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Jurassic Park (1993)


I just love fan art.
I just love fan art.

Genre: Adventure Family Sci-Fi

Starring: Sam Neill (My Brilliant Career • The Piano), Laura Dern (Blue VelvetInland Empire), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly (1986)Independence Day)

Directed By: Steven Spielberg (JawsThe Color Purple)

Overview: A lawyer, a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, and a chaos mathematician walk into a bar, asking for a recommendation. The bartending T-Rex says “You need to try our house recipe: ‘Jurassic Park’. It’s got equal parts mayhem, destruction and genetic engineering with a Playing-God twist, shaken with bitters. Not muddled. It’s got a rich amber colour.” The four shrug and sit down, “Sure we’ll try that, but only one. I hear by the third you just get sloppy.”

Jurassic Park was an opening-night box office record-breaker. I don’t think I was one of those people who lined up to see the premiere, but I definitely saw it in theaters. There’s still something iconic whenever I see that meniscus tremble on that dashboard water glass as T-Rex approaches. Chilling! Today I’d call Jurassic Park dated, but it was what people wanted in 1993. Then there was the insane franchising, which took off like a rocket - from 7-11 Big Gulp cups to pinball games, I distinctly recall my landscape being filled with the logo that was the Jurassic Park phenomenon. Let’s look at why it worked.

For those of you who missed the window when you moved to your off-the-grid TV-free cave-commune, the spoiler-free plot of Jurassic Park is Lowest-Common-Denominator simple: A bunch of people are brought to a Costa Rican dinosaur theme park created by white Panama-suit stylin’ John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). They’ve been asked to tour the unique facility and give their approval to open its doors to the public. Their enjoyable jungle tour of reconstituted dinosaurs is interrupted by industrial spy Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight of Newman fame from “Seinfeld”). As part of his plan to get away with some dino-samples, he shuts down the park’s security systems, including the electric fences that keep the dinosaurs in their pens. Enter brains versus brawn survival plot, with a massive storm thrown in to ramp up the tension.

Seriously, she's baby-crazy
Seriously, she's baby-crazy

Talent-wise, there’s recognizable faces everywhere, intermingled with eye-rolling typical Spielbergian over-the-topness in characters. There’s the two bell-curve main characters, paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (the not-in-a-David-Lynch-movie-for-once Laura Dern). There’s everyone’s favourite character, leather-wearing hip-slickster chaos mathematician Ian Malcolm. He’s played by a cocky and animated Jeff Goldblum, whose highlight moment includes posing smugly/dramatically with his shirt off after nearly getting killed. I was also impressed by the power of the supporting cast: Lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero, whom you may recall from the “Miami Vice” series, or perhaps Air Bud 3: World Pup) was just corporate-weenie enough without going overboard; a still-early-in-his-career Samuel L. Jackson who’s character ‘hook’ was always having a cigarette in his mouth; Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello play the grandchildren-added-for-family-film status, making Jurassic Park just-saccharine-enough to make up for the death and destruction. Let me dwell a little on corpulent casting choice Wayne Knight. As antagonists go he’s dramatic and flamboyant, hated by all and cocky to boot. His greedy computer hacker/programmer character’s name is Dennis Nedry, the laziest anagram of ’nerdy’ you’ll ever see, but it’s still amusing. He definitely adds a mood of comedic corpulence and social ineptitude that makes his character one of the most memorable of the decade. He’s very well written. His introduction is wonderful. 

As films go, it’s typical Spielberg. By that I mean that there isn’t much in the way of High-Falutin’ Art outside of a pretty set here, and there and crane shots galore with epic orchestrals to match. Except for our heroes, characters are archetypes more than people. Subtext isn’t the strength of this film, it’s mass-appeal, and there’s something for everyone. As usual, the director lends his strength of narrative - getting his point across clearly and keeping it moving at a high pace ‘til the end with plenty of dramatic nail-biting action. There’s beautiful Animatronics mixed with GC and the raptors were actually guys in costume. Though the ideal time to see it was in 1993, it’s still a spectacle worth experiencing. It’s also old enough that you can lovingly mock the interesting lighting choices and occasionally forced set design.

I mean, it’s Jurassic Park. You need to fill that pop culture gap. And although it’s not a life-changer or a lesson-teacher, it’s entertainment distilled pure, and without a doubt a film that few will debate its value in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book.

 Goldblum in a wet T-shirt contest and he can't even attract the ugly ladies without a flare...
Goldblum in a wet T-shirt contest and he can't even attract the ugly ladies without a flare...

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 82% (Park It For a Couple of Hours)

One more thing: although Jurassic Park‘s big dino-stars are there - Bronto-Tricero-T-Rex – there’s dinosaurs you haven’t heard of, and, if I recall correctly, the popular Raptor wasn’t known to me until Jurassic Park. A quick wiki search reveals that the Toronto Raptors basketball team began in 1995 – I can’t say for sure, but to me that looks like an obvious Jurassic influence.

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If memory serves, The Toronto Raptors were named several months after the popularity of this film, so you're right on that. 

While I enjoy this one, it really is just about the spectacle. I can't advise avoiding the sequel enough--I still want my money back from it, and I watched it on cable.

My vaccuous step-father rented them and seemed to enjoy them, while I sat there and thought "Seriously?!"

I was snob even back in the day!

Are you considering going to see the 3D release?

No i can get migraines for free if I try hard enough, THANKS!

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