Darren Aronofsky on the “fantastical creatures” in Noah

The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park may have been the first photorealistic computer-generated animals to grace the big screen, but in the 20 years since then, filmmakers have used computers to simulate more familiar lifeforms — sometimes for safety reasons, sometimes because it gives the filmmakers more control over the animals’ actions, and sometimes because it’s just more cost-effective. See, for example, the horses that were crushed underfoot during one of the big battles in The Lord of the Rings, or the tiger and other animals that shared a lifeboat with a human shipwreck survivor in Life of Pi.

And it’s not just animals. Just last night I was watching the iTunes commentary for Star Trek into Darkness, and one of the special-effects guys mentions quite casually that “literally fifty percent” of the aliens who worship the Enterprise at the end of that film’s opening sequence were actors in make-up, and the rest were created in a computer. And this, despite the fact that there are only a few dozen characters onscreen and they are relatively close to the camera; we’re not talking about one of those epic cast-of-thousands shots like the ones Peter Jackson popularized.

So it should come as no surprise that movies based on the story of Noah’s Ark have been turning to computers to create their little zoos, too.

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Jurassic Park sequels: a tale of two reviews

We already knew that Universal was prepping a 3D re-release of the original Jurassic Park (1993) for this coming April — two months before the film’s 20th anniversary. And we already knew that Universal had hired Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), to come up with a brand new Jurassic Park sequel.

But it wasn’t until today that Universal committed to an actual release date for the new film — and it isn’t that far away: June 13, 2014, or less than a year and a half from now. That’s somewhat ambitious, for an effects-driven film that currently has no director or cast attached.

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Review: Jurassic Park III (dir. Joe Johnston, 2001)

There are any number of reasons to expect the worst from Jurassic Park III. It’s the second sequel to the original Jurassic Park, and sequels, as a rule, are supposed to get progressively worse. In addition, it has been eight years since the first film came out, and the computer-generated lizards that seemed so ground-breaking back then have become all too common; thanks to Godzilla, Dinosaur, Evolution and similar films, the presence of larger-than-life reptiles virtually guarantees a film’s mediocrity.

As if these factors weren’t enough, Jurassic Park III is, at about an hour and a half, unusually short, so audiences may think they aren’t getting their money’s worth; and the creative minds behind the first two films — director Steven Spielberg and novelist Michael Crichton — had little to do with this entry in the franchise.

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Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1997)

Atheism may be in vogue among people who like to read, but movie audiences still need something to believe in. That, at least, is one way to interpret the implicit pantheism Steven Spielberg has injected into The Lost World and its predecessor Jurassic Park, both of which he adapted from the considerably more sophisticated novels of Michael Crichton.

Crichton’s original story was a cautionary tale about the dangers of commercialized science, but he also took an explicit stand, through the character Ian Malcolm, against attempts to find any sort of higher meaning in nature.

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