Should I Watch..? Jurassic Park
What's the big deal?
Jurassic Park is a sci-fi adventure film released in 1993 and is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie utilises a combination of then-cutting edge CG and animatronics to create the most realistic dinosaurs ever seen in cinema at the time. The film became a runaway success, grossing over $900 million on its initial release and more than $1 billion after a 3D rerelease in 2013. It also spawned the Jurassic Park franchise, the fourth film Jurassic World (1) being released in 2015. Jurassic Park went on to win twenty film awards including three Oscars and is regarded as a landmark picture in terms of CG and animatronic effects as well as being one of the highest grossing movies in history.
What's it about?
John Hammond, the CEO and founder of biotechnology firm InGen, has created a theme park populated with clones of dinosaurs following the discovery of fossilised DNA. He has built Jurassic Park on the tropical island of Isla Nublar but his investors are concerned when a park worker is killed on site. Hammond finds that a group of inspectors are sent to the island to ensure everything is running smoothly, a group which include palaeontologist Alan Grant, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler and mathematician Ian Malcolm. Hammond also invites his two grandchildren Timothy and Lexie in order to impress them.
As a tropical storm approaches the island, most of the employees return to the mainland while Hammond supervises his visitors from the control room. As night falls, Dennis Nedry initiates his plan to steal dinosaur embryos for a corporate rival by shutting down the power - which enables the dinosaurs to escape from their pens, trapping the group out in the jungle. As hoards of Velociraptor roam free and the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex chases everyone, it falls to Grant to get the kids to safety and Sattler and Malcolm to get the power back on.
Trailer for 3D re-release
Dr Alan Grant
Dr Ellie Sattler
Dr Ian Malcolm
Samuel L Jackson
Michael Crichton & David Koepp *
Release Date (UK)
16th July, 1993
Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Best Sound, Best Sound Effects, Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
There is little doubt that in terms of special effects, this movie is as big a landmark in cinema as Star Wars (2) was back in 1977. To see the movie is to believe the movie - Spielberg knows that less is more so we don't see that much of the beasts but when we do, they are completely and worryingly real. The level of detail is exquisite like breath fogging up glass or eyes reacting to torchlight, pupils dilating as you would expect. Whereas Spielberg's buddy George Lucas would rather drown us in CG, Spielberg gives enough of a drip-feed to still make the movie feel and look like reality with tried-and-tested methods being pushed to their limit.
The other Spielberg trademark - specifically, all-American kids looking for a father figure - is also present but thankfully, it doesn't take over. Both Richards and Mazzello are great as the terrified twosome and get most of the scary scenes between the two of them. The stand-off between them and the two Velociraptors in the kitchen area is genuinely tense and has been endlessly parodied ever since (most recently in a breakfast cereal advert on TV). Attenborough is also very good as the misguided Hammond, coming across like a biotechnology-version of Father Christmas. The script really stops to let you catch your breath and while it may take some time to get going, the film really delivers the shock and wonder you hope it might.
- Hurricane Iniki hit the set during filming, causing all cast and crew to be evacuated to their hotel's ballroom with the exception of Richard Attenborough who slept through it in his hotel room. When asked about it, he replied "My dear boy, I survived the Blitz!"
- The film initially took over $900 million when first released but the 3D re-release took the final gross over $1 billion, making Jurassic Park only the seventeenth film to pass this milestone.
- The process behind the dinosaurs coming back was due to a mosquito preserved in amber which Richard Attenborough's character has on the end of a cane. Attenborough's brother, naturalist David Attenborough, has a collection of animals in amber...
What's not to like?
Unfortunately, the rest of the human cast cannot compete with the dinosaurs which are far more interesting and animated. Dern and Neill - who I tend to associate with more indie-films than blockbusters - look uncomfortable and out-of-place while Goldblum gives the impression that he's somewhat high on something with dialogue delivered rapidly and mannerisms being slightly off-kilter. But the biggest problem is the script which misses out a lot of the detail and science the novel contained. It's also been considerably lightened by the director - body count has been dramatically reduced and even the T-Rex gets its moment in the spotlight.
While on the subject of the ending, I almost got angry because another of Spielberg's annoying habits - the happy ending - reared its ugly head. If you've read the book then you'll know that not everyone makes it off the island safely but then, that makes it harder for them to have a sequel. You get the feeling that they were so confident that the film was going to be a winner that they took their eye off the ball and allowed the film to wallow in its own success.
Should I watch it?
For sheer excitement and entertainment, they isn't much to touch the original Jurassic Park. The human cast might not be that great and the script isn't a patch on the novel but the beauty of the effects overcomes any resentment you may have towards it. It has been weakened by lesser sequels but for anyone looking to scare their kids for a couple of hours, this will do the trick.
Great For: families, dinosaur enthusiasts, thrill-seekers
Not So Great For: very young kids, plot-hole spotters
What else should I watch?
Between this and Jurassic World, there are two other films to look at - The Lost World: Jurassic Park (3) and Jurassic Park 3 (4). Neither are much to write home about, to be honest - once you've gotten used to the sight of dinosaurs running about the place, they all seem to treat very familiar paths to each other.
Anyone looking for dinosaurs in the past will have to go back to the Ray Harryhausen-days of stop-motion animation in such films as One Million Years BC (5) and creature-features like The Beast From 20'000 Fathoms (6). Of course, the Japanese are far more familiar with giant prehistoric monsters than we are - Godzilla (7) has been roaming the oceans and stomping over cities for decades...
- Jurassic World
- Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park
- Jurassic Park 3
- One Million Years BC
- The Beast From 20'000 Fathoms
- Godzilla (1954)