TBT – Jurassic Park (1993)

dinosaurs, film, review, Steven Spielberg, TBT
As soon as I heard that 22 years had passed since Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park I had a mild panic attack. Despite the fact I definitely won’t have seen it when I was 5, there’s nothing like another reminder about the unstoppable passage of time. Jurassic Park is one of those films that you don’t mind watching over and over again because it will always be something of a spectacle. Of course, it can’t be denied that the technology has moved on since it came out and it may look a little dated to those who have been spoilt by current techniques. However, there’s a reason that Spielberg’s dino-fest is constantly being recognised as one of the most influential films of all time. I can’t remember just how many times I’ve watched it but I still get that same thrill upon seeing that first dinosaur that I did the first time. It’s fucking brilliant.

Do I really need to discuss the plot of this film? Has anyone in the world not seen it yet? Just in case this blog in encountering some kind of real-life Kimmy Schmidt I suppose I better had. Eccentric billionaire pays scientists to clone dinosaurs using some plot-holey scientific techniques and decides to open a theme park. In order to get the bank to let him open, wealthy billionaire invites experts to the island. Disaster happens, dinosaurs escape and drama ensues… with added sexy Goldblum.
Jurassic Park took Michael Chrichton’s novel and made it a huge blockbuster that is still just as relevant and awe-inspiring today as it was 22 years ago. It has been universally praised since its release for its stunning visual effects, the perfect musical score and Spielberg’s superb direction. It’s the kind of film that you break down into memorable chunks that will stay with you forever. There isn’t anyone who isn’t aware of John William’s motif that kicks in when Dr Grant first sees the park in all its glory. Just as the famous water ripple scene has been referenced and parodied more times than anyone could ever possibly count.
Technically, Jurassic Parkhelped to kick off a revolution in the film industry about the potential of visual effects. It’s no wonder the film’s Oscar success came from its technical prowess. Spielberg and co. had shown just what was possible with computer generated visual effects and inspired many great film-makers to push the boundaries even further. Of course this too had its negatives considering that Industrial Light and Magic’s work on the film helped push George Lucas into making the Star Wars prequels.
Jurassic Parkdoes exactly what we needed it to: it showed us some dinosaurs and they were good. What it doesn’t do quite so spectacularly is the rest of it. There is no problem with Spielberg’s creatures but there are plenty with their human counterparts. The narrative between the visual displays leave something to be desired and to say the main characters are underdeveloped would suggest that the women in a Michael Bay film are as deep as the fucking Pacific Ocean. The human’s in the narrative are basically just a group of people who exist to scream in the right moments, debate the morality of scientific advancement and run really fucking fast.
Richard Attenborough was convinced to come out of retirement to play John Hammond, the man who has the dream to open the dino-filled theme park, but looking back it’s hard to see what convinced him. Hammond is a jolly, grandfather who has a few chuckley comic moments but isn’t really as grand and powerful as he should be. He gets a bit of drama when his grandchildren find themselves facing a hungry T-Rex but the character is nowhere near as fleshed out as he deserved to be.
The other characters all fall into the forgettable category which of course might have something to do with their attention-grabbing co-stars. The dull and stoic Dr Grant (Sam Neill) and the kind, kind of kick-ass Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) just don’t stand out when they’re fighting a velociraptor not only for their lives but for screen time. In fact, the only real human to come out of this fighting is rock-star, chaotician Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Goldblum is given as little to work with as his fellow human actors but is responsible for one of the most memorable scenes in movie history. Ian Malcolm is the only character who offers enough humour and ridiculousness to battle against the visuals. Goldblum, er, finds a way.
The narrative just doesn’t provide enough opportunity for the humans to really get their teeth into the action. Having never read Chrichton’s novel, I have no idea how faithful an adaptation it is but I have to hope, for his sake, that it’s taken a few liberties. There’s nothing really inspiring to the plot and is only worked to give Spielberg as many chances for big action sequences as possible. Not that I’m really complaining. They’re the tits.
However, there are more than a few plot strands that just don’t work as well as they should. The subplot of Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) and his attempt to steal dino-embryos is just the worst breed of sitcom nonsense. It even has Knight pratfalling whenever the opportunity arises. I know that it’s strictly meant to be a kids movies but I have to question Spielberg’s decision to focus on snot, vomit and clumsy chubby guys to get laughs.
There are some fine moments in the film but the narrative is slow to get going. The first scene that Dr Grant and Ellie see the real-life versions of the bones they’ve been digging up for years is simply astounding. Some of the discussions about Hammond’s morality and sanity are glorious. However, Spielberg has decided to make a monster movie so the tone quickly changes to “fuck there’s a dinosaur, RUN!” The rest of the narrative just drags a little and an audience may find themselves waiting for their next big thrill, which might explain why there are so many plot-holes. At least it makes the great base for a drinking game.
Thankfully, the thrills are so fucking amazing that it’s possible to ignore all the narrative nonsense. The two major set-pieces involving a T-Rex attacking a tour-car and raptors getting all up in the kitchen are still some of the most effective action sequences around. I guess we could sit here for hours and lament the kind of film that Jurassic Parkmight have been. I don’t want to. Jurassic Parkdoes what it wanted to and, to be honest, it does it well. Spielberg wanted to make Jawswith dinosaurs and he fucking nailed it.

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