Edgar Rice Burroughs, Starlord & Raptors

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They say in advertising that if you have a boxom, bikini clad lass holding a baby and walking a puppy dog that you can sell people deep-fried cat shit and they won’t care.  Why?  Because the advertising had a sexy, bikini clad lass, holding a baby and walking a puppy dog. That’s mostly true for any product in general, except for fiction. With fiction’s mediums, be they on the page or the screen, we’ve got a broader field. They’re all imagination stimulators that bring forth immediate recognition, allowing the audience to bond with the narrative. Your choices include Knights in shining armor, Vikings, Pirates, damsels in distress, Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, flying machines and automobiles, and, of course, dinosaurs.  

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With me it has always been the latter, the dinosaurs. They’ve caught my imagination since I was a little boy. My earliest recollections all link back to two sources: KING KONG and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Kong put a sympathetic face on the giant monster, and yes, he fought dinosaurs. The works of ERB took me to outer space and back to our inner earth, with stops at lost islands and hidden valleys along the way. One of those places was the aforementioned lost island, called Caprona, the titular THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. The adventure story of the survivors of an U-Boat attack and how they end up on a lost island jam packed with dinosaurs is one of my favorite, ever. In 1975, a theatrical adaptation of the book hit screens, and I was enamored. The next year, a modernized KING KONG came out. There wasn’t a comic book, View Master or coloring book I didn’t have that was somehow tied to one of those properties. This is because dinosaurs are cool.

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Jump forward 20 some odd years from 1975 and author Michael Crichton once again captures my imagination with JURASSIC PARK. The hard science behind the book allowed suspension of belief and I suddenly felt like a pre-teen again, awash in the prehistoric glory of dinosaurs. The movie adaptation that followed a few years later did not disappoint me in any manner, well, unless you include that little issue with Muldoon. Nitpicking aside, the dinosaurs were amazing and far removed from the puppets and back screens of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. Special effects had reached a pinnacle in achievements with the Stephen Spielberg movie. Travel another 20 or more years, while circumventing a pair of sequels that failed to live up to the awe and wonder of the first, and we find a new entry into the JURASSIC PARK franchise. This past weekend, JURASSIC WORLD defied the average critical response, which has been a resting bitch face “Meh,” and opened to record box office receipts and smiling moviegoers by the boat load. Making over half a billion dollars at the multiplex was a feat unheard of, until last weekend. I happily contributed to its coffers and I’m about to happily tell you why I enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

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I’ve finally accepted that we won’t get a proper remake of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, thanks to JOHN CARTER’s marketing team.. Edgar Rice Burroughs has a stigma attached to his estate, one that says the movies won’t be very good.  It’s not a slight on the source material at all. Burroughs’ stories were action packed pulp adventures, he was a superstar of his time, a pop culture phenomenon. Shit, Tarzana, CA, is even named after his most famous creation. His characters were smart, the good guys good, the bad guys bad and the women, be they antagonists or protagonists, were strong. And sexy. But time and time again,  Burroughs adaptations fail at the box office. I’m fine with that, because, you see, JURASSIC WORLD is every bit as much an Edgar Rice Burroughs story as it is the fourth film of the JURASSIC PARK franchise.

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You see his influence throughout not only JURASSIC WORLD, but through JURASSIC PARK, as well. From the remote island setting to the dinosaurs themselves, the JURASSIC franchise is ripe with Burroughs-esque Easter Eggs. The intelligence of raptors is a modern incarnation of the evil Mahars from AT THE EARTH’S CORE, for example. The themes of conflict between the military and civilians can be seen in any ERB story, and is often established by having our protagonist be a member of the military itself. And that’s what makes JURASSIC WORLD the most Burroughs of all the films, its lead male star, Chris Pratt, and the character of Owen Brady. You see, Owen Brady is the quintessential Burroughs hero. He is brave and intelligent, he has a sense of humor and is he ever a ladies man. You can even see a slight Burroughs take on his character name, Owen Brady easily translates into Tyler Bowen, the hero of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, as well as nearly every other ERB protagonist from John Carter to Tarzan. Owen even channels Tarzan himself when he communicates with his “trained” raptors. Brady is an archetypical throwback to the heroes that have endured through time. Even Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing could be ripped straight out of any number of Burroughs narratives. She is strong, yet she is also beautiful, and alluring to our hero, making her Jane Porter or even Deja Thoris in a power suit.

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Word has it that there are already talks for a fifth film in the franchise. As long as they bring back Chris Pratt and his portrayal of Owen Brady, I’ll be on board, too. Nothing spells a good time like Starlord and the Raptors.

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