Director: Steven Spielberg
“Part monster movie and part disaster movie as the island is thrashed by a storm and the assembled characters find there is nowhere to hide from the giant rampaging (and, one assumes, hungry) prehistoric creatures, Jurassic park is packed with so many thrills and jaw-dropping dino effects it isn’t hard to see why the movie went on to gross over $900 million worldwide.” (822, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) The film starts off explosively with the dramatic death of a park worker, made all the more dramatic by having no idea what the cause of death was. The workers have a kind of comedy feel to them with their grey uniforms and hard hats; however I think that has more to do with the subsequent parodies in films like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Jay Roach, 1997) It was so exciting seeing the dinosaurs for the first time – especially after waiting nearly 25 minutes or so. And despite having seen Jurassic park a number of times over the years that excitement hasn’t faded. Once the storm hits the island the film becomes an action packed roller-coaster of events.
“Cleverly building up to the revelation of the “monsters” by stunning us with the visual treat of cuddly, friendly, vegetarian dinosaurs first, when we do finally meet the ass-kicking T. Rex it is one of the movie’s fabulous set pieces.” (822) I remember watching Jurassic Park with my best friend on video, which we had snuck off to watch having been told we were too young still, when we were about 7 and being absolutely terrified! Like we literally screamed out loud when we first saw T. Rex – admittedly the most bad ass of all dinosaurs. The T. Rex is outstanding and despite having the slightly clunky movements of an animatronic still elicits terror in the audience.
And while he still cuts an impressive figure watching it now I think that the velociraptor are actually far scarier. There’s a deadly intelligence to them and a pack mentality. They herd their prey and that is vastly scarier to me than the brute force employed by the T. Rex. I realized while watching Jurassic Park again that i am still scared at all the same points as I was when I watched this as a child. But also that as I have grown up my fear of the velociraptor has increased.
The island is incredible with resplendent images (and not just the dinosaurs). The initial descent of the group in the helicopter against the backdrop of a glorious waterfall is particularly spectacular. The cgi is stunning and still holds up remarkably well nearly 20 years later. The soundtrack, once again provided by John Williams, is not only quintessentially Spielberg but also automatically recognizable as Williams’ masterful work.
The performances are all top-notch and yet as Berry says “the true stars of the film are computer generated.” (822) Richard Attenborough is delightful as the eccentric millionaire John Hammond, who has the audacity to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. He always reminds me of Santa Claus … and not just because he went onto play said character the following year in Les Mayfield’s re-make of Miracle on 34th Street. Jeff Goldblum is once again suitably maniacal with a crazy glint in his eye. And yet he is the most outspoken voice of reason in the film; the one who sees the problems that come with genetic manipulation – “Your scientists were so preoccupied with if they could that they didn’t stop to think whether they should”. There is a cautionary tale within Jurassic Park – respect nature and don’t mess with things you have no right to be messing with. It’s the classic story of man striving for too much and not really considering the consequences of his actions.
“The same year that saw his “grown-up” war drama Schindler’s List win vast critical acclaim, Steven Spielberg also delivered the kind of movie we had come to expect from the director of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – a rip-roaring adventure of dinosaurs and disaster based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel, Jurassic Park.” (822) Spielberg taps into the universal fascination we still have with these enormous and extinct creatures. He is a genius at capturing that child like wonder that most of us seem to lose along the way. There is a magical element to the majority of Spielberg’s movies but it is especially evident in this remarkable film. I mean he brought dinosaurs to life – dinosaurs!! That is never gonna get old! Yes I’m aware that I am currently geeking out but I have always been fascinated with dinosaurs ever since I was a child.
I had forgotten how much I enjoy Jurassic Park and can’t actually think of a better way to spend an average autumn afternoon. I have also come to the conclusion that it has many elements that would not be out-of-place in a horror film, and therefore probably counts as the first horror film I ever watched at the tender age of 7 years old.