Jurassic Park (1993)

Eighteen years ago, Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was nearly the movie of the decade. It was a film that sparked the imaginations of millions and garnered one of the more fascinating and exciting films of all time that re-defined CGI for the twentieth century and started a trend among filmmakers. “Jurassic Park” remains one of the most memorable movie going experiences of my life, and paved the way for Spielberg as my favorite filmmaker of all time, and it fueled my interest in dinosaurs. The sight of the halos of water still sends chills up my spine. As a plot device it’s one of most simplistic yet ingenious signs of doom ever created, and as a calling card for the infamous T-Rex, it’s still damn effective.

But is it still dynamic eighteen years later?

“Jurassic Park” is that movie and just knows how to tell a story, and whether or not it’s entirely loyal to the original novel, the fact that it can properly build up enough suspense to warrant our attention, keeps “Jurassic Pack” a tightly paced and briskly written piece of science fiction. Even the introductions of our two heroes is something of a clever sequence where we meet the typical Spielbergian archetype. We have Dr. Alan Grant, an Indiana Jones persona sans the disgruntled sour disposition and whip, while Dr. Ellie Sattler is the more submissive though positively enforced female who displays a loyalty toward her husband Alan, but not an over reliance. Of course, they’re a married couple in turmoil, as is the requisite with most married couples in a Spielberg film.

Alan does not want or enjoy the company of children. But Ellie is anxious to have children around and wants one of her own. This is a consistent device throughout the entirety of “Jurassic Park” where they’re put in danger throughout the course of the story and are taught the maternal habits of the dinosaur creations of John Hammond. Though a bit too convenient, Alan is able to experience children for better or for worse when the park malfunctions and he’s forced to take them under his protection in an effort to outwit the dinosaurs and find a way in to the safe zone. These are some of the more charming and endearing moments as again, Grant presents an almost Harrison Ford-like befuddlement and irritation around brother and sister Tim and Lex, both of whom turn to him for safety and guidance when held at the mercy of the carnivorous predators of the park.

Dennis Nedry has made a deal with an outside distributor to break in to Jurassic Park and garner some of the DNA samples for Hammond’s custom made Jurassic predators for experiments and conventional methods. Being able to shut down the park’s security for eighteen hours, he manages to steal the samples and keep the rest of the tech team scrambling to bring the park back up. Unfortunately for every single person in the park, the dinosaurs within the massive park are dangerous, hungry, and stifled. They’ve gone so long without a proper hunt, that they’ve become apathetic. But when the electricity goes down thanks to the massive thunderstorm looming over the park, paired with the computer window, events go awry. And when the electric fences go down, every single predator seeps from every orifice of the park to hunt and devour the park attendants, even the horrifying and Tyrannosaurus Rex who is desperate on its prey.

As an ode (and almost blatant bit of plagiarism) to “West World,” what seems like the most brilliant experimental amusement attraction for tourists turns in to a complete nightmare where everything can go wrong, does. And in spite of Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum is priceless as the more unkempt scientist who shrieks in terror at every turn) warning and disgust at the sheer hubris and potential danger behind this experiment, Jurassic Park quickly transforms from entertainment in to a horror movie. While almost twenty years old, “Jurassic Park” thankfully retains a majority of its wonder and awe that Spielberg injected and that’s due in part to the traditional animatronics amalgamated with CGI that are enhanced by John Williams amazing score. And of course like many of the influenced directors of his ilk, Spielberg adds his fine touches as nods to his favorite films such as the gigantic wooden entrance in to the wilderness in “King Kong,” “The Valley of Gwangi,” and even “Psycho” gets a wink from the master.

As for original content, it’s all so incredible. Simple moments like a baby raptor being born from an egg still inspire a gasp and a coo. And a subtle bit of terror such as a broken electric fence cutting to a hanging goat’s leg after being devoured by the now loose T-Rex still provides a gasp and a squirm of pure tension after all of these years. Though the film attempts to remain as scientifically devoted to the source material as possible, Spielberg does turn his individual dinosaur breeds in to personalities and varying degrees of menace. While the T-Rex is the omnipotent force of terror in the film, the raptors are the slimiest and most infamous foot soldiers, almost like the mobster and his thugs. The introduction of said raptors provides some of the more thrilling action sequences, especially when it’s discovered much too late that the raptors are anything but stupid animals. And who can forget the spitter?

The ultimate demise of even the smartest and most whip smart individuals are supposed to represent scientific karma where every character’s sheer hubris and arrogance at being able to outwit the monsters make them easy fodder and prey for the predators, especially during the big build-up to the raptor hunt that leads our hunter hero in to becoming just another lamb for the slaughter. In the end it’s not about survival of the smartest, it’s about survival of the fittest, and the dinosaurs simply have the upper hand.

“Jurassic Park” is very much a take off on the classic Frankenstein tale, where the most advance scientific achievement ultimately becomes a weapon, and Spielberg’s tale of dinosaurs, hapless tourists, and an amusement park of the future is one filled with wonder, and awe, it’s a classic story and one that will continue inspiring imagination in its audiences, regardless of how cynical they may be. Performances are top notch, the score is brilliant, and the special effects still hold up in what is easily one of Steven Spielberg’s supreme masterpieces. “Jurassic Park” is a classic story with a simple yet sophisticated narrative about science gone wrong and the fight for survival against dominant predators. I still love this film passionately, and it continues to be one of the best movie going experiences of my life.