REVIEW: Jurassic Park [1993]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 127 minutes | Release Date: June 11th, 1993 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): Michael Crichton and David Koepp / Michael Crichton (novel)

“Spared no expense”

Dinosaurs have captivated us for centuries—their bones dug up and reassembled in museums and theories about whether they’re descendants of reptiles or birds ebbing and flowing with technological improvement and scientific expansion. So it’s no surprise techno-thriller author Michael Crichton eventually put them at the center of one of his novels, using their appeal and mystique to help craft a cautionary tale about genetic manipulation and the hubristic nature of man. Optioned for adaptation before it was even published, Steven Spielberg looked to bring the giant beasts to life onscreen just like Crichton’s billionaire philanthropist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) did on the page. With state-of-the-art computer effects and a subject matter that should keep relevant for decades to come, Jurassic Park will forever entertain new generations until the time it’s no longer fiction.

Opening on the tragic death of a dinosaur wrangler at Hammond’s fictional Isla Nublar locale off the coast of Costa Rica, the film quickly exposes us to the potential destruction faced when humanity decides to play God. Hoping to create a biological amusement park that doubles as a nature preserve with immeasurable merchandising possibilities, geneticists like Henry Wu (BD Wong) utilize the blood found within prehistoric mosquitoes caught inside crystalized amber to acquire the DNA necessary to bring these extinct creatures back to life. But even with 10,000-volt electric fences surrounding the compound and cursory assumptions of the hunting capabilities a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Velociraptor possesses, the thought such a volatile zoo could be contained and controlled is laughable. Sheer will is not enough once greed sinks its razor-sharp talons into the system.

This is why paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Chaos Theory mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) have come for a preview as Hammond’s great hope to sanction the manufactured ecosystem. Also arriving are his scared investors’ lawyer, Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), and grandchildren Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello), each clamoring to see the impossible. And while everything initially appears sound during an automated tour of the main laboratories, hitting the exterior attractions soon proves less than ideal. After the Dilophosaurus and T-Rex are no-shows and a Triceratops is found sick, a lull in the excitement provides ample opportunity for turncoat technician Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) to shutdown crucial security measures, steal embryos for a competitor, and watch as Hammond’s worst nightmare comes true.

The myriad philosophical questions come courtesy of Malcolm’s humorous quips about man killing God to recreate dinosaurs as well as the experts wondering aloud whether Hammond and his employees truly thought through what they were doing. Goldblum’s delivery of “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” perfectly encapsulates the moral ramifications in play and sets up the astronomical fall to follow. There are a couple more conversations about fixing issues, hiring more loyal people, and getting things ready for a second go-round, but the debate unsurprisingly finds itself holding little water once people begin to die. Instead, Jurassic Park leaves behind the obvious pros and cons of cloning for a fast-paced race for survival against their newly minted, much stronger foe.

As Raptors get loose and the T-Rex begins to hunt the tamer “Veggie-sauruses”, the human equation must rally to bring the park back online and escape with their lives. Here lies the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson’s cynicism as Ray Arnold and Bob Peck’s “I told you so” attitude when his Aussie hunter realizes the fight he warned about had arrived. Clichéd relationship bonding occurs as a love triangle attempts to seep in between Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm, but it’s the newfound compassionate heroics of Grant providing protection to the kids that wins audiences’ hearts. Once a man scaring kids on a dig for underappreciating the intelligence and murderous tendencies of his beloved Velociraptors, Grant now transforms into both caretaker and educator—finally realizing how important humanity is above the extinct.

Far from identical to the novel—David Koepp came in to write the final script, removing some violence and altering character trajectory enough that Crichton had to resuscitate one of his fallen heroes for the sequel—Spielberg is allowed to put his personal mark on the work. Between John Williams’ iconic score setting the stage as we swoop into the forested island; the ability to personify the fabricated dinosaurs into showing fear, illness, and malice; and the thematic back and forth between mankind and nature’s mysteries to which the director keeps coming back, Jurassic Park the film is as much or more Spielberg’s as it is Crichton’s. The cinematic humor, ego, humility, suspense, and just enough horror to keep us enthralled with eyes wide open brings the prose to life exactly as we’d imagined.

And while we pull for the leads to stay alive against all odds, little exists in terms of character relationships besides the subplot with the children and Grant. Each role is instead three-dimensional only as far as it serves the central storyline, allowing all to be expendable and relevant to the cause no matter their end. This is why subsequent sequels never found the same universal appeal—Jurassic Park was never supposed to be about saving the park or opening it to the public for more destruction because we aren’t supposed to play God. Getting burned once should have taught us our lesson; those who died should be honored with meaningful deaths. If we’re to ever visit Isla Nublar again, it should be to relive this same experience. Anything else simply pales in comparison.

As such, this review was written twenty years after catching the film in theatres upon its release in 1993 due to a return in 3D. While the gimmick allowed its rebirth to be economically viable courtesy of re-packaging and updated branding, the effect does nothing to enhance the end product. Jurassic Park excels on its own merits—3D was just our excuse to visit it again.


photography:
[1] (L to R) Donald Gennaro (MARTIN FERRERO), John Hammond (SIR RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH), Dr. Ian Malcolm (JEFF GOLDBLUM), Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (LAURA DERN) in Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking masterpiece “Jurassic Park in 3D”. With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film’s original release. Photo Credit: Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Copyright: © Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.
[2] Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) tries to distract a hungry T. rex in Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking masterpiece “Jurassic Park in 3D”. With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film’s original release. Photo Credit: Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Copyright: © Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.
[3] Lex Murphy (ARIANA RICHARDS), Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) and Tim Murphy (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) run for their lives in Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking masterpiece “Jurassic Park in 3D”. With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film’s original release. Photo Credit: Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Copyright: © Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

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