Archeologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and archeobotonist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are invited by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to visit Jurassic Park, Hammond’s unique prehistoric wildlife preserve, along with choatition Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards). When systems start failing across the park, Grant and the other guests must survive on an island where dinosaurs are roaming free and causing havoc on the island.
Jurassic Park holds a special place in my heart. Not only because it was the first PG-13 movie my parents let me watch before I was 13 (rebellious, I know), but because it was one of the first movies I would watch over and over again. After viewing it more recently, I realized I had missed several of the finer points of the story when I was younger. I guess the kid in me just enjoyed watching dinosaurs come to life, like most young boys dream of. Even today that is one of my favorite parts about this movie, but now I appreciate more of the nuances of the story, as well as the fantasy of living dinosaurs.
At the time, computer-generated imagery (CGI) was still in it’s infancy. Several movies had dabbled with the it previously, but nothing really substantial. However, Jurassic Park completely embraced the up-and-coming technology, revolutionizing it, leading to the flashy and spectacular effects we see today in blockbusters like Avatar, The Avengers, Pacific Rim, and the recently delayed Jupiter Ascending. And despite being twenty years old, the effects don’t look dated. It looks almost as good as effects you would expect to see today. An amazing feat considering it is one of the earliest films to use CGI.
Before CGI became the predominant method for special effects, animatronics were used. I think this movie is a perfect example of how to use animatronics correctly, and is the pinnacle of the technology (which is funny considering it also ushered in the age of CGI). If the movie had been done completely with CGI, the dinosaurs would not have come life as well as they did. That is one of the reasons Steven Spielberg is my favorite director, because he understood how to use both CGI and animatronics side-by-side.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex is largely featured in the marketing for Jurassic Park. However, the “big baddies,” if you will, are the velociraptors. From the very first scene, literally, they are set up as smart, cunning, and dangerous. First, a worker gets pulled into the cage and eaten. Then Alan Grant (Sam Neill) talks about how they are pack hunters. Later, the characters go to the raptor cage and they discuss how “they don’t want to be fed, they want to hunt.” Then there is a break away from the velociraptors to focus on the T-Rex, but there is a mention about the character causing the power outages knowing not to shut down the power to the velociraptor cage. So finally, when the velociraptors appear on screen, it is well established how deadly they are. It was a fairly slow process, but it did well to establish the threat they possessed.
To me, a movie’s soundtrack and score is very important. It can almost tell you how to feel more than what is happening on screen can. John Williams, my all time favorite film composer, writes a great and memorable soundtrack. But honestly, what would you expect? Everything the man writes is fantastic. His score for Jurassic Park is up there as one of my favorite film scores. I mean, try not to become filled with emotion and wonder and awe when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and Williams’ Jurassic Park theme starts playing. Go ahead, I dare you.
Some movies have one character who is just fun to hate. In this film, that would be Jeff Golblum’s Ian Malcolm. He’s annoying and obnoxious, but he has a charm to him that I don’t think many other actors other than Goldblum could portray so well.
One thing that surprised me about this movie is how funny it can be. It is by no means laugh out loud funny, but every now and then someone says something that made me smile or even chuckle a little. Even though it wasn’t much, this small amount of humor prevented Jurassic Park from becoming too serious or dark.
Here is your daily fun fact. Several times throughout the movie, Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards) refers to herself as a “hacker,” even correcting her brother (Joseph Mazello). Back in the day, the term “hacker” didn’t have the negative meaning it usually is said with today. Instead, it meant someone enjoyed exploring computers as a hobby. This included building, modifying, and creating either hardware or software or both. There is your little slice of knowledge for the day. Don’t say I never did anything for you.
Jurassic Park is special to me because it was one of the first movies I really go into. When I was younger, I enjoyed it because of the action and the fantasy of dinosaurs roaming the Earth once again. As I grew older, I started to appreciate it for the story as well. A mix of revolutionary CGI and amazing animatronics give this movie a unique look and feel, truly bringing prehistoric creatures back to life. From the beginning, velociraptors are set up as a dangerous threat, so when they are finally shown on screen, the danger they pose has already been established. John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is very emotional and one of my favorite movie scores. Although not laugh out loud funny, there is still humor throughout the film that prevents the movie from slipping into a dark tone. No matter how old I get, I will never lose the sense of wonder I felt when I first watched Jurassic Park and believing that, despite this being a piece of fiction, dinosaurs once again roamed the Earth.
Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Michael Crichton – Screenplay / Novel
David Koepp – Screenplay
John Williams – Composer
Sam Neill – Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern – Dr. Ellie Sattler
Jeff Goldblum – Dr. Ian Malcolm
Richard Attenborough – John Hammond
Bob Peck – Robert Muldoon
Martin Ferrero – Donald Gennaro
Joseph Mazello – Tim Murphy
Ariana Richards – Lex Murphy
Samuel L. Jackson – Ray Arnold
Wayne Knight – Dennis Nedry