Monday, 9 March 2015

Review: Jurassic Park

Figure 1: Theatrical teaser poster
(Outlaw, 2014)
  • Native Title: Jurassic Park
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Colour
  • Year of Release: 1993
  • Budget: est. $63,000,000
  • Film Length: 127 minutes
  • Production Company: Universal Pictures
    Considered one of Spielberg's landmark creations alongside Jaws and E.T., Jurassic Park is a spectacle action film based on a novel of the same name. Set on the mysterious island of "Isla Nubar"off the coast of Central America, wealthy businessman John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invites two palaentologists, a scientist and a representative of the park's investors to prove the park is safe and almost ready to open. However the desires of a rival company and the questionable behavior of Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) as he escapes with a vital sample of dinosaur embryos, causes the park's systems to fall into disarray, ultimately setting numerous dangerous dinosaurs loose within the park.

Figure 2: For a guy who has no problem compressing the unpredictability
of life and consequence into an equation he certainly spent a lot of time in the
 "has science gone too far?" camp. (Crea, 2014)
    One of the first questions posed in this film, and an overarching one at that, is voiced by Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), saying that he "recognizes that nature resists artificial control, and that knowledge without discipline (the thrust of Crichton's novel) equals disaster" (Shannon, 1993). In other words, there is a message of "We have the ability to toy with genetics and play God. Does that mean we should?" What is interesting about this statement is that the 1990s were the era of the human genome project; an attempt to map out and decode every nanometre of human DNA. Thus, the 1990s were an era when the ramifications of genetic engineering was starting to become a very serious matter. However a part of me does not like Malcom for said opinion as within a boardroom he rants about how Hammond didn't earn the knowledge to create dinosaurs for himself and instead used the discoveries of other people to create his work. People of which, however, Hammond most likely hired in order to understand how to do what he actually wanted. They may have been confident that they could control the dinosaur populations, perhaps a little too confident (which as it turns out, as these kinds of movies go, he was right) but as it turns out, Malcom's concerns for "nature finding a a way" were a combination of Nedry putting profit before caution and the scientists being sloppy.

   The dinosaurs themselves were nothing less than a spectacular blend of computer generated imagery and high-spec animatronics. "“Jurassic Park” marked the moment when Hollywood could create a perfectly convincing dinosaur. No more stop-motion theatrics or other tinny effects. Spielberg makes that movie magic count, delivering scene after scene of “can you top this” theatrics?" (Toto, 2015) and for a while, yes, it was indeed hard to top. There was indeed a lot of work that went into giving the dinosaurs character from the curious sniffing of a brachiosour to the irritated sneer of one of the velociraptors and the playful, curiosity of the dilophosaurus that Nedry wrongfully assumed was too dumb to chase after a stick like a dog. Some of them, like the dilophosaurus and a Triceratops only appeared for a few minutes and then never seen again, but each one has such personality to them it's hard to forget them even when the film is over.
Figure 3: The admittedly rather adorable dino that ruined Nedry's day. ("Claw", 2013)
    As with Jaws, a lot of the dinosaur activity is either only hinted at or shown suggestively. ""Jurassic Park" keeps its viewers on edge while leaving much of its real violence to the imagination" (Maslin, 1993). While the most common examples of this action would be the T-Rex chomping the goat or the only sight of velociraptors feeding on a cow being the vigorous rustling of shrubbery and a destroyed cradle rising up (with no remains), one of my favourite instances of this is after a first encounter with the raptors, where Dr. Ellie Sattler traps one of them within a bunker, insists it's contained "unless they know how to open doors". Cue a hard cut to the sight of a door handle slowly being turned from the other side. In fact the very first kill we see (in the first three minutes of the film no less) is done this way as we see a guy get dragged into a reinforced steel cage with bars so thick it's impossible to see what's inside, but the way the poor man is dragged and yanked about is very reminiscent of Jaws' first victim, giving a strong visual insight into the raw power possessed by the beast inside.
Figure 4: We never actually see the dino inside, but the film does well in telling us "It's big, strong, and mean"
(Ammonites, 2013)
    When you look past the questions of the dangers of unrestrained science and trying to control nature (most of the crisis can be blamed on Dennis Nedry putting money before his job responsibilities), Jurassic Park is a landmark film in it's visual and audio spectacle; it's capacity for suspense and the quality of the CGI even after 22 years, the film is a marvel of cinema. Thanks to the talent of Spielberg's production team, spectacle and performance of the dinosaurs make each of them characters as distinct and identifiable as some of Hollywood's most prolific heroes and villains.

 Image References


  1. nice review, Mark - and the link with the raptor attack and Chrissie's death in Jaws is a lovely 'spot' :)