With Super 8 making waves (Spielberg serving as more than just passing inspiration) over the last few weeks, and the third Transformers (Sir Steven again happily producing) coming out next week, I thought it was a good time to go back and look at one of his biggest monster/action pieces that found him behind the camera, not just next to it writing checks. Jurassic Park was a mammoth success and while the sequels weren’t up to par, back in 1993 old Stevie boy was at the top of his game continuing his hit streak. Like the Camerons, Jacksons and Nolans of the world Steven makes going to the theater a real experience and JP is no exception.
Dinosaurs have fascinated audiences for generations but it’s with renewed interest and unparalleled believably that Spielberg, Stan Winston, Phil Tippet, ILM and John Williams show us the magic and reverence that abounds when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Yeah, reverence at first followed by a whole lot of running for your life. A feast for the eyes, ears and more importantly the imagination, lines between reality (history rather) and movie magic were erased completely in a way that holds up to this day and will continue for years to come.
Like his adaptation of Jaws before it, Steven chose some really great source material. What makes Jurassic Park all the more enchanting is the sobering notion that all scientific elements in the film (and book) are technically feasible even if not as easy as it sounds. Of course like any master novelist Michael Crichton weaves a wonderful tale around the facts (while skipping the “how to”) and gives us the story that has us as amazed as Dr. Grant and the bunch.
Another element helping make this such a memorable film/story are the characters you can get behind. They’re grounded and as much as anyone might think they know about dinosaurs, once they get to JP they learn they don’t know the half of it. Similar to something like Ghostbusters, it makes the story all the more fun and mystifying to explore when no one is a pro at the events before them.
The characters make up what seems like a good cross section of the park’s would be guests; the paleontologist, a paleobotanist, the doubting Thomas, the lawyer and of course the kids. And the likes of Sam Niell, Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum flesh out the already interesting characters although even though their presence was geared at the kid audience, we could have done without Lex and Tim…well mostly just Lex.
Combining beauty with danger Jurassic Park is a treat on a visual level alone but the story’s more ethical points are ones that really speak the loudest on repeat viewings. Ideas like playing God and controlling nature are both self destructive suits when done in the name of profit over understanding or reverence. Perhaps the most poignant line comes from Malcolm when he states, “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox…“. In fact the entire table discussion is an enticingly defended counterpoint to Hammond’s altruistic desire to make yet another attraction/theme park in the first place. It’s also a foreshadowed conversation about how the dream of his park will end in tears.
From the opening scene, playing true to Steven’s standby slow reveal approach, we (like Jaws) never saw the Raptor but knew the danger to come. We’ve all seen this and love it so I won’t spend any more time on specifics but when all is said and done, Jurassic Park is full of iconic and memorable scenes that are crafted in such a way they aid in the visual fantasy. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t call at least passing attention to how this film was made all the more grand by another rich and weighty score from the great John Williams. Can we get this guy knighted already??
A solid film to watch any day of the week (even if you can’t stand the kids), Jurassic Park is a triumph. Dated yes, but still 100% effective and I for one am still blown away by the seamless integration of the GC in the finale. Man I can’t believe its been almost 20 years and it hasn’t lost any of its edge or fun. A first rate novel yields a fantastic adaptaion that really “spared no expense” and I guess that’s why Spielberg is one of the all time greats right?