12th Jul2013

Rewind: ‘Jurassic Park’ Review

by Dan Clark

Jurassic-Park-Movie

For the first time in his career Steven Spielberg was on a losing streak.  Both Always  and Hook  were considered massive disappointments. Some may have wondered if the Spielberg magic had finally run its course.  Spielberg answered his doubters with one of the greatest years any cinematic mind could ever imagine. This iconic year began with the release of the blockbuster giant Jurassic Park. Many films have been given the label—thrill ride—but few exemplify that statement better than Jurassic Park. This heart pounding adventure completely changed the game of cinema. It is a technological marvel with high-end special effects and finely tuned sound design. It takes that childhood dream of those real life mythical creatures we call dinosaurs and brings it to life—only to turn that dream into an absolute nightmare. Simply put, Jurassic Park  is the pinnacle of epic entertainment.

In the film scientists have developed a process that will allow them to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. Billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) intends on using the technology to open a theme park so everyone can partake in this wondrous achievement. The science of Jurassic Park  is utterly ridiculous, but it oddly works. The story inserts it in such a matter of fact manner it is easy to buy in. It never got caught up in endless exposition by trying to tell us how all this happened. In fact they found quite a clever way to inject all the exposition organically in the story by placing a cartoon video within the park’s tour. It was a nice touch that helped avoid a lot of unnecessary issues.

In order to satisfy his investors Hammond brings a group of experts to the park to test out its capabilities.  They include a pair of paleontologists, an eccentric chaos theory scientist, a ‘blood sucking’ lawyer, and Hammond’s very own grandchildren. Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) have spent most of their adult lives digging up these extinct creatures so their expertise is widely regarded. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is much more of an oddball character. He is a scientist walking around in rock star clothing. Jurassic Park  is not known for the most dynamic characters. They surely have distinct personalities, but their character arcs are either nonexistent or bluntly obvious.  For example Dr. Grant’s disdain for children will surely come into play later in the story.

As we all know, what starts out as hypnotizing tour into the power of science turns into a  struggle against the sheer power of nature. The ‘trying to control nature through science’ debate is the central theme the film is based on. Lines like, “God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, Man destroys God, Man creates dinosaurs…” add a little moral quandary to all this exhilarating action.  Though once the cages get opened, it takes the proverbial backseat. When they do attempt to touch upon it, like Hammond’s inability to recognize his failures while eating tubs of melting ice cream, it is sloppily handled. Those moments tend to just get in the way due to their powerlessness to garner any type of impact.

While the film has its issues, they are so minute when compared to the rest of the film they have little impact on your grand satisfaction. People tend to use the terminology, “Turn Your Brain Off Fun” when referring to franchise entertainment like this, but you do not need to void your brain of thought to enjoy this film. Spielberg uses his storytelling ability to full force by bringing us into this world of intrigue and mystery. The world is setup beautifully with a steady buildup to the ultimate payoff. When you first see the dinosaurs come to life it is the epitome of why we go to the movies. To be transplanted into a world we could only dream of. Spielberg does not just placate to our expectations–he transcends them.  His directorial choices are stunning in their creativity.  Every shot is meticulous in its placement. Sequences like the T-Rex escape go down as crowning achievement of the capabilities of cinema. Every second is ingrained into your head. The sequence flows so flawlessly it is as if you are really there. Tension builds—then retracts—only to BURST out in a rampage of destruction. This film is textbook on how to do action sequences.  Twenty years have passed since this film was first released and in that time it has only gotten better.

Part of the reason it has stood the test of time is Stan Winston’s groundbreaking special effects. Winston lead a team that crafted some of the most finely made animatronic creations anyone could ever ask for. The combination of animatronics, puppetry, go motion, and computer graphics were melded together with superb dexterity. Many blame/credit Jurassic Park  as the film that started the CGI revolution that we now live in today, but what Jurassic Park  really showed is CGI is great when used sparingly.  While the CGI is still impressive, the effects that still hold up the most are the practical ones. There is a physicality to them that most of CGI still lacks. Besides the visual effects the sound design also has a lot to offer. The mixing and matching of real life animal sounds made these dinosaurs feel real. The T-Rex roar is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Its movies like this that make surround sound worth it. Also making it worth it is John Williams score. Its marvelous composition hovers over the film with a majestic ambiance. One small glimpse of the logo can cause the main theme to ignite in your head. Williams’s literally has a countless array of amazing scores, and this is surely near the top.

People go to the movies for a number of different reasons. Often we are looking for the opportunity to be transplanted into a situation we never would have otherwise experienced. Jurassic Park  is the personification of that experience. It is stimulating exploration into the capabilities humanity’s drive. Jurassic Park  brings us into this idealist world full of imagination and wonderment—only to  turn that world on its head in a terrify adventure that will live on for generations.

****½ 4.5/5

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