This should be a short essay.I say this because I’m going to make an argument that has been a cold fact for almost 30 years.Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is an excellent movie. Heck, it might even be a perfect movie. every time I look at it, some new brilliance was revealed.
As Jurassic Saga’s sixth and “final” film, Jurassic World Reign, After a few weeks in theaters, I decided to revisit every movie in the series. Not just for refreshing, but for refreshing each film.This starts with first Jurassic Park, a movie I saw on its premiere night on June 11, 1993, and was instantly hooked. I’ve seen it dozens of times over the decades, mostly in bits and pieces on cables. Watching it begin and end without ads, however, is an entirely different experience.you really see why Jurassic Park It remains in popular culture to this day.
The first thing that struck me on the replay was the near-perfection of the script.Of course, Michael Crichton’s original idea to clone a dinosaur was modern Putting them in a theme park is great on its own, but the script structure and propulsion adapted by Crichton and David Koepp is so good that you could use it to teach a script writing class. From the first scene, the audience is unknowingly given multiple key pieces of information, and then transitions seamlessly to the next content. We start with a worker killed by a mysterious creature. In the next scene, there is a lawsuit about his death, and we first see a mosquito in the amber. A character mentions Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and we switch to Alan Grant, who sets up the entire third act of the movie.The park’s owner, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), enters within moments with a marriage proposal Jurassic Park Off to the game.
This economy of storytelling permeates the entire film. Suffice to say, there isn’t a single scene that doesn’t move the story forward or provide key character development. The story, for the most part, is pretty simple. When Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) arrive on the island, they learn how dinosaurs were created , asked relevant questions, and set off into the park. Basically that’s it.You add the kids, Tim and Lex (Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards) to up the emotional stakes, while Nedri (Wayne Knight) The storyline complicates everything, but soon you’ll have humans roaming around a theme park full of dinosaurs.
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Adding to that simplicity is the fact Jurassic Park is also almost completely devoid of mythology. In later films, we’d learn about John Hammond’s company, InGen, his personal life, friends, rivals, and other companies who want his discoveries. The world gets expanded significantly. But that’s never part of this movie at all. We don’t know who Dodgson, the man paying Nedry to steal the embryos, is. We don’t care. It’s not about the outside world. It’s about this story, these characters, and their survival.
Another thing I keyed into on this rewatch was the absolute brilliance of the action scenes. These days we’ve become accustomed to chaotic action. Quick cuts, explosions, cameras flying around, basically non-stop mayhem. Jurassic Park isn’t that. At every moment, in every scene, you know exactly where each character is. Spielberg’s blocking and editing is so clean that if you paused, say, the first T-Rex attack at any point, any person watching could tell you precisely where the characters are in relation to the others and it only adds to the tension. It’s a practice the director uses for every single scene, with one cheeky, likely intentional, exception: by the time the Velociraptors have cornered Tim and Lex in the kitchen, we are so accustomed to knowing where everyone is at every moment that when we see Lex trying to close the door to her compartment, and the raptor bears down on her, we are truly terrified. That’s when Spielberg pulls the rug out from under us. We realize the raptor saw a reflection, and you get that nice rush of adrenaline as it crashes and Lex escapes. The moment works so well because every scene leading up to it is perfectly designed to make the audience trust and understand what they’re seeing.
Spielberg also makes sure that throughout the entire film, the characters feel the wonder that we, the audience, should be feeling. In multiple scenes, Grant and Sattler have physical and emotional reactions to the revelations on screen, be it that Jurassic Park has a T-Rex or the beauty in a sick Triceratops. Even as Grant peers out the window of the helicopter at the very end, he’s relieved for sure, but also mesmerized. Seeing characters on screen filled with wonder gives the audience permission to feel that wonder too. No one is jaded. No one is corrupted (OK, Nedry is corrupted and we see where that leads him). Everyone is simply in awe, or fearful, of the magic and menace of the park. It establishes a tone that, if memory serves, only returns in the rarest of occasions throughout the rest of the franchise. A tone that makes this film truly special.
That’s also because of the mastery of everyone who worked on the film. We’ve already mentioned the screenplay and direction but ILM’s digital effects, especially that of the T-Rex remain, 30 years later, almost impeccable. John Williams’ score literally—and I mean do mean literally—brings me to tears anytime I hear it in context. The costumes, the sets, the designs, Jurassic Park is the result of hundreds of people working at the top of their game on an excellent idea and making something that will last longer than any of us can possibly imagine.
Today, people throw around the term “Perfect movie” fairly hyperbolically. And while Jurassic Park isn’t 100% perfect, it’s about as close as movies get.
“Wait, did you just say Jurassic Park wasn’t perfect?”
OK, I figured that might be controversial. Here’s why I say that and let me preface this by clarifying that these are the smallest, tiniest nitpicks. Things I don’t even care about per se but perfect is perfect.
For example, how did John Hammond sneak into Grant and Sattler’s trailer in Montana? We see the helicopter come to pick him up, but how did he get there unnoticed by everyone else? Did he walk? Did he drive? Also, I can never get my head around the improbable, illogical luck of a) finding a mosquito preserved in amber, at all, but then b) that mosquito actually being 65-100 million years old and not say, 20 million or 2 million or any other number; c) that mosquito having sucked the blood of a dinosaur immediately before being stuck in the sap; and then d) finding enough mosquitoes to get enough DNA to recreate all of these different species of dinosaurs. Finding just one mosquito that had usable dinosaur blood must have been like winning the lottery every day for a year. But to find more than one? Just the most astronomical odds. And yes, it’s a sci-fi movie, you have to suspend disbelief, it doesn’t really matter, and at least the idea itself makes basic scientific sense, which is saying something. But, if we’re talking perfection, this drops it like 0.1%.
Jurassic Park is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Coming up next week: the only other Steven Spielberg-directed Jurassic film, 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
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