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Friday, 14 February 2014

Jurassic Park - the Torch lights have fascinating meaning

Enjoying Jurassic Park in its latest Blu Ray 3D format, I noticed something interesting in the scene where Ellie and Muldoon go looking for survivors.  The torches they use to survey the T Rex road create extra bright beams.  On closer inspection I noticed the beams were actually augmented to look more atmospheric.  You can see this quite clearly if you look at the shot where Ellie leaps out of the Jeep with Muldoon and finds Genarro in the foreground.

Look carefully and you will see a traditional 2D rotoscope effect has been applied to the torch beams to make it more bright and volumetric.  The silhouettes of the beams wobble and falter slightly due to them being animated by hand in post production.  This is confirmed by a shot later where Ellie and Muldoon return to Malcolm, and their torch beams are almost non existent.  This is how the torches would appear without the 2D effect applied.  This was not fixed probably due to the shorter length of the shot.


So why would Spielberg spend money on augmenting these shots to make the torch beams more obvious?  It could be to add atmosphere and bring more contrast into the shot?  After doing some reading up on insects I believe Spielberg gave meaning to these shots that is pretty staggering.

Let's look at Ellie and Muldoon, an Alpha Male and Female, both with strong torch lights.  They could represent any light emitting metaphor.  But upon reading about insects, in particular Fireflies, the metaphor becomes clear.

From insects.about.com:
"The well-known femme fatales in the genus Photuris use a trick called aggressive mimicry to make meals of other fireflies. When a male firefly of another genus flashes its light signal, the female Photuris firefly replies with the male's flash pattern, suggesting she is a receptive mate of his own species. She continues luring him in, closer and closer, until he's within her reach. Then she eats him!"

This is a clear females masquerading as males (or same species as males) visual metaphor, which sums up the story of Jurassic Park succinctly.  The female dinosaurs switch sex to male allowing them to mate.  The fact the firefly devours the male is also representative of the Dinosaurs' predatory nature.

This torch metaphor also gives weight to Lex Murphy attracting the T Rex with the beam, in the same exact manner as the Photuris Firefly.  Pretty cool!

I've yet to look at the original DVDs to see if the torches were augmented in the first release, but this is obviously something Spielberg wanted to highlight visually.

1 comment:

  1. That's actually really interesting! I seriously hope Spielberg has lend some of his prehistoric magic to Colin Trevorrow!

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