Summer Mega-Movie Sets
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 2001 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
Summer time means school vacations, heat waves and mega-movie releases. Summer blockbusters also translate into spin-off card sets. 2001 is no exception. Let's take a look at three of those movies and their cards for a fun journey into the past, present and future.
First on our triple feature list is a primeval preview of the past via Jurassic Park 3. Most everyone has seen the first couple of movies. If you're like me, you probably thought the first movie was the best because the plot was so fascinating. Scientists discover a way to inject ancient dino-DNA into frogs and modern reptiles and recreate dinosaurs. Unfortunately, security measures fail and the critters break free. The second movie was less creative, but had more elaborate special effects. One of the dinosaurs actually makes it to civilization and creates all sorts of havoc. The latest movie has the bare minimum of plot, just a lame excuse to draw the characters back to dinosaur island and watch most of them get munched. But even though the plot is thin, the special effects are the best yet, and that's the main attraction to this flick.
The cards have their own special effects as well. The entire base set of 72 cards are made with a 3-D effect. Inkworks hypes this gimmick on the box saying "The dinosaurs seem to jump off the cards! Plus, you can enjoy the bright colors and clear pictures with or without the 3D glasses!" Both claims are somewhat exaggerated. The base set looks kinda dull without the 3-D glasses. All the backgrounds have been replaced with dark blue hues. When the glasses are worn, however, the 3-D effect is rather neat. "Cool" is how my nephew described it. They're certainly unusual.
The most dramatic 3-D effects appear in the profile, jaw & claw, dino discovery and field guide cards. These are the close up images of dinosaurs and characters which were doctored up the most (not actual scenes from the movie.) These cards start at number 28 and continue on to 71. #72 is a bland checklist.
The chase cards look even more 3-D. (All except the Mega Mayhem foil embossed card, 1: 107 packs.) There's 9 die-cut dino cards, called Jurassic Extreme (1:11 packs.) There's also Ragin' Refractors (1:17 packs). They're dino cartoons with prismatic backgrounds which makes the foreground seem to float above the rest of the card. There's also some promos for a CD ROM game (Dino Defender and Danger Zone) that have pretty good 3-D effects.
A pair of 3-D glasses are included in the box. Plus there's about 4 or so mini-glasses tossed into random packs. (These are cards with lens in them that you have to hold up with your free hand to look through at the other cards.) This raises the obvious question: How do folks buying a few packs enjoy the 3-D effect if they don't happen to find the glasses? They don't get a headache or anything like that, but they certainly miss out on the 3-D fun.
Overall, Inkworks did an good job on this set. I wish those first 27 cards had a better selection of shots. Several of them were dark or grainy. But at least the backs to the same cards had diverse and colorful images. The set hits its stride with the all-dino subsets, starting at card #37, and goes full throttle to the very end. (Would that the movie had accomplished the same thing.) The 3-D gimmick is definitely a fun addition (and rather appropriate, since it's the 3rd movie.)
Fast forward a few million years to the present for another long awaited flick: Tomb Raider. If you haven't figured out the gimmick to this flick, it's pretty simple really. Someone took Indiana Jones and made him a sexy babe-- then tossed the character into the same environment with more guns and explosions. It's part of the Xena-feminist "I am woman, hear me roar" fantasy. It's incredulous enough watching muscle men like Schwarzenegger take beating after beating and continue on unfazed. Imagine how ridiculous it is to have Victoria's Secret models tolerate the same abuse and keep bouncing back for more.
After a few years of being a video game cult phenomena, the Hollywood hype-mongers decided this would make a dynamite movie. I haven't seen it yet-- and I think I'll save my money (at least until it reaches video). The problem is, it's just too contrived. As if watching this girl successfully fight off a band of ninjas equipped with assault rifles isn't unbelievable enough, they have her doing mortal combat in very short shorts for most the movie. Why not make it a bikini while you're at it?
She's a beautiful girl (if you like silicon breast and lip implants) but I got a little tired of seeing that same expression plastered on her face card after card. There's 90 in the base set, and 60 of them feature her. That leaves just 30 cards for all the character profiles, gadget cards, and behind the scenes cards. The last series that went this overboard was Here's Bo! (Bo Derek) which was photographed by her love-struck husband! (Neither the cards nor the marriage lasted long.)
It probably sounds like I'm being cruel, but at least a third of the cards are somewhat grainy and the text on the backs is very sparse. One gets the distinct impression that the set is padded to make it 90 cards. If ever a series should be shorter, it's this one. Take for instance the 7 card gadget subset. Would you believe there's a card dedicated to Laura's headset? And another one to her sunglasses? Is that stupid or what?
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. You be the judge. Here's what card #79 says: "Lara's sunglasses give her an air of impeccable mystery in the auction houses of London. Functional as well as stylish, they also protect her eyes from harmful UV rays as she treks through the jungles of Cambodia and Siberian tundra."
I rest my case.
But you know what? This set is so silly, it's actually kinda neat. I find myself showing it to people as an example of how much fun Non-sports can be. (Especially when it takes itself so seriously.) I enshrined it in the same binder as another campy set, Menudo. So don't expect me to part with it easily.
There's also a 9 card foil puzzle (1:11 packs), Six embossed cards (1:17 packs), plus various Pieceworks (costume) cards and four Autograph cards randomly inserted. (Odds not given.)
Fire up the time machine once more and go forward in the future for our final flick, the long awaited Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes. The plot to the new movie isn't as good as the original, but the make-up and costumes are head and hairy shoulders above it. The overall special effects were excellent, especially the battle scenes. So although the plot was slow at times, it certainly had its moments.
The card set by Topps, on the other paw, is top notch from beginning to end. The images are clear and colorful. The backs don't repeat the same images as the fronts. There's no evidence of padding. I think I liked the movie better after seeing the set! It made me appreciate how much work they did on creating the atmosphere of the ape world.
There's a slew of chase cards, some of them quite difficult to find. The easiest to obtain are the ten different foil embossed cards (1:6 cards). There's also eight different autograph cards, including signatures from old-timers like Kris Kristofferson and Charlton Heston. (Heston plays an ironic role reversal, appearing as an ape who warns his son of the danger of guns.) There was also talk of Tim Burton signing a card, but it's not listed on the wrapper so I'm uncertain if it made it in. The odds of finding any autograph is officially 1:36 packs. The odds of finding the several different Memorabilia (costume) cards ranges from 1:166 to 1:843. That can keep you peeling a lot of packs!
To make matters a little more complicated, I hear the retail boxes feature different chase cards from the collector/hobby boxes. Supposedly ten different stickers and six different Simian Suede cards. However, this set is so recent that I've only seen the collector/ hobby set.
I was relieved that the cards didn't spoil the "surprise twist ending" of the movie (which didn't make very much sense BTW). Like most film fans, it always drives me bananas when the synopsis gives away the end. My advice on Planet of the Apes is that if you have to chose between the movie or the cards, get the cards. You'll probably see the movie for free on TV sooner than later anyway.
So there you have it. Hollywood may have failed to produce much in the way of great films this summer, but at least the card companies were able to make worthwhile sets out of them. Sequels are rarely superior to the originals. In this case, both the Jurassic and Ape sets have evolved beyond their primitive forefathers.
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