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The Media Man Reviews: Jurassic Park (30th Anniversary Special)


So many big anniversaries this year, am I right?


Return of the Jedi turned 40, Doctor Who's gearing up for its 60th anniversary, Disney and Warner Bros. are both counting down to their ONE HUNDRETH anniversary and now for the subject of today's review, we have Jurassic Park turning 30! How many of you are feeling as old as the dinosaurs at this point? XD


Released on June the 11th 1993, Jurassic Park became a global hit everywhere and was viewed as a technical achievement for its impressive animatronics and CGI work. It's currently Steven Spielberg's highest grossing movie he's ever directed and it spawned a franchise that continues to this day with the recent Jurassic World movies. Jurassic Park originally started life as a novel written by the late Michael Crichton in 1990. These days, the movies are more well-known and Jurassic Park remains one of the most beloved movies in all of cinema with many to this day still singing its praises.


For me, I did remember watching bits of the movie when I was growing up but it always scared me too much to get all the way through. It wasn't until my adult years when I finally watched it all the way through and came to love it as much as everyone else. I've also seen every sequel from The Lost World to Jurassic World Dominion which I reviewed last year. I've also spent many hours playing the awesome Jurassic World: Operation Genesis game on the PC. So yeah, I've definitely had plenty of exposure to this franchise, even if I wouldn't say I'm a die-hard fan of Jurassic Park. I do plan to watch Camp Cretaceous on Netflix one day, I hear that's good.


So to celebrate it's 30th anniversary (a couple days early I'll admit), is this a Jurassic hit that is worthy of the praise it has or is this movie a failure 65 million years in the making? Strap into your Jurassic jeeps for we're taking a tour of Jurassic Park...


Section 1: The Story


This movie will forever have one of the most AWESOME premises I've ever heard for a story, not just in movies but fiction in general. The story sees a kindly billionaire named John Hammond inviting several people such as palaeontologist Alan Grant, palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler and chaotician Ian Malcolm to see his brand new theme park that is like no theme park ever created. Named "Jurassic Park", John's big dream is to open up a theme park that has real living dinosaurs for the public to enjoy. But things go awry when a greedy man named Dennis Nedry is hired by Lewis Dodgson to sabotage the park. Jurassic Park becomes a fight for survival as our heroes have to escape the island and avoid killer dinosaurs while they're at it.


Before anyone asks, no, I HAVE NOT read the novel but I am aware that some things have changed between adaptations such as John Hammond being entirely re-written from his original Scrooge-like character to being a more kind-hearted man thanks to reading some info on the movie and seeing reviews from actual Jurassic Park fans. Still, this review will NOT be about how it is as an adaption of the book because I haven't read the book. This will be from the perspective of a movie-goer and how the film holds up as a movie. So how does the movie hold up? AMAZINGLY, that's how.


First of all, as I said earlier, the premise is absolutely awesome. Full credit goes to the book of course as that's where the idea came from and I praise Michael Crichton to the high heavens for such a cool concept for a story. I mean it's a story about a DINOSAUR THEME PARK! What's not to love about that?! As is, the film (and I assume the book also) don't just make this some generic set-piece for a kid's action-adventure movie. No, they actually play it pretty seriously for the most part. They aim for realism when depicting the dinosaurs (or as much as they could at the time), they don't make them just cool things for the kids to enjoy and there's a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes that cover the logistics and real-world procedures that would go into making such a park. This whole thing helps ground this fantastical premise and makes it more believable as a result. Of course they still play around with the concept to give us some thrilling and intense action and give us scenes where dinosaurs get to do cool stuff so it's not too boring for younger viewers so this is a film where families can easily enjoy it, though I wouldn't recommend letting really young kids watch it as they might find it too scary.


Anyway, Jurassic Park absolutely runs with its premise and makes it look as awesome as it sounds with all the dinosaur action and the design of Jurassic Park itself that we get to see as the movie gives us plenty of lingering panoramic shots to take in the view of the park and helps us to further buy into the dream that Hammond is hoping to make into a reality. They especially give us some scenes that just make the whole idea of Jurassic Park seem whimsically beautiful and amazing like with the famous Brachiosaurus entrance or when Alan and Ellie see the dinosaur herds all out in the open together. But it's not just about the dinosaurs in this movie. Jurassic Park also serves as a commentary on greedy capitalists that want to exploit for their own gain and also, as Ian Malcom famously preaches about: the Chaos Theory. There's a lot of talks about the arrogance of mankind and how we're so smug and full of ourselves that we think we've learned our mistakes and will learn from them but we don't and instead just make all new ones. Hammond thinks he's spared no expense when making this park but as we see in the movie, once things go wrong, they go WRONG and it's a depressing but relevant example on how in life, nothing goes as planned. If one thing goes wrong, everything can come crashing down and it's all so human to us because we've all been through this sort of thing. How many of us have had cases where we think we've got everything sorted down to the wire and then suddenly, one small thing causes it to fall apart? That's what Jurassic Park is all about: nothing goes as planned and the arrogance of mankind will only lead to more things going wrong if we never learn from our mistakes.


Not only does the story provide relevant and insightful commentary along with some sci-fi fun, but it also gives us a neat build-up to the action that we see in the film as we start off with our character introductions, then we get a tour of the park where we barely see any dinosaurs, and then once all hell breaks loose that's when we get all the dinosaur action and the whole thing becomes an action-packed battle for survival. The build-up is done so brilliantly here and only makes the action more exciting and intense as a result. It was especially smart of the writers and filmmakers to barely show any dinosaurs for the first half of the movie and any we do see are the peaceful herbivores so that when we get to the big action, their appearances feel more huge and impactful as a result. How many viewers outright jumped in their seats when they saw the T-rex for the first time? It was so effective because of how they built-up to it. Also giving us a tour of Jurassic Park itself allows for some neat world-building to further establish how this park works and what are the inner-workings of it and also makes it feel the more tragic when the place falls apart. We along with John Hammond see his entire dream just fall apart thanks to Dennis's sabotage and it leaves us with a rather bittersweet ending where the park has fallen apart, but most of them got off the island alive at least, including John himself so John's dream isn't dead yet. And as we see in Jurassic World, it did come true at last...


Much like Jurassic Park itself though, it's an idea that sounds great but might have some design flaws here and there. I know it sounds redundant to talk about it but for some reason, every damn Jurassic Park/World movie seems to feel the need to make at least a couple of humans complete idiots in order to give us a story. You ever noticed that? There's never a Jurassic Park/World movie without at least one dumb human in there! In this case it's Lex and Tim but I'd argue it makes sense that they'd have dumb moments because they're kids and all but that bit with Lex somehow struggling to turn the torch off was really taking the mickey. I mean come on Lex, I'm sure a kid your age knows how to turn a torch off! =P Other dumb moments for me include Ian lighting up another flare to distract the T-Rex despite Alan lighting up one earlier and throwing it into the enclosure to lure the T-Rex away. Like why did Ian do that? All he accomplished was causing more chaos to happen and the T-Rex ended up eating Donald Gennaro! That just felt really, really dumb of him to do and I can't for the life of me fathom what his thought process was behind that.


Also, you're seriously telling me that the security system is that poorly designed and so easily tampered with that Dennis was able to hack the whole thing, lock everyone out and leave the park basically at his mercy just from his one single computer? I'm no computer whiz, hacker or security expert but I'm pretty damn sure no security system in any place, theme park or not, is that badly designed and that one guy could take it over so easily. Hammond may have said he "spared no expense" but I would've thought that would apply to sparing no expense at making a good security system! =P


This on the other hand is less a criticism against the movie and more down to what your personal preferences are. To some people, the movie might feel a little slow and uninteresting when the dinosaurs aren't onscreen and the talking scenes might not grab your attention much. I found the pacing just fine personally but I can understand if some might find it a little boring at times. Again, that'll depend on who you are and if you find scenes like that boring or not.


Aside from that, Jurassic Park has very few flaws and any it does have don't break the story for me. The film manages to be engaging, exciting, thrilling, funny (especially with Ian's quips) and interesting to watch thanks to its great premise, cool world-building and use of dinosaurs where they can be full of wander and awe one minute and be scary and threatening the next. All this bundled up together with some bitingly relevant commentary makes it no wonder this story struck a chord with so many viewers over the years and why Jurassic Park holds up so well even to this day...


Section 2: The Characters


These are characters that have charmed audiences and been firm favourites for many movie-goers and Jurassic Park fans for years and years and it's easy to see why.


Let's start off with the man who made Jurassic Park possible: John Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough). He's a Scottish billionaire with a dream that sounds insane but he believes it's something he can do with all his tech and money: and that's to create a theme park with living dinosaurs not just for profit, but for entertainment and educational value too. John is a charmingly likeable guy who almost feels like an enthusiastic little kid at times. This makes him rather endearing and at the same time, rather tragic as he's this guy with a big dream and thanks to Dennis's sabotage, it all falls apart around him and now what's supposed to be his biggest achievement ends up being what nearly kills him and his guests in the end. While re-writing him to be a nicer guy might make some of his stinginess a little odd for many, I'm certainly glad we got this Hammond for the movie as something tells me Novel!Hammond would've made for an unpleasant viewing experience.


I'd probably say the true "main character" of the movie, and definitely the MVP for me, is Alan Grant (played by Sam Neil). Alan Grant is a tough guy who has a clear interest in dinosaurs due to his work as a palaeontologist and even as he's fighting for his life against these dinosaurs, he still manages to show fascination with them like when watching the Brachiosaurus eat or when he discovers the dinosaurs are still producing despite all being female. He also has a rather sweet arc in where he becomes something of a protective parent figure to Tim and Lex despite them not being his kids. Seeing him go through hell and back to keep them safe makes him so admirable and heroic and I love watching it every time. Alan's a badass and is easily the best character in this movie. Change my mind, I dare you. =P


We also have his colleague and possible love interest, Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern). Ellie proves to be helpful in Jurassic Park with her skills as a doctor which we see when she looks over the sick Triceratops and yes, she is a bit of a screamer but she's not a load like some female characters usually would be in these types of adventure films. She's able to help get the park's power back on when Ray Arnold failed to do so thanks to the raptors killing him and she teams up with Alan in the climax to help everyone escape the island. I wouldn't say she's the most memorable character in the movie but I liked her. I thought she was alright.


We then get the second best character in the movie, Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum). Ian is a delight whenever he's onscreen due to his dry wit and sarcastic sense of humour. He's a snarky little sod and it's brilliant. XD He does lose points for that one dumb moment he has that I mentioned earlier but that doesn't change the fact he's still the funniest character in the cast and Jeff Goldblum's sardonic delivery really sells the character for me. He's not just about being the comic relief though for he does show he's pretty smart at times for he's the one who tends to bring up the downsides to an idea like Jurassic Park (remember his famous "packed it, patented it and slapped it on a lunchbox" speech?) and how it's got some impracticalities and he also brings up the whole Chaos Theory commentary I mentioned earlier. Funny and smart, it's no wonder many fans love this guy, me included.


And to finish off our motley crew, we have John Hammond's grandkids Tim (played by Joseph Mazzello) and Lex Murphy (played by Ariana Richards). As kids, they're a bit of a load in this film but that makes sense because they're kids. They're not going to be as capable as the adults are. Tim is pretty useless overall though for he doesn't really contribute anything to the story aside from dinosaur trivia and Lex is a screamer who only really becomes useful during the climax when she gets to use her hacking skills to save the day. Some viewers may hate these kids for being useless loads but I'm more sympathetic to them because, again, THEY'RE KIDS. It's unfair to hate on them for being in a situation so far out of their depth! They could've had more use in the narrative perhaps but I like their inclusion in Alan Grant's story so I think they're fine enough here.


And then we have the villain of our movie, Dennis Nedry (played by the always lovable Wayne Knight). Dennis is just your typical greedy guy who will do anything for money and he becomes completely loathsome because of the fact he sabotages the park and causes everything to go wrong. But I say that as a means to say how well used he was. We're MEANT to hate this guy so that when he gets his comeuppance at the claws of the Dilophosaurus at the end, it's all the more satisfying. While the movie does give him a reason for betraying everyone and doing all this stuff, I do wish they went into it a little more and maybe humanized him a little more before he commits his crime. Still, he's a great love-to-hate kind of villain who has a satisfying comeuppance and Wayne Knight's always a treat to watch whenever he's in a movie.


The only other characters worth mentioning include Ray Arnold (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Robert Muldoon (played by Bob Peck). Ray Arnold's not got much to him other than being the manager of the park and his off-screen fate at the claws of the raptors and Robert Muldoon forever immortalized himself as the man that said "Clever girl" to a raptor. He's especially a let down because he's hyped up to be this skilled hunter and yet he gets outwitted and killed rather easily. Not living up to your reputation there dude. XD


And of course, I have to mention the stars of the movie: the dinosaurs themselves. Jurassic Park surprisingly doesn't have that many dinosaurs in it when you think about it. The only real noteworthy ones here are the Brachiosaurus, the Tyrannosaurus, the Velociraptors, the Dilophosaurus and the Triceratrops. That's OK though because remember, the movie shows us Jurassic Park while it's still being constructed, it's not finished yet so there won't be tonnes of dinosaurs to see like in the Jurassic World movies. Also less is more in this case because the smaller dinosaur count gives them more time to shine and we remember them more as a result. How many of us still watch in awe as we see the Brachiosaurus for the first time? Or how many of us are wowed at the sight of the Triceratops (despite it being ill)? Or how many of us are still terrified of the T-Rex when it goes on its rampage? We remember all those moments because they didn't have too many dinosaurs fighting for space and they all get their own unique scenes that gives them a great onscreen presence. The dinosaurs were brilliantly used in this movie and some of the most memorable uses of the prehistoric animals in all of cinema.


The characters are fun, likeable and memorable for a variety of reasons and the charm of their actors brings them all to life and makes them instant hits with fans and audiences for a reason. We may come to Jurassic Park for the dinosaurs, but we stay for the characters...


Section 3: The Cinematography


And now for part that made this movie famous: the visuals.


Jurassic Park was a technical and cinematic marvel at the time for its visuals that were considered ground-breaking, and many still see it that way. While yes, the visuals are great...they have definitely aged a bit. That really goes without saying since CGI tends to age worse than practical effects. That's not to say they've aged badly of course, just that it's very easy to tell when the dinosaurs are CGI and when they're not. The iconic Brachiosaurus entrance scene especially is kinda ruined a bit by how obviously CGI the Brachiosaurus is. The lighting isn't natural on it and it looks quite fake as a result. The CGI does look more convincing on the dinosaurs in scenes at night at least. Due to it being dark, it doesn't look quite as bad as the ones during the day and they blend in a little better, especially the T-Rex during its night time rampage. As is, the animatronics might've aged better than the CGI has but even then it can be easy to tell that they're animatronics. Some dinosaurs move more mechanically than others at times and the scene with Alan and the kids seeing the Brachiosaurs in the tree does pretty much look like they're interacting with a giant sock puppet. XD


But that's understandable. This movie came out in 1993 remember so the effects might look a little dated. But by the standards of the 90's this kind of technology was masterclass and by early 90's CGI, the CGI still looks quite impressive and the fact they were able to animate giant dinosaurs complete with moving muscles, flexing skin and displaying genuine weight to their movements is quite a feat. CGI was brand new back then so the fact they made it look this good back in 1993 is admirable and really shouldn't be overlooked. The animatronics on the dinosaurs are also some impressive practical effects despite my critiques earlier. The skin on the dinosaurs looks very real, they're able to make the eyes blink and even react to the light at one point like when Lex shines the T-rex's face with the torch and its pupil shrinks in response to the light. That's pretty cool and great attention to detail. The effects team also had a mixture of practical and CGI effects and would alternate between them in the scenes so that it made the dinosaurs look more believable and fooled the eye a little since we didn't get all of one thing all the time. While yes it is easy to spot when the CGI dinos come in, the mixture of both effects was still a cool touch to the movie and it's easy to see why this film got so much applause for the effects. The SFX team really worked their asses off when bringing this movie to life and I think they deserved the praise they got.


The cinematography itself is no slouch either. This IS a Steven Spielberg movie so it's going to look pretty and well directed. He gives us plenty of camera shots that not only give us a lot of pretty scenery that shows what a beautiful island Isla Nublar is and why it's such a lovely setting to build Jurassic Park on, but also gives us great shots and angles of the dinosaurs when they're action. We get a lot of scenes of the cameras looking up at the dinosaurs during the action scenes to further sell the illusion that these are giant reptilian monsters that tower over us (or at least some of them do) and for smaller dinosaurs like the raptors they do it to make them look more intimidating to the audience. The animatronics are able to pull off some things like the T-rex model is able to damage the jeep or the Brachiosaurus model is able to convincingly eat leaves or the Triceratops's body moves up and down to simulate breathing and he gives us plenty of shots to show these in action to show that not only are these impressive practical effects, but to make the dinosaurs look and feel more alive. For a movie like this, the dinosaurs have to look impressive and be convincing and aged CGI notwithstanding, Steven Spielberg really nails it.


The film is also filled to the brim with easily recognizable and iconic imagery thanks to some great work from the props and set-designers. From the giant Jurassic Park gates to the famous red, green and yellow safari jeeps to the striking Jurassic Park logo itself and even John Hammon's amber-topped skeletal style cane, this movie has imagery that you couldn't associate with anything else and it also makes sense that some of this stuff looks so distinctive and easily recognizable. This is a movie about a theme park and theme parks are all about brand recognition and distinctive imagery. It all further grounds Jurassic Park into reality and even makes the park feel more real as a result.


Jurassic Park is hailed as a technical marvel and is still in the history books as one of the biggest achievements in movie history. While the visuals have aged a little and some of the technology on display dates the movie some (blocky computers and interactive CD-ROMs much), this film still looks very impressive and is a sight to see for anyone who watches it. With some fantastic visual effects both practical and CGI, pretty shots of the tropical island and iconic imagery, this is a film you won't forget once you see what it has to show you...


Overall


30 years later, Jurassic Park still holds up wonderfully in my eyes. What little flaws it has are easy to overlook for the movie is a true delight from beginning to end thanks to its unique concept, intriguing story, memorable characters, fantastic acting, quotable dialogue and great direction and cinematography from Steven Spielberg and his visual effects team. Jurassic Park is a classic for a variety of reasons and it's easy to see how it became one. It's a movie-going favourite and I'm happy to say I'm among those who love this movie. I'd say go watch it...but let's face it, you already have so go watch it again. XD For any newcomers to the franchise, check it out and you'll find yourself on an enjoyable dinosaur experience that will thrill, excite, scare and entice you. This is a movie that nobody should miss...


And with that I finish off by saying Happy Anniversary Jurassic Park. Here's to 30 more years of entertaining audiences and I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie below. Do you love it? Do you not? What was your Jurassic experience like? Comment away and let me know.


Next week we return to Cybertron as we check out the latest Transformers movie. See you then media fans!

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4 Kommentare


Gast
12. Juni 2023

Amazing review. Remember watching the original movie too.. it's a real masterpiece!

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I loved the original movie a lot. The sequels either were meh or fun watches but they don't have that same sense of awe the original has. Jurassic park iconized dinosaurs in a way.

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Jacob Coad
Jacob Coad
09. Juni 2023

"Jurassic Park" has been one of my favorite films ever, and this review did the movie some justice. :D

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Gast
09. Juni 2023

Quite a review you did here, I certainly am glad Hammond was rewritten into a kinder person, and like you I’m impressed by how they did CGI back then. But of course, the characters will be worth remembering like Alan and Ian, both of whom are quite the opposites of each other yet you still like them.


should’ve given a shoutout to the music, that moment where the dinosaurs first appear in the movie is iconic.


But it’s funny you bring up how in some cases animatronics look a little dated including CGI because I rewatched a few horror classics on Disney+, but I think I’ll tell you about them later.

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