It’s June! Some in the fandom community have dubbed it #JurassicJune to celebrate the glory that is the Jurassic Park franchise. And I have decided to jump on the bandwagon for my newest set of retrospectives! Hurray branding!
But in all seriousness, I do loves me some Jurassic Park!
When I was a kid, it was in constant rotation through the VCR. I think the only movies that got more airtime than Jurassic Park were Beauty and the Beast and Ferngully.
Okay, unsolicited story time, kiddos!
From age four to about age fifteen I was set on being a paleontologist. I was obsessed with dinosaurs to a frightening degree and I wanted nothing more than to dig up their bones as my life’s career. I had all the post secondary education I would need planned out, the type of dinosaur I wanted to specialize in (marine fyi), and the exact argument I would have used to get the Royal Ontario Museum to hire me to put together dinosaur bones when I was fresh outta university.
But then my step-dad came along and ground all the confidence out of me and suddenly I couldn’t be a paleontologist anymore because all my important teenage formative years were filled with being told I was stupid. Out went going into a STEM field, in came a lifetime of PTSD, anxiety, and regrets.
Not that I’m here to bum you out! Hey, at least the waste of human life that is my step-dad couldn’t take the Jurassic Park movies away from me! I had a little TV with a built in VCR and he would have had to pry my 1993 VHS copy out of my cold, dead hands!
Alright, that’s enough for story time. Let’s not dwell on my bummer of a childhood, let’s instead open the gates and journey into Jurassic Park!
You know the story of Jurassic Park by this point, right? Who on Earth doesn’t? If you’re the one person on Earth that doesn’t know, the movie follows two paleontologists, two children, a chaos mathematician, and a billionaire with big dreams but bigger naivety as they try to survive an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs are out of their enclosures and running amuck! There’s a T-Rex, a shirtless Jeff Goldblum, and multiple uses of the phrase “hold onto your butts”. What else do you need to know?
Right off the bat, this opening? It’s pretty goddamn great. But, to quote the lawyer in the amber mining scene: “this raises some serious safety questions about the park”. Why didn’t the crate containing the highly vicious, super deadly raptor lock into the wall before they opened it? And why the hell, in a park with the technology to clone long dead animals, do they have a dude climb on top of the cage to manually heft open the gate?! This couldn’t be automated? Or the dinosaur couldn’t even be like, half drugged? No? So this is what were left with then. A dude with very little hand-eye coordination and bad balance.
C’mon guys, problems were arising long before you hired Dennis!
The movie slows down substantially after that cold open and even today I feel the need to look for a colouring book to occupy my mind while amber is mined, Ellie and Alan talk to John Hammond (who was dull and boring when I was a child but is admittedly really charming nowadays), and Malcolm fails to prove why he’s helpful on the helicopter ride to the island.
Do I appreciate the slow build up to the action and understand why it’s the way it is? Absolutely! There’s a tonne of shit that the audience needs to understand in order to make this film work and Jurassic Park wouldn’t have been half as good without the nuanced explanations it gives about all the little details that go into this place where there are literal goddamn dinosaurs walking around! I’m just saying I didn’t care about Goldblum’s “life finds a way” speeches and the flea circus scene with Ellie and Hammond when I was five and just wanted to see dinosaurs fucking shit up.
Now, when we finally do get to dinosaurs fucking shit up?
Liquefy that shit and put it straight into my veins!
Now, apparently when Jurassic Park came out the special effects were praised but the script wasn’t viewed as fondly. Which is ridiculous. This two hour movie gets across everything single thing it needed to. Adapting any book into a movie is a challenge, but this was a book with complex bio-engineering science at its heart and a kind-of-sort-of preachy message about the dangers of the manipulation of nature for profit. That’s a lot to cram into the span of time a movie takes up and, obviously, even harder to make interesting. This whole film could have just ended up being used to explain how the hell Hammond made dinosaurs, but that’s summed up quickly and brilliantly in the form of an animated strand of DNA.
If you can’t get behind that ingenious bit of exposition, you can’t get behind anything!
Of course, I can understand why a few concerns may arise. I know I have some questions myself. Like why they think 10,000 volts is enough to pacify a dinosaur. 10,000 volts to a human is half a static shock when you rub your feet over a carpet. What’s that going to do to a dinosaur? Unless it’s high amperage, but that raises the question of if a dinosaur could survive high amperage than a human and how you test that?
I also have questions about the bathrooms outside of the T-Rex exhibit? Is this an automated car tour or a walking tour? And speaking of the T-Rex, what’s up with its exhibit? At one point it’s level with the road the cars are on but then there’s a trench they need to climb down? How’d the T-Rex get up?
Then there are the raptors. How many raptors are they trying to have? Because the raptor enclosure looks mad small for the pack they already have, which is only three because the alpha female tends to kill the other ones. But still they’re hatching more? Is this the best idea? Couldn’t you just breed some more duckbilled dinosaurs and be happy? Duckbilled dinos would definitely cut back on the amount of cow harnesses you’d need to buy and then re-buy because raptors can’t eat politely. And why’d they build the emergency bunker and the main electrical back-up area so close to the place where the raptors were stored? Pretty much all the concerns are with raptors–I’m like the big game hunter!
And one more thing! Lord, I feel like the old man from that Jackie Chan cartoon with all this, but this is something that’s bothered me since childhood.
When Dennis is escaping, he’s opening gates to drive though, and that to me is implying he’s going places where there are dinosaurs, yeah? Well then, why are there road signs in the dinosaur exhibits? You could say that he ended up in an exhibit off-screen, but since we can only gather information from scenes we see, the way it’s shot implies there are road signs in the dinosaur exhibits. The fat bastard was only trying to get to the docks and if that’s the main area where tourists on the ferry boat are coming through, why isn’t it a straight shot through the park?
But that’s just some nit-picky stuff because I can never just be completely happy and non-sarcastic! The T-Rex reveal? Holy shit. It single-handedly makes anything wrong with this movie so small you’ll never believe you found stuff to complain about in the first place!
Everyone in this movie is pretty much perfect. That’s both characters and the actors that got to play them. Could I have passed on Jeff Goldblum’s growl-laughter and innumerable speeches about dinosaurs finding a way to bone (because he is seriously obsessed with the thought of dinosaurs getting nasty)? Yes, I probably could have, but even with my general non-understanding of Jeff Goldblum’s weird and/or charming performances, he does a great job as the chaos mathematician Ian Malcolm.
As a child, my favourite character was Ellie. She actually still is my favourite to this day. She’s smart, she’s tough, and I’ve always been pretty gay so the girlie crush on Laura Dern from childhood (and duh, into adulthood as well) certainly doesn’t hurt. She’s a Ripley type female lead and there can never be too many of those in movies!
I’ve also really liked Alan since my first viewing. See, I was the type of child who was very self-aware and I actually hated other kids because they were kids and kids are obviously the most annoying things on Earth. I’d rather have diarrhea than children. But what I’m doing with my uterus isn’t my point. My point is that Sam Neill always struck the perfect mix of adult to me. He’s knowledgeable and professional but loses his shit like any person would in the face of dinosaurs. He’ll also openly talk about his disdain for children, how they’re obnoxious, how they smell, all the usual talking points for why children suck. But he’s not so much of an asshole that he’ll abandon kids when a T-Rex is stomping around. That’s a nice balance to hit. I also love the personal vendetta he seems to have against raptors and his sense of fatalist sarcasm. I think his line about the car in the tree shaped my whole sense of humour as I know it now!
Then there’s Richard Attenborough as John Hammond. What a charming motherfucker! I’m glad they veered away from the book Hammond (who was intended to be a dark Walt Disney) and went with Richard Attenborough. The applecheeks, the enthusiastic but naïve excitement and wonder, the white linen suits–I can’t get enough! I tended to zone out during the flea circus scene as a kid, and still kind of do, but I’ve come to appreciate it more now. It’s what? Four minutes long? But it packs in everything you need to know about Hammond. You completely understand him by the end of that scene, but whether you side with him or you side with Ellie is left to your own moral compass.
And, even as I get through saying that I hate kids, Lex and Tim aren’t the worst characters of the movie! That obliviously goes to Nedry, but we’ll get to him. As far as Lex and Tim go, they’re pretty relatable characters. They’re useless because they’re children, but they’re not completely useless which means they’re not the worst children. The actors, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, don’t get the most subtle lines (everything concerning computers is painful to behold), but they manage to pull the right emotions out at the right times. That’s more than some children actors manage, so kudos!
As for the supporting characters, my favourite is the big game hunter: Muldoon. This guy is so badass. I’m morally against big game hunting in real life because it’s disgusting and things like leopards and elephants just need to be left the fuck alone, but I like him as a character. He’s at least got respect for the things he hunts and that’s shown with his weariness concerning the raptors. He respects those dinosaurs, and when they get him, he’s more impressed than anything.
That line right there? What a bad-fucking-ass way to go out!
The other supporting cast? Eh, I could take them or leave them. Gennaro, the lawyer, is so flat a character I have a hard time feeling any particular way about him. Well, not quite. He makes me feel anger at his choice of shorts with a long sleeve, button up shirt, tie, and blazer. Nedry, the tech guy that tries to steal dinosaur genetic material, is really obnoxious, which I guess was his character, so props to Wayne Knight for playing the part. It always pissed me off as a kid that he put shaving cream on top of a piece of pie. Way to ruin someone’s day, asshole! And Arnold, Mister Hold-Onto-Your-Butts himself? It’s hard not to like this Sam Jackson character. Though I must ask why when he first says his iconic butt-related catchphrase, why he says it when nothing exciting is happening? Were you saying it sarcastically, Sam? I gotta know!
And do the dinosaurs count as characters? Because… I’m counting them as characters for a quick shout out to the Dilophosaurus. These dinosaurs are all wrong in the movie. They’re too small, they don’t have neck frills, and they don’t spit venom. No dinosaur ever spit venom (at least that we’ve ever discovered) and the things that were added were literally just Crichton and Spielberg adding what they thought were cool traits.
All that aside, I wanna give them a shout out of love! Everyone’s favourite dinosaurs are either the T-Rex or the raptors (with good reason of course), but I think we should take a minute to appreciate the Dilophosaurus that spits horrible venom gunk into Dennis’ eyes and then proceeds to eat the fat bastard. Those lady dinosaurs deal with fuckboys the way I wish I could.
At this point, the graphics of Jurassic Park are legendary for, not only how great they looked in 1993, but how amazingly they hold up now. I’m a firm believer in practical effects whenever they can be done, and Jurassic Park really proves my point! Movies that depend too much on CGI might look amazing at the time, but they don’t age particularly well.
That animatronic T-Rex though? The CGI T-Rex that attacks them at night? The raptor feet as they stalk through the kitchen? That shit is going to look good for all time! Especially that night time T-Rex attack. I said it just a while ago, but I’m going to say it again. That first reveal of it stomping through the fence is still insanely satisfying!
And imagine what the car in the tree scene would have looked like with a CGI car instead of a real one? Or how weightless and meaningless the raptors chasing Ellie would have felt? Because that’s the problem with CGI heavy movies, it feels weightless and inconsequential. Like yeah, the Avengers are being swarmed by robots but who gives a shit, they’re obviously fighting empty air. Having the raptor make a heavy, solid impact with the floor as it stalks Ellie gives it all that much more of an actual impact.
Same for the kids in the kitchen. Or the kids in the car with the T-Rex. Or Dennis when he gets hit with venomous gunk from the Dilophosaurus. UGH IT’S ALL JUST SO GOOD! Use practical effects, people! Get big gasoline fuelled robots, get puppets, get stunt people, and do it like Stephen Spielberg would have in the 1990s!
I’ve never been a huge John Williams fan when it comes to movie scores and Jurassic Park isn’t really an exception for me. I couldn’t hum you a single tune from it, except for two hugely notable songs, of course. You know the ones. Christ, even if you’ve never seen Jurassic Park you know its main theme, titled appropriately enough Theme from Jurassic Park and the grandiose fanfare of Journey to the Island.
The simple motif of Theme from Jurassic Park and the spirited Journey to the Island are used throughout the movie at a number of points, with booming versions for exciting bits, and soft, slow piano versions for touching moments. Williams wanted to reuse his these two themes as much as possible to create a connective tissue throughout the movie. They were an overarching theme to the park itself and some damn fine music, regardless of if I can remember any of the other tunes from the movie!
Personally, my favourite is Theme from Jurassic Park. This is a song that swells into an instant feeling of nostalgia and wonder. Journey to the Island is all well and good, but it’s so dramatic and operatic and meant to be taken in with huge, swooping extravagance. What Journey to the Island says is ‘here is an action/adventure movie, strap in’. Theme from Jurassic Park is meant to amplify the beauty of the dinosaurs or the emotional weight of a character moment, and it does exactly that. The crescendo of blaring horns and strings has been imprinted on my soul since I first laid eyes on the Brachiosaurus that sent Doctor Grant to his knees.
I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Jurassic Park is the definitive blockbuster. If you met someone on the street who had never before seen a single movie, I can honestly not think of something better to show them than Jurassic Park. It has the type of adventure that never gets old to watch because it’s something so far off and yet so close. This is the type of adventure that inspires, the noticeable swell in people who became paleontologists after this movie is proof of that! This is the type of adventure that’s going to look and sound amazing forever because real love, care, and passion went into it.
And c’mon. Motherfuckin’ dinosaurs!
I may not have become the paleontologist I wanted to as a child, but I still get a childlike jolt of joy out of this movie and, no doubt, so do you!