Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Life Finds A Way.

Wealthy entrepreneur John Hammond has spent millions on his latest pet project – an island theme park featuring living and breathing dinosaurs created by extracting DNA from insects encased in amber. Before opening to the public, he invites a selected audience of experts, lawyers and his family to take a sneak preview. However during their tour, the security system is hacked and the power to the enclosures is shut down releasing prehistoric terror not seen on this planet for millions of years!

 

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Jurassic Park is one of the most influential films of recent times. It was one of those big box office events in the “where were you when this released?” mould that come up every now and then (you know, Star Wars, Jaws, Lord of the Rings, etc). Well I was twelve and growing up as a big lover of anything dinosaur-related (I used to have toy dinosaur fights in the sandpit at nursery), it was like a dream come true. Watching it again after a few years and being a more mature (judge for yourselves) and experienced connoisseur of film, it was interesting to see how different my perspectives of the film have changed and how some of them have stayed exactly the same as that excited twelve year old who went to see it on a Sunday morning with his parents on opening weekend.

At a pretty lengthy hundred and twenty seven minutes, the film had a canny knack of sending you to sleep in the first forty minutes or so. This hasn’t changed a bit. Back in the day, it was bums shuffling on seats waiting for the T-Rex to show. Nowadays it’s bums shuffling on the seats waiting for the T-Rex but at least I can understand what they are talking about! The opening does contain a lot of decent information which helps a few of the proceedings later on (for instance, the whole talk of the velociraptors reveals plenty of nasty surprises of what is to come later when you see them) but for the most part it’s filler. Pure and simple. Spielberg knows where he wants his audience to be and by holding back on the dinosaurs for as long as he can, he’s got us so excited he could have thrown in a blow-up toy dinosaur and we’d still have cheered it on. The reaction on the faces of Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum are priceless when they see the film’s first dinosaurs – a brontosaurus munching on some leaves. I don’t know about anyone else but I held back my “wows” for the first sign of the meat eaters. Maybe the reaction of the audience has mellowed a bit nowadays, having been spoon-fed a diet of terrible CGI monsters over the years. But back in 1993, on the big screen for the first time, these dinosaurs were like nothing you had ever seen before.

And believe me, the wows are worth it when the T-Rex does show up. It’s gone down as one of the most famous scenes in movie history now and it’s worked to perfection. The first sounds of it stomping towards the jeeps, indicated by the flickering cups of water on the dashboard. Next you know there’s something horrific just behind the trees, as signalled by the disappearance of the sacrificial goat. But then it’s still a few moments of gradual revealing as the T-Rex slowly appears, testing the fence and realising there’s nothing to stop it from breaking free. When it finally strides over the barriers and into the picture for the first time, its earth-shattering roar sends shivers down the spine. Is this really a CGI dinosaur or is a living and breathing preservation from the past?

Say what you like about CGI but it’s never looked better than it does here because it’s not completely over-used. There’s a combination of animatronic models and CGI and it’s blended fantastically together. This is one seriously ticked off dinosaur and the film sets about proving that point. Spielberg promised us dinosaurs and he delivered big time. Big budget films with CGI in them have never been surpassed by this, over thirteen years after it was made. Why? Because it’s not the quantity of effects used but their quality and how they are used. Over-reliance is over-kill and although Spielberg was experimenting with a rather unknown quantity back then, he gets the mix perfect.

Maybe it works against the film to a degree because once you’ve seen the amazing special effect that is the T-Rex, the rest of the dinosaurs don’t seem to have that wow factor about them, as deadly as they are. Even then there are still other high points, in particular the constant threat of the raptors in the final third. If you want your action and thrills then this is certainly the place. But they’re no match for the T-Rex.

Casting is strong but unfortunately their characters aren’t. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough and particularly Jeff Goldlum (always a pleasure to watch and always ready with a quip or wise-crack) are all talented performers and do their best. It’s just a pity their characters don’t really have a lot to do after the opening scenes expect scream, run and scream a little more. I can see the logic in this – Spielberg’s target audience wouldn’t really have bothered with who is who – they just want to see dinosaurs. I know when I was younger, I didn’t really pay any attention to them. Now when you look back, you can begin to pick the film apart a little more. But thankfully the thrills and spills are just around the corner so you don’t dwell on them too much. Even the two child actors do a good job here with Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards actually managing to put in better performances than the annoying Wayne Knight (as the nervous Dennis Nedry who is responsible for the hack job on the computers) and even Samuel L. Jackson.

 

Jurassic Park is one of the greatest monster movies of all time. It delivers exactly what it promises and given the standards of some of today’s big budget flops, it’s going to stand the test of time for a long period ahead. It has not been surpassed in terms of believable special effects and can easily hold it’s own in terms of thrills, excitement and action. Mr Spielberg, you’ve done it again. Another classic to add to your résumé.

 

 ★★★★★★★★★★ 

 

 

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One single comment

  1. Jeff says:

    Some of today CGI are still not as good as this! Of course the SyFy channel doesn’t seem to care how shoody their effects are.

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