Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself, “This movie seems familiar to me…”?
I have. I was watching Jurassic Park, which of course I’ve seen several times, and I had a strange feeling of déjà vu. I wondered if the film might be a remake. When I realized that Michael Crichton wrote the film, I knew the connection. Jurassic Park, though not a remake, is a sort of re-telling of Crichton’s earlier story, Westworld.
Crichton mastered the art of spinning tales to warn humankind of the dangers of technology. His novels and movies included Coma, Looker, Runaway, and Timeline, among others. He also created ER and Beyond Westworld, both for TV.
Both Jurassic Park and Westworld feature amusement parks in which technology collides with human error, with deadly results.
In the 1973 film, Westworld, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin portray vacationers at a dream resort that enables them to live out their Wild West fantasies. When the computer systems malfunction, they find themselves running for their lives from a crazed robot gunslinger played by seriously scary Yul Brynner.
In 1993’s Jurassic Park, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern play a team of doctors—archaeologists, invited to see the extraordinary creation of John Hammond, portrayed by Richard Attenborough. He leads them through his prehistoric island amusement park complete with real living dinosaurs, cloned by his private team of scientists. Of course, something goes awry and the main attractions of the park, the dinosaurs, want to make the guests their main course.
The real star of Westworld is Yul Brynner, the robot villain. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean. When he’s on screen, you cannot look away, and when he’s not, you anticipate him around every corner. The first time I saw this movie, I had nightmares of Yul Brenner. He stalked me for a month. I could barely watch the King and I for fear he would “go Westworld” on Deborah Kerr.
Though not even listed among the cast of Jurassic Park, the T-Rex is the character who steals the show, in parallel to Brynner’s cowboy. When I hear the title, the image that flashes into my mind is the huge monster with the razor grin. If you really think about it, Rex turns out to be the hero of the picture—the last minute savior. He even takes care of the lawyer with a bite of poetic justice. It doesn’t matter; he still scares me.
Twenty years separate the movies. The advancements in technology are perhaps most evident in the production quality of the films themselves. Both movies caution the audience of the dangers of technology without responsible oversight. Both films bring to life worlds that have long passed away. Both films energized interest in the possibilities of future scientific breakthroughs. Both films created monsters that could not be contained in a single two-hour feature.
If you have not seen both of these movies, I recommend them. If you haven’t seen them in a while, make it a Crichton double feature and invite the gang over. Westworld might seem a little hokey compared to Jurassic Park’s special effects, but the story holds up, and Brynner is every bit as terrifying as Rex is.
Let me know what you think! Do you know of a pair of parallel films I need to see? Tell me!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!