johnlink ranks JURASSIC PARK (1993)

JURASSIC PARK is a movie which is hard to consider without also admiring its contribution to film. To watch this movie, now nineteen years old and counting, is to see a technical marvel. When you consider the special effects of films which came just a few years before it, you can’t help but be impressed. Personally, I think of this movie every time I see shitty special effects (I thought about JURASSIC PARK about a dozen times while watching WOLVERINE, for example). If a movie could get it so amazingly right in 1993, what excuse to films have for shoddy CGI work in 2012? But JURASSIC PARK is more than just a CGI extravaganza, it is one of the major feathers in Steven Spielberg’s career cap.

I watched JURASSIC PARK (1993) on 6.10.12. It was, oh, maybe my fifteenth viewing of the film, but first in nearly a decade.

Watching this movie last night, it occurred to me that there is barely a transition from the second to third act in this screenplay. I suppose it would be when the raptors get out, but it is a subtle movement. Really, once the T-Rex gets out of its cage and starts eating lawyers and flipping cars, this is just one intense piece of action after another, with some nicely written character reveals blotted in for some color. When the survivors finally board the helicopter we can finally exhale, having survived the terror alongside them.

It is a testament to the special effects that there really isn’t a moment in this film where the dinosaurs don’t feel scary. A nod also has to be given to the animatronics work, as any shot of a dinosaur which was not a full body was done with robotics. What a perfect blend of technology to consistently get the desired response from the audience. And this is an audience film. Just as the Jurassic Park in the movie was built with the sole purpose of entertaining guests, the film JURASSIC PARK was created purely as spectacle (it also provided an escape for Spielberg who was working on SCHINDLER’S LIST at the same time).

None of the actors in this movie are huge stars. Sam Neill and Laura Dern have had good careers, but this is their largest film by a wide margin. Jeff Goldblum was the biggest name here, having a good run in the 90s. Richard Attenborough was already a filmic legend, but certainly not a household name. And Samuel L. Jackson had yet to do PULP FICTION, and had only very recently added the ‘L’ to his on-screen name. This movie is the better for the choices made in casting, and it is hard to imagine anyone else in these roles.

The battle between entertainment and science is a major question of this film. Chaos Theory scholar Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) wears black to offset the consistently white-clad showman and Jurassic Park mastermind John Hammond (Attenborough). They argue over control and predictability as Hammond attempts to convince Malcolm and the other scientists that the soon-to-open park is perfectly safe. Malcolm scoffs at his naiveté, assuring Hammond that the dinosaurs will not be contained. It is an interesting debate, one summed up well with Malcolm’s line “Yeah but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

But the moral implications here are merely the underlying current of a film which truly wants to entertain. Spielberg knows how to work the audience, building suspense by slowly revealing the dangerous dinosaurs. He creates characters we like and whom we want to see live. He throws in a clever shot of a dinosaur standing in the reflection of a computer monitor, the “A C G T” of a DNA code glistening off the skin of the raptor. He electrocutes a child while a Spielbergian anti-Dad learns to love the kid. Spielberg is hitting the right notes here.

Perhaps the ending is slightly disappointing as the control is ripped from the heroes (a complaint I also had about RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC). Instead a T-Rex inadvertently causes the helpless humans to live utilizing a little device I like to think of as Dino-Ex-Machina (copyright, John Lincoln, 2012). But otherwise, this script works. I prefer some of the fun asides in Spielberg’s RAIDERS to the asides in JURASSIC PARK, but this isn’t a movie which needs those asides to flourish. The pouncing dinosaurs certainly make up for any fun lost in a lack of witty banter.

Ultimately, this is a movie which lives up to its status as a classic. It has its behind-the-camera efforts to thank for that, because this could easily have devolved into just another run-of-the-mill survival story. But with effects that good, and a director like Spielberg manipulating the action, we are able to enjoy an amazingly realized blockbuster.



One bonus point is awarded for the dinosaur effects, both practical and computer generated. The dinosaurs are the feature of this film, and they are excellent. The other goes to another stellar John Williams score. You only need hear a few notes of the major theme to feel the power.



~ by johnlink00 on June 11, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks JURASSIC PARK (1993)”

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