Rewind Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Introduction

It was hard to know how to categorize this old writing. This was a lengthy reaction piece, not quite a traditional review, that I wrote after viewing the film in my Films of Spielberg class. Part of why I chose to post it here is how it ends, which (scout’s honor) I did not recall until I re-read it, not that it takes a clairvoyant to predict Jurassic World, but it is longer for here roundabout 12 years ago.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Yes, it was the box office champion of the world when it was first released, but in a way I feel that Jurassic Park did suffer from bad timing as it came out only a few months before Schindler’s List. If there had been more separation between the two or maybe if the Academy viewed ’93 like they viewed ’00, Spielberg would have had two Best Director nominations. Although, I’ll always think it’s underrated.
According to Spielberg he got on the project when working on ER as a film script. Spielberg asked Crichton out of curiosity what his next project was. Crichton was hushed, as writers usually are. Then he finally gave Spielberg only two words: dinosaurs and DNA. Spielberg got it immediately and wanted to be the first to read it. Crichton agreed but he said Spielberg would have to direct. The rest is history. Sometimes you’re good and lucky.
The concept of this film is so tremendous I don’t know how everyone wasn’t out flocking to make dinosaur films of every and any kind. The only thing I think that kept people away were budget concerns. Dinosaurs were quite big in the silent era but then faded away. What a lot of people fail to recognize is that this story is so tight; it’s so well acted and flat-out well done. It’s unquestionably a cinematic masterpiece that is as grand as it is great and here’s why…
In Spielberg’s renowned tradition the dinosaurs are kept out of view early on, so we’re not bombarded. In many action movies people are moving around so long and so much that all focus is lost. We get taken into Jurassic Park very slowly, first we’re on Isla Nublar and the tree shake and we get a subjective shot from inside the dinosaur cage the handler gets attacked but we see no blood nor any “monster.” And in the very beginning the issue of responsibility, which is a theme throughout, is raised.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

We then move to an amber mine in the Dominican Republic, the globe-hopping Spielberg loves to do in the Indiana Jones films only occurs here in the first 20 minutes. The atmosphere and setting of Isla Nublar is huge in this film. The purpose of these scenes is two-fold being to introduce the safety questions surrounding the park and also for the exposition of the fact that two experts will be needed to approve the park. Alan Grant is brought up and we only learn that he is a digger.
We then move to Montana. We see Alan Grant (Sam Neill) on a dig, there’s an annoying kid (Whit Hertford) to whom he demonstrates a raptor attack with his 6” fossilized claw. This also foreshadows the very last of the dinosaur attacks in the film. Not only is that introduced but also the notion that the T-Rex’s vision is based on movement. It also serves to establish the relationship between Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). They are then visited via helicopter by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) he asked them to come to the island, never really reveals the true nature of the park, and bribes them by offering to fund their digs for three more years.
We then move to San José on the Costa Rican mainland where Dennis (Wayne Knight) meets with Dodgson (Cameron Thor) and we see there is a conspiracy afoot, in which, he will be paid quite a bit of money for fertilized embryos. Knight, best known for his supporting appearances on Seinfeld and 3rd Rock from the Sun gives a great performance as a the nervous, over-anxious, bumbling conspirator.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)
Upon arriving on the Island, Grant and Sattler are introduced to Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) he provides a lot of comic relief and also has his own unique scientific perspective juxtaposed with Sattler’s knowledge of plants and Grant’s knowledge of dinosaurs.
This is without a doubt some of John Williams’ best work in scoring. It’s definitely some of his most melodic and well-placed work. The main theme appears at the right spots and stays in your head long after the movie is over.
We’re shown a sign upon arrival reading “Danger!/1000 Volts” which is another piece of foreshadowing. Another sign that provides a little hint is “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,” which is draped over the exhibit of skeletons.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Another great touch is its timing. It’s 20 minutes before we see a dinosaur in its massive glory. Spielberg knows this is what we’ve come to see and isn’t going to throw it out too much or two quick or it might get stale. After this we move into the plausibility aspect and walk the audience how it could and did happen through a film strip and a little cartoon character named Mr. DNA.

The film shows its intelligence when dealing with cloning whereas most films just gloss over the issues that might make it more difficult or simply changes a few laws of natural science around to make it more convenient for themselves. In Jurassic Park one of the first things we see is that cloned dinosaurs are born where other cloning films might make them full size from the get go. Secondly, there are gaps in the DNA sequences which are filled by frog DNA which comes into play later.

When walking in the park we get some information in the Raptors which actually shows later films have kept the series consistent in that regard. One place in which there may be an inconsistency in parts 2 and 3 is that on Isla Nublar there is a plan called the “Lysine Contingency” in which, the dinosaurs are purposely engineered without the amino acid Lysine and if they are not given doses through injection or in food they will fall into a coma and die. If this is the case, how are they still even alive in parts 2 and 3?

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Another clever link-up is first Dr. Malcom uses water to explain Chaos Theory and then cups of water shaking is the clincher that tells us the T-Rex is after these people. This only occurs 63 minutes into the film; this is not what one would call action all the way. Case in point, the big chase with Dr. Malcolm looking back at the T-Rex and the famous “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear” shot, doesn’t begin until the 82nd minute of the film.

We’re occupied with suspense elements with the plot to steal the embryos and Dennis’ encounter with a Dilophosaurus. Coupled with the attempt to try and get the systems back up and running after the virus made itself known with Dennis’ caricatured image in the scene repeating “Uh-uh-uh, you didn’t say the magic word.”

A major element of fear that these dinosaurs cause is that these people realize that there is only so long that they can run and outdistance these beasts before they are caught. There is a lot of hiding. Tim (Joseph Mazzello) is forced to hide under the Jeep when the T-Rex is stomping on it. Later on he is hanging in the tree and they rest for the night perched on a branch. The same holds true for the fear we feel when the tandem of Raptors are after the kids, during this part we also see a genetic sequence displayed in light on a Raptor which is quite an impressive shot.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

While waiting out the night Hammond tells of how he used to run a flea circus and how he used to love to make people happy. He said he wanted his park to be something real but is told it’s the same thing because there’s no real control over the animals.

The situation escalates when we find the dinosaurs are breeding even though they are all supposed to be female. The explanation there is that the gaps were filled with frog DNA. Frogs have been known to spontaneously change gender and it has occurred here. Life has found a way.

The dialogue in Jurassic Park is just great and I could go on an on listing smart and snappy lines that are funny and/or thought-provoking but it all just works. In this film Spielberg yet again showed his unique talent for having people and things that come out of nowhere and just scare you. What cements Jurassic Park’s greatness is when the Raptors meet up with the group on the museum/lobby. This element of Spielberg’s greatness comes when the Tyrannosaurus Rex, while the Velociraptor is the breakout species of the film, T-Rex is the star – and saves the day by knocking the Raptors aside allowing the people to escape as the main theme chimes in with perfect timing. As the banner rains down the T-Rex gets into the perfect pose and roars. It’s one of the most personally pleasing moments I’ve ever experienced and it was the work of a crowd-pleaser and a true genius.

Jurassic Park (1993, Univesal)

What marks Jurassic Park the most is how it ends. In this respect, it understands its own modesty. There’s no corniness at the end of the first or the third, I’m trying my best to forget the sequel. They got away. That’s what mattered in the end. There may have been a lot going on but that’s about it right there, they’re flying away.

Jurassic Park is a classic film which succeeds at something very difficult taking creatures many people loved as kids and showing the scary side of them and having us embrace that too. The anti-cloning sentiment won out quite easily, but with the T-Rex saving the day we see that these creations are victims of circumstance and not so unlike Frankenstein’s monster.

Paleontology is a science I devoted most of my childhood to. It’s also one that’s full of new discoveries and theories which provide unlimited amounts of material. Just one example is that in recent years many paleontologists through kinetics and computer simulation now support the T-Rex was a scavenger and not a hunter as believed since its discovery. This is a franchise I think has a lot to stand on and a built-in audience and I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if it were to continue.

Welcome to Jurassic World, Part 3: Park Regained

Introduction: Jurassic Park III

So it didn’t take long for a third Jurassic Park film to come along even though certain key players changed. First there was the director Joe Johnston. His resumé was up and down prior. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was his debut and a big hit. The Rocketeer a bomb. Then his next gig was the live-action sequences in The PagemasterJumanji, which forced me to walk-out, followed by the generally forgotten October Sky. Since then his most notable success was helming the first Captain America. I, for one, count this film among his successes.

One of the writing credits on this film belongs to Alexander Payne having just recently done Election and going on to many big things since. So there’s some pedigree there and, of course, Amblin’s name is still on it so it’s not like Spielberg abandoned the franchise entirely.

As per usual with the sequels, much of the cast is new but they are certainly talented. This was an shortly after stardom role for William H. Macy, and isn’t exactly an ideal fit for him but he does well enough with it. The there’s Téa Leoni who since David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster has been a favorite of mine. However, it seems that the roles she’s been able to land on television have been better and ones she can sink her teeth into more easily.

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)
Playing the role of the stranded kid needing to be saved is Trevor Morgan, who was not only an unjustly underrated actor in his youth but continues to be as an adult. It’s a genuine illustration of the double-edged sword that a big movie role can be. Should the film have been more well-received maybe more opportunities would’ve been created immediately thereafter. Though as the BAM awards, and review indicate, he’s always been appreciated here.

While it was funny to have Malcolm back and learn about him on his own in the last film, Drs. Grant and Sattler are the heart of the scientific trio, and although Laura Dern isn’t around much her character does play a vital role and it’s good to see them still getting along, and refreshing that they’re not together. We assume because of his unwillingness to have kids, this assumption made likely as we meet Ellie’s husband and baby. It’s a very realistic set-up wherein while the dynamics of the relationship have changed the people have not.

Parasailing Over Sorna

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

With the second and third films taking place on Site B, the whole concept of a park was really only a brand. You weren’t seeing a film about a park that never got off the ground because of the disasters in the final testing but rather you need some narrative excuse to get people on the second island.

Enter the parasailing tandem that pays for an illegal swoop over Sorna. Is it ill-advised? Sure. Will it likely strand them? Absolutely, but at least the formality gets it out of the way.

The bigger struggle in the set-up is the cover story concocted to get him to agree to go. Despite Grant’s protestations that “No force on earth or heaven can get me on that island,” he does go. Ultimately, he himself is being seen as a fossil, digs are harder to fund and seem pointless now and his speaking engagements are marred by questions about his time on the park, or the incident in San Diego that he was uninvolved in. They claim to be something they’re not (adventurers) when really they’re parents looking to rescue their son. The lie is needed in part because they really don’t have the money I just wish the cover was more compelling because it made it hard to believe he wouldn’t see through it.

The trickery continues as they are about to just fly-by which is what Grant thought he agreed to but knowing the real reason they have to land it’s clear that these people will get the plane down even if they have to crash it, which they do.

Science

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

One of the most successful things about this film is the ramping of the hypothetical scientific situations that may present themselves if dinosaurs came back to life and we were able to observe them in the wild. Here in this film we learn that Velociraptors can vocalize and communicate and are though to be smarter than primates. They may well have become the dominant species on the planet of not for the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The film interestingly speculates on how the incident in San Diego may have gone quite differently if it was a Raptor on the loose and not a T-Rex. The advancement of the star of the Raptor is evident by Grant dedicating more study to the species and replicating its resonating chamber with printer. The Raptor as depicted was always a bit more fictitious, but at least it’s consistent.

More new dinosaurs were in the mix, many not on InGen manifests which opens the door for you to always wonder what other sneaky activities they’re up to. There is the Spinosaurus, which was believed then, and is virtually confirmed to be now, larger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex; Ceratosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Pterodactyls, and more.

Aside from adding humor, the mention of the use of T-Rex urine is an important scientific supposition that these animals well could’ve used excretions to mark territory.

On this island, and on Nublar, there was evidence of breeding, so here life found a way.

Situations

Jurassic Park III (Universal, 2001)

Whereas Lost World featured too many similar skirmishes Jurassic Park III excels in mixing things up a bit more. Yes, there is the mandatory being caught in a vehicle setpiece but there’s a greater sense of isolation and danger in this installment as it’s a far more rogue mission. Prior there were factions representing Hammond and InGen.

One miscalculation the distraught parents make is that they assume that this is terrain that Grant knows, when it’s not this is his first time on Isla Sorna.

At the risk of sounding like Roger Ebert’s review of A.I. I will float the notion that perhaps seeing Ben’s eight-week struggle to survive while awaiting someone else to rescue him ultimately may make a more compelling story, but the one that is told is a good one. It only bears mentioning in regards to the franchise as a whole, especially with the current landscape of Hollywood cinema now featuring things like the Star Wars anthology films it’s a period of time that may be worth examining at a later date.

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

The situations that are diegetic work out well like Ben making his presence known and helping Grant out during a chase; the fog in the birdcage as the walk along the tension bridge is particularly effective; the raptor chase; the need to make an off-island call have them dig through a pile of feces (a return of the “one big pile of shit”).

The pseudoscience sets up a tremendous situation wherein the Raptors set a trap. The dinosaurs being bigger, faster and stronger is bad enough but showing this kind of intelligence makes them a far more formidable foe.

Motifs and Themes

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)
Some of the more noteworthy themes and motifs in the film draw allusions to other works, including Spielberg films: touching upon the latter first the discovery of a skeleton is not unlike Raiders. The Barney reference may have been past due at this point but it’s funny and well-played. Connecting to another story the sequences where the Spinosaurus can be tracked by hearing a cell phone ringing in its stomach are reminiscent of the crocodile with the clock in Peter Pan.

The referencing of the other films in the series has to happen here. One of the common ways to do this is having books by Dr. Malcolm around. In this one entitled Everything’s Chaos is seen.

Thankfully there isn’t much screentime allotted to the beats surrounding the graduate assistant who absconds with a dinosaur egg. It’s the kind of subplot that’s over-teased and you know where it’ll end up. He is caught and Dr. Grant gets to chastise him as “being no better than the people who built this place,” which is true but stating it is.

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

Perhaps the most insightful piece of dialogue the film offers is when Dr. Grant offers the great analogy delineating the different personality types it takes to be either an astronaut or an astronomer. The meaning being that an astronomer would more likely be a bit more introverted, studious, and fond of controlled settings; whereas, the astronauts would be more extroverted, instinctive, and adventurous. It’s particularly useful because in this world there had not previously been an analogous field of study to paleontology that dealt with the living organism, for obvious reasons. Being in a world where there now could be one and he and his role are less desirable is not an easy thing to take.

Grant offers the above analogy as a way of responding to Eric’s assessment of one of his earlier books “You liked dinosaurs back then.” Albeit an adequately debunked viewpoint there is still an astuteness to it in noting how these kinds of experiences can change a man’s view on his life’s work and the subject of his study. Grant may be a bit jaded at this point but still recognizes that it’s the how and why they were brough back along with our absolute inability to coexist with them, for a number of reasons, that really bothers him.

Conclusion with a Tinge of Nostalgia

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

In the end, Jurassic Park III may be somewhat lighter on ideas than the original, and while it debatably zooms in on the science more selectively, opting to float ideas rather than deconstruct them; it is more fun and more focused narrative than Lost World is.

All’s well that ends well here, with Ben being found, his family being reunited, and Ellie saving the day for Dr. Grant. Yes, there was inherently some nostalgic moments, but it does stand on its own. In certain ways it may be about as close to a slice-of-life as this narrative world can offer or that we would want, which can either disconnect or involve an audience depending on their proclivities.

I clearly find myself more drawn to this one than the first follow-up.

The Intervening Years (2002-2014)

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

It would be tiresome and unconstructive to chronicle all the things that changed in the film industry in the twelve-year off period in the series. In fact, if you look at almost any twelve-year period you’ll see similar changes. The easy shorthands are: Jurassic Park III opened on July 18th, 2001, less than two months before 9/11; and half-dozen years or so before the Great Recession. Both these things clearly impacted Hollywood project selection along with any number of other sociological changes such as social media.

Perhaps what most directly lead to the return of the franchise was that in these years things like the phrase tentpole came into being along with less wisdom being ascribed to the commonly held belief that there was a shelf-life for sequels and even remakes in some cases.

However, the cannibalization of film product to further create new material is really not a far cry from the debates about adapting the novel or stage play to the screen that Bazin studied and commented on with such tremendous insight. Therefore, in an era where the pre-sold commodity is not necessarily more prevalent but more discussed, and paradoxically more embraced and more reviled than ever, the notion that the current generation needs its own version of now-canonized, burgeoning classics holds a lot of caché.

Jurassic Park III (2001, Universal)

And, yes, we do feed that beast when it’s something we think we may love or be interested in. We talk about it on the Internet ad nauseum, get it trending, and go see it; or if we won’t we still discuss it with regards to what we think they’re doing wrong with the darling film we love so. I am not blameless in this area, this is merely a statement of fact.

However, Jurassic Park films are in many ways my field of dreams. If they build it, I will come. As a child who made his first friend in kindergarten because I saw he was drawing a dinosaur, as the same child who at two separate stages of my youth seriously considered working in the paleontological field, I’ll gladly come.

So, the nostalgia-fueled roulette that Hollywood spins to find its next hot proper finally seemed ready to roll back around to Jurassic Park, and better yet, it was going back to the first island and going to fulfill Hammond’s crazy dreams, at least in part. How could I not go along for the ride?

Welcome to Jurassic World, Part 1: My Personal History with Jurassic Park (1993)

Statement of Intent

It bears stating that in this sprawling series that it is not my goal here to change anyone’s mind with regards to Jurassic World (or any other film in the franchise), and how it fits in the larger Jurassic empire. It is merely my intent to discuss them, especially the most recent, why I enjoy it quite a bit, and how it fits into the series to date. This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while. The reason is not that the movie is incredibly deep or dense, but it has a lot to do with how it plays against the series to date, which required re-viewing to underscore certain salient points.

So while I am on the pro side of the argument it is not my intent to do the flip-side of what’s discussed here.

I will discuss some of the flaws in the most recent one, as well as in the series as a whole; as well as why I really like it and why certain critiques don’t jibe that well with me.

Personal History

Bernardo Villela (1988, All Rights Reserved)

Yeah, I had the wrong nomenclature for “crest,” I was seven. Wanna fight about it?

First, since I haven’t had an opportunity to discuss Jurassic Park much here in the past a bit of history may be appropriate. Even in my Spielberg retrospective, after his lifetime achievement award, I didn’t cover it specifically.

Many children run the gamut of a select few jobs they dream of doing when they grow up. I did most of them as well, the only one that was probably a bit out of the ordinary when I was young, and that I came back to, was my desire to be a paleontologist. Yes, all kids seem to inherently love dinosaurs but not all of them take an interest in the applied study of learning about them and hypothesizing about them based on fossil record.

My reborn interest was sparked in my partial-reading of Chrichton’s novel, I  then acquiring more mature scientific texts than I had before. In grade school, my first book in a writer’s workshop class was on dinosaurs (pictured above).

As a child I’d seen Baby, the random Dennis the Menace film with dinosaur involvement, Denver the Last Dinosaur, and whatever else I could with dinosaurs in them. Clearly, Jurassic Park was going to be different, which is what had me anticipating it greatly.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

This film was huge for me and many others. When I first saw Jurassic Park it was clearly my favorite film of all-time to date. At a time when I was very into retroactive creation of BAM Awards from the year of my birth to 1995 (before the extemporaneous ones started) Jurassic Park owned a bit of hardware in 1993 as well.

The set-up for the film is a classic such that it was used as the go-to example of a “What if?” inspired scenario in my introductory screenwriting course in college. “What if dinosaurs were brought back to life and walked the earth with modern man?” really cuts to the heart of the awe of the first film.

Truly, it’s a sensation that will not be duplicated. The story hadn’t been tackled yet, effects had reached a new threshold, you add something that sparks a childish curiosity and excitement in adults; in a film told through the lens of a director who defined adventures for millions of kids and brought that youthful outlook and wonder the to oldest of soul; and you had a virtually can’t miss formula. And it didn’t.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Furthermore, for me in my doe-eyed innocence it not only played into that wish-fulfillment but also brought before me a nightmare I had never truly contemplated: how wrong it could possibly go, and how two species who’d been the dominate forces on earth during different eras really couldn’t co-exist.

What will also invariably set the first film apart from all those that follow, this is true of any series but particularly this one, is that it’s so new that the audience and characters are eased into it. There are questions that need to be answered, rules that need to be established. One thing that is tremendously well done is that Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler really don’t know what they’re signing up to go look at.

The world is isolated and small, the park has not opened and is seeking investors; it’s more focused in its narrative than any subsequent film. With everything being new, with great pains being taken to suspend disbelief, with brilliant scientific debate; the first film sets a rock-solid foundation upon which all other follow-ups can build with confidence regardless of how successful they are.

However, amidst the wonder and the blinding brilliance of the film as a thrilling adventure, with impeccably defined characters, contrasts, and spectacle; it seems at time we don’t take into account that there was hubris, miscalculation, and at times downright stupidity from some of the characters. And as great as it is there is even a pretty big “Oh, come on!” Now, most of what I have to say will be about what it sets up because those pave the way for decisions made further down the line.

Science

Jurassic Park (1993, Univesal)

With so much of this being new, and also with Jurassic Park being a story that was interested in actually living up the name of science-fiction properly, there was more time and more need for the characters  to question how such things were done.
Among the scientific points of discussion that come up are: The Lysine Contingency, lysine being a necessary enzyme to sustain life is something the engineered dinosaurs do not produce but the park geneticists administer. It is a theoretical fail-safe should people die or the animals need to be euthanized.

The scientists rightly ask how gaps in the genetic sequence are filled. They learn that amphibian (Tree frog) DNA to fill in, this is what opens the door for spontaneous change of sex (they were all engineered to be female). Due to the single-sex environment the scientists believe they have instilled another control, and will be able to ensure a stable population.

Being a film that postulates on the return of dinosaurs long-held debates in the scientific community could be settled (theoretically) here. The behavior of herding in the first film is confirmed; the debate as to whether the creatures are endothermic (warm-blooded) or poikilothermic (cold-blooded) is settled. At least theoretically, and like in almost any work of science-fiction most of the facts are built-up and supported to make them plausible, such that the instances of artistic license are more earned. In this film license is taken with the Dilophosaurus, a species wherein there exists no evidence to support either the claims of a neck frill or venomous expectoration. Even more license is taken with the Velociraptor, which is made a bit taller than that specific raptor.

Crichton modeled his raptor after Deinonychus, which per Gregory S. Paul’s classification would be of the raptor family. Incredibly, as fate would have it, the discovery of the Utahraptor shortly after Winston Robotics created the first vindicated this visual impression and use of a more dramatic name (as opposed to Deinonychus), of the raptor by looking very similar to what they built, though strictly speaking the actual Velociraptor is a much smaller predator.

Motifs and Themes

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Jurassic Park never would have been the hit it was around the world if all it was concerned with was dinosaurs. What it has to say about its characters and humanity in general is what takes it a place above and beyond many other films in its genre. Aside from a ground-breaking idea and technology there also is an exploration of important themes in a universal light against a preternatural backdrop.

“We can talk about sexism in survival situations when I get back,” quips Ellie Sattler as she’s about to head off to try to power the park back up manually when Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) was concerned about her leaving. If there is one thing that has been a constant throughout it’s that the series has made attempts (this film was the most successful) to put smart, intelligent, skilled women in key roles.

Ellie is a very rounded character. Aside from her obvious professional acumen she is also not averse to marriage and children. This is one of the things that make her and Dr. Grant great foils. He doesn’t like kids. Therefore, there is tremendous comedic payoff when Hammond’s grandchildren (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) come and Grant gets saddled with them.

Furthermore, it introduces kids into the series as participants which is a constant. Much like I started writing about these films talking about my childhood fascination with dinosaurs, kids have to be brought into the action in a story like this so kids engage even closer. In 1950s sci-fi films there was almost always a kid involved so those kids going to the double-features had someone they could more closely relate to; the same goes here based on the tale as Hammond says they are “the target audience.” So if your tolerance for child actors happens to be low you better check that at the door because kids will be part of the proceedings in this series for better or worse.

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

The kids are the target audience and the park clearly has to be made safe for them as Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) humorously observes “When the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” Which links up with perfectly to the conversation Ellie has with Hammond in light of his flea circus story: “It’s still the flea circus, John. You never had control. That’s the illusion!”

And the lack of control, and the self-deception is apparent when you think back on the rebuttals the scientists had for Hammond when they were talking over dinner.

“I tell you the problem with the scientific power you’re using here, it didn’t take any discipline to attain it.”
“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could.”
“…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
“How can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem?”
“Dinosaurs and man, two species separate by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have any idea of what to expect?”

I know many know those lines but bear them in mind for I feel they echo throughout the series to date.

Perhaps the most balanced character and the most centered in terms of accepting what the reality of the situation is, and having sufficient respect and admiration for these creatures is Muldoon (Bob Peck). He’s the game expert, and has been out on safari and seen most, if not all, the world’s large land predators, sure he is essentially a hunter but he has no delusions of control and knows better than to underestimate these creatures (consciously), and that is the cardinal sin of most characters in the series and how they meet their end.

“Really?”

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Speaking of their end. This brings me to the biggest “Really?” moment in Jurassic Park. Yes, I love it but even this movie has one,  the electrified fence. Now, this isn’t a bad horror film where I wanted a character to die, but based on the way it was staged I had trouble believing Tim would survive. It was tense, I was nervous, and relieved but from the beginning, since I first saw it was the biggest head-scratcher for me.

Even with that incident it’s still great, it’s just that one moment that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Conclusion: The Nostalgia Factor

Jurassic Park 3D (2013, Universal)

I re-watched Jurassic Park before writing this piece. I could probably watch it again right now, and then tomorrow. My contention here is not that I think that Jurassic Park a bit more unfairly looked upon through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia than most. My contention is merely that whether our view of the first film is nostalgia-tinged, realistic admiration or honest dislike each film deserves judgment on its own merits and to not be beholden to its source material, a previous installment, or prior version of the film. Sure, certain factors can make this difficult but it bears saying. “It’s not as good as the first” is not a valid complaint, and even though I despise the next installment, I won’t play that game rather discuss the issues there.

Sure, the next films are going to take some liberties and make some jumps but they’re building upon what occurred first and expanded from there. Some better than others.