by David Templeton
“I personally, can barely walk in high heels,” says Barbara Harrison, “let alone run through swamps. Watching cloned dinosaurs romping at a theme park only barely stretched my sense of credibility, but that woman running around through the whole movie in high heels—that definitely defied logic.”
Barbara Harrison is co-owner of Tom Harrison Maps, a Marin-based company that makes detailed topographical maps of state parks, forests and wilderness areas for use by hikers, backpackers and adventure-seekers, some of whom might jump at the chance to walk among living dinosaurs, like the ones in the new movie Jurassic World, but none of whom would do so in the kind of footwear worn by Bryce Dallas Howard as the executive in charge of the park.
“Also, my husband Tom used to be a park ranger,” Harrison adds, “and we lived on Angel Island for a while. Bringing 20,000 people onto an island the size of the one in Jurassic World—it’s just not possible. There is no way they would have the facility to accommodate all those people and still have room for dinosaurs.
“But that’s just my two cents worth.”
Harrison sees a lot of movies … when she’s not traveling the world. And even then she sometimes takes time to see a film or two. Sometimes serving as spokesperson and media representative for her family’s ever-thriving and popular map company (tomharrisonmaps.com), Harrison nonetheless considers herself retired, leaving lots of time to pursue her cinematic and globe-hopping interests. Call her a professional movie-going hobbyist, with tastes that run the gamut from artsy foreign films—especially those from or about Iran, where she spent part of her childhood—all the way to big Hollywood blockbusters.
Not that she doesn’t have standards. For example, she did not originally plan to see Jurassic World, which has already become the summer’s biggest hit, devouring box offices all over the world.
“I see these previews for films that are either sequels, or remakes of other films,” she explains, “and they’ve all started looking like the same movie. There are explosions, and there are fights, and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. So when I saw that Jurassic World was coming, I thought, ‘Another sequel! Do I really want to waste my time with this?’” Then she saw Mad Max: Fury Road, yet another sequel/reboot, which she caught in 3D on the recommendation of friends.
Though she ultimately disliked the film—“I liked the original Mad Max movies much better,” she says—there was a trailer for Jurassic World during the previews, and Harrison was quite taken at how good the 3D dinosaurs looked.
“I sat there with my glasses on going, ‘Wow! That actually looks kind of amazing. And Tom wanted to see it, so I thought, ‘OK, as long as we see it in 3D.’ I like 3D. I especially enjoy animated 3D movies, because they tend to be done in bright colors, which tend to come through even with the 3D glasses on, which often make movies look dark. That didn’t bother me so much with Jurassic World though, because it’s kind of a dark movie. It has a dark theme, and you are sort of in the jungle.
“And those dinosaurs,” she adds. “In 3D, they really do pop off the screen.”
A scary thought, that.
“The thing is, I will see pretty much anything,” she says with a laugh. “I wouldn’t say it was my favorite action movie of the year, but it was enjoyable enough. I have to say though, I’ve noticed lately that there just aren’t as many good movies as there used to be. Even amongst the big summertime action films. So maybe it doesn’t take as much to stand out from the pack as it used to, because the pack is not what it used to be.”
There’s a survival-of-the-fittest, dinosaur vs. dinosaur metaphor in there somewhere, and it’s hard to disagree with Harrison’s summation. For the record, by the way, her actual favorite action film of the year so far is Kingsmen: The Secret Service.
“I thought it was a hoot,” she admits. “And I thought the theme of exploding heads was just hilarious!”
As for Jurassic World, in which the original plans for a theme park have been realized, drawing 20,000 people a day to an island crammed with hotels, rides and a bunch of dinosaurs, Harrison appreciated more than just the 3D photography. She loved the setting, as much of the movie had been filmed in Hawaii.
“We started going in the ’70s, on the cheap,” she says of the Aloha State. “The first time we went we found a place two blocks from the beach for $12 a night. And then, shortly after that they built the military hotel on Waikiki, and we always try to go there if we can get in, because it’s the only green space left in Waikiki, and it’s cheap—compared to other hotels in Waikiki, anyway. Oahu is my favorite island, and some of the scenes in Jurassic World, I noticed, were filmed there, though most of it was filmed on Kauai. I actually liked the movie Aloha, despite its problems, because I just like movies about Hawaii, because it’s fun to see movies about places I’ve been.
“I like Iranian movies for the same reason.”
Harrison attended the American High School in Iran, in the ’60s.
“We just got back from a trip to Iran, the first time I’ve been back since I lived there,” she says. “I love it when I see a movie and get to say to myself, ‘Oooh. I know that place. I’ve been there. It feels like home. That’s a very special feeling.”
Even if there are genetically modified dinosaur clones chasing people through all that familiar scenery?
“Well, if the dinosaurs are in 3D,” Harrison says with a laugh, “then yes, definitely. Even then.”
Just don’t try to teach those dinosaurs to walk in high heels.
The natural world can only take so much abuse.