#91 Jurassic Park
(1993, Steven Spielberg)
“Welcome to Jurassic Park!”
When I was a kid, I loved dinosaurs. I think everyone who was a kid in the 90s loved dinosaurs. It was a law, I think. Naturally, part of the big early 90s dinosaur craze was down to Steven Spielberg directing a highly successful movie about dinosaurs. This is that dinosaur movie. DINOSAURS!
Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has created a brand new theme park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica, and is now inviting a few guests to offer their expertise on the subject matter, specifically palaeontologists Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Satler, played by Sam Neill and Laura Dern, and Dr Ian Malcolm, an expert on chaos theory played by Jeff Goldblum. The reason? He’s successfully managed to clone dinosaurs and populated the theme park with them. This is Jurassic Park, the only place on earth to see real dinosaurs. Naturally, it doesn’t go as well as hoped.
Jurassic Park is not a particularly cerebral movie, let’s be honest. It was a movie that existed to largely show off the wonders of new CGI technology by having massive dinosaurs chew their way through lawyers and slimy tech guys. I would call it typical Spielberg Hollywood fare, but since it was made almost simultaneously with Schindler’s List I think that’s an unfair comment on Spielberg’s directing choices. It’s kind of silly, the kids are there to make it family movie rather than for plot reasons, the science is all wrong (and now out of date) and the story (people run away from dinosaurs!) won’t exactly set the world on fire.
But, as I’ve said before, sometimes a movie as scarce on cerebral plot as this can still be a worthy film to see on entertainment value alone. Jurassic Park is definitely one of those movies. It’s essentially a family-orientated slasher flick with centuries-old reptiles instead of a man in a mask. You know the irritating lawyer guy’s going to get eaten, but you cheer when it happens. You watch in awe as a herd of brachiosaurus wander through the trees. And watch in tense excitement as a pack of raptors fight a T-Rex.
The selling point of Jurassic Park, and indeed, the key reason it’s such a huge part of movie history, is because it was one of the first movies to make extensive use of CGI for much of its running time. And considering how badly CGI ages, it’s good to see that this almost 20 year movie that was sold on its CGI effects still holds up. It’s not perfect in places though. Daytime scenes suffer a little, making the CGI look obvious, but the night-time scenes with the T-Rex are still visually impressive. Even the animatronic effects look good, showing just how much work went into bringing the dinosaurs to life. Not once is the illusion shattered.
Of course, as I’ve already said, less effort seems to have gone into the plot. The entire cloning process seems horribly inaccurate and seems even worse now real science has shown that velociraptor were more like vicious chickens instead of the smart scaly predators they are here. Also, the entire subplot of Dr Grant’s dislike of children felt a little awkward and mawkish. And when it all boils down to it, the entire plot is just people running away from dinosaurs. It never stretches much further than that.
But, like I said, the entire movie is filled with enough Spielberg wonder and charm to keep it entertaining. And since it set out to be nothing more than entertainment, I feel it’s done its job quite well.
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero & Wayne Knight
Written by Michael Crichton & David Koepp
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen & Steven Spielberg
Music score by John Williams
Cinematography by Dean Cundey
Edited by Michael Kahn
Favourite Scene: When the T Rex eats the lawyer, we realise it’s not all that bad
Scene That Bugged Me: A herd of Gallimimus run through the plains. Shame they’re so obviously computer generated then.
Watch it if: Dinosaurs excite you
Avoid it if: Your love for dinosaurs is as extinct as they are