as criticizing people’s critiques, let it go. Whether I agree or not, it gives me something to read when I’m bored.

  • April

    “But too much of that movie was about people gazing longingly at dinosaurs and not about actually doing anything with those dinosaurs”
    C’mon Marc, dinosaurs have been extinct for how many millions of years? Did did you expect the characters to look at them like squirrels or pigeons?

  • Laura

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But while you see Jurassic Park in the very negative term of “misfire”, pretty much everyone else who’s seen it (including me) still sees it as one of the greatest action-thriller-popcorn movies of all time. So clearly, your opinion – which somehow made it to an official list on EW that supposedly speaks for most people – is in the very, VERY small minority. That’s all we’re saying.

  • Jim

    “But too much of that movie was about people gazing longingly at dinosaurs and not about actually doing anything with those dinosaurs”
    Were they supposed to put saddles on them and ride around? Laura Dern helped a sick Triceratops, the gang witnessed a raptor birth, we saw raptors eat a cow, they tangled with the T-Rex, Wayne Knight got spit on and attacked, the little girl got sneezed on by a brontosaurus, Sam Neill and the two kids survived a stampede, all before the last 20 minutes.

  • Court

    Again, no. Jurassic Park was the first movie I can recall deeming an “event” movie–and it delivered. It’s funny, it’s got lots of action, and I don’t know how you can say nothing happens until the last 20 minutes. It’s an intelligent adventure film. Of course not everyone is going to like it, but I just don’t understand how you can declare it a “misfire”. That just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Ceballos

    First off all, kudos Marc for manning up and addressing this issue. You could’ve just as easily moved on and tried to ignore the previous posting with the often hateful things to say about you.
    I also understood this was meant to be a list of sci-fi “misfires” as opposed to “the worst sci-fi movies of all time”.
    All that being said, I still completely disagree with your simplistic assessment of JP (people stare longingly at dinosours for an hour and a half until things FINALLY start happening at the end).
    I’m totally with April…they’re SUPPOSED to look at dinosaurs with wonder! What do you expect? Your take also completely ignores the kicka$$ and iconic first T-rex attack (with the still water being shaken by the dino steps).
    Either way, that’s just my opinion, just like it’s your opinion that this movie is a misfire. Either way, thanks for clearing this up, and this is just a perfect case of “agree to disagree.”

  • Tim Lade

    I remember it was the last day of school in grade 6 and it had become a tradition where my Dad would take my Sister and I to the movies after school to celebrate the end of school. We picked Jurassic Park that year and I remember that when the t-rex attacked I dived into my Dad’s arms cause I had the crap scared out of me! It was a terrifying movie and it remains one of my favourites. Reality of moviemaking though means a couple things and one of those things is that there is a huge difference between liking a movie and that movie being good. I hate Citizen Kane with every fiber of my being. I think it is long, pointless, and really just a waste of time and really boring. Does that mean it is not the triumphant and important piece of filmmaking that it is? No. It just means that it isn’t not my cup of ambrosia. A favourite professor of mine once said that there is a difference between liking a movie and a moving being good and I think that Marc really hit the nail on the head!

  • mark in nyc

    weak…..very weak

  • Jim

    May first job was an usher at a new Regal Cinema theater that had its grand opening the same weekend Jurassic Park came out. That Friday night, people were pumped for this movie. One of the projectors had a technical problem, causing one of the screenings to be a couple minutes late, and people were beyond pissed. I worked there for several years, and I never saw anything like it again.

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