Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight

An exotic jungle island. Dinosaurs brought to life. The world’s bubbliest mad scientist. So many elements of Steven Spielberg’s film seem, if in the hands of an amateur, so very unremarkable. After all, Jurassic Park was not the first film to bring dinosaurs to the screen. However, it was the first to make them memorable.

The plot:
(Bitch be trippin’ Dinosaurs!!)
John Hammond (Attenborough) is in the process of creating a new kind of theme park on the exotic location of Isla Nublar. Currently under inspection, Hammond invites paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant (Neill), paleobotanist, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) and mathematician, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) to his island destination in the hopes that they will endorse the park. However, while on tour of the island, an unfortunate turn of events causes the parks prehistoric attractions to break loose…

Let’s face it. It takes both courage and skill to take some generic subject matter such as dinosaurs, invest so much in them, and then successfully create what is one of the most memorable films in cinema history. Who else could have done it but Steven Spielberg?!

If, on the off-chance, you have not seen this film, you will almost certainly still be familiar with a great deal of its set pieces and motifs. The ludicrously uplifting main theme of the film is instantly recognisable. The logo has been slapped on so much merchandise (ironic, considering this is done in the film also, advertising itself in a wholly postmodern level), that relics of the film are still seen even today. And, of course, the scene in which we are introduced to the Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most epic and awe inducing pieces of cinema ever seen on-screen, and will almost certainly be the first thing you think of when Jurassic Park is mentioned.

So, it has left behind an impressive legacy. And, at the time of writing, Jurassic Park is currently showing in cinemas yet again. Let’s examine the film itself.

What Jurassic Park can openly boast, possibly more than any other film, is a collection of incredibly memorable set pieces. Spielberg’s skill in making crowd pleasing films is very apparent here, and his introduction to different elements of the film can still succeed in sending goosebumps racing over the skin. The Tyrannosaurus Rex introduction has already been mentioned as being particularly memorable. This is of course aided by countless parodies, my favourite of which can be seen below:

However, while this is more of an adrenaline pumping scene, what truly impresses are the more profound scenes of tranquility. A simple overhead shot was all that was needed to portray Hammond and his troupe of scientists arriving at the island. Yet, admit it, if you have seen the film, you are even now humming that theme song in your head. Spielberg handles this shot with loving care, instilling it with a great deal of emotion, where others may have  placed less emphasis on it, or even disregarded it.

Similarly, the first dinosaur reveal, in which Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler’s reactions are focused on first, then the Brachiosaurus itself, is a scene which merits an Oscar all on its own. It gets the heart racing before anything of real significance has even occurred and therein lies Spielberg’s skill.

The dinosaurs, the main attraction of both the park, and the film, are as impressive now as they ever were. Yes, that sounds like a clichè, I am aware of that. Ignore the clichè. I really mean it. In fact, the combined use of animatronics and CGI used here is even more impressive than the singular use of CGI today. His refusal to rely on CGI alone sets Spielberg apart in his field. It is part of the magic of the film, grounding it more in reality than a great deal of modern films boasting these ‘Incredible effects’.

The dinosaurs are only computer animated when completely necessary. The T-Rex encounter is a testament to this, with the amount of puppetry and visual trickery employed, and is certainly the more impressive for it. Similarly, when the velociraptors break loose, we are not treated to lightning fast, computer generated action. A great deal of the more impressive Raptor scenes actually feature their absence, made terrifyingly aggressive on a psychological level. Despite this, the scenes in which they are present are terrifically action orientated. A scene which takes place in a claustrophobic kitchen even approaches horror, but only just, making it still watchable for kids.

This is not simply a dinosaur show however. The cast do a great job carrying the film, with notably witty dialogue. A memorable exchange over dinner examines the philosophical questions raised in recreating an extinct race and effectively playing God. This point of the film is actually a pivotal scene, where it hinges from being a typical family film to a deeply profound reflection on a dinosaur themed roller coaster.

The film delights in leaving these questions as rhetorical, raising them and then gleefully supplying no easy answer. The cast continues to ponder over them, but only when it doesn’t distract them from surviving. Sam Neill does particularly good work in his role, and it’s a shame he isn’t given more roles like these to work with. The rest of the cast are all incredibly likeable, even the conniving Dennis Nedry (Knight), who could easily have been portrayed as a detestable character.

When you think dinosaurs and cinema, you think Jurassic Park. Hell, often when you think cinema alone, you think Jurassic Park. It is a beautiful film, both visually and figuratively, a solid gold classic of cinema. Check the polls, scour the internet, it is largely recognised as one the greatest films ever made. To quote the great Bernard Black, “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life”.

Awful Rating: 10/10

Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by sixty-five million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?” – Dr. Alan Grant

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • This is one of the few films I know for a fact my dad loves. Which is rare, because I can’t remember my dad ever, ever saying he loves a film. So how do I know? Watching it one day on T.V., my mother groans:
    “Turn that off!”
    “Why? It’s Jurassic Park!”
    “I’ve seen that film over thirty times, thanks to your father!”
    Well played Daddio.
  • I’m pretty sure I saw the film in the cinema when it came out first. I’m not sure. I don’t remember the cinema itself, but I do remember coming home with both arms full of dinosaur stickers, dinosaur figures, dinosaur shaped crayons and, for some reason, dinosaur themed bubbles…..how they were dinosaur themed forever remains a mystery to me.
  • So effective is this film, I know a guy who got the logo tattooed on his back and named him ‘Steve the dinosaur’, after Steven Spielberg. Seeing as most people reading this are on my Facebook, a good deal of you probably know him. And because he will probably read anything Jurassic Park related, he is probably going to read this too. Hi Brian. Hope Galway is fun!

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I know it’s very very late to be replying to this, but thank you kindly everybody.
    Unfortunately, I have to pretend not to know you people, so that the other (two) followers will think that I have a massive fanbase!

    (Rose, we need to have another night of whiskey and cartoons. Aisling and Brian, I think you guys should come too)

  2. The Geriatric Park parody is good… But one of the ‘suggested videos’ Youtube gives is ‘The Critic’ with a scene from the sequel ‘Revenge of the Raptors.’

    It’s brilliant.

  3. Hi Steve! Love your work. Spread the good word.

  4. Sir, you are the only human being on earth that would think to quote Bernard Black in a Jurassic Park review. It gave me brief visions of what Dylan Moran would look like as a Dinosaur. Well done, and continue to inspire more comedian/dinosaur hybrids. I am linking this to Brian as we speak.

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