Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is a phenomenal example of a blockbuster done right. It’s a film stuffed with staggering visuals, yet the human element is still the most important and the sense of wonder is paramount. Spielberg wisely avoids creating a monster movie and creates a semi-credible tale based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, infusing the motion picture with a sense of scope and some controversy along the way.
Jurassic Park packed a budget of $63 million, with animatronic dinosaurs and go motion creatures used along with some computer-assisted goodies. The look of the film is still very good and the realism is off the page, especially in some of the picture’s more subtle scenes. The movements of the dinosaurs, explored through ground-breaking animatics, are stellar to this day.
The classic story features billionaire CEO John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his creation, Jurassic Park. A theme park populated with dinosaurs cloned from DNA discovered in prehistoric amber, Jurassic Park has a bit of a rocky ride coming to fruition. After a Velicoraptor kills a park worker, Hammond starts to experience some trouble with investors. They’re concerned about the safety of the park, as only fictional investors would be, so the billionaire sets out to have it “accredited.”
This brings in Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). He is a paleontologist and she is a paleobotanist. There’s also mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), whose chaos theory comes into play more often than he’d like, and a lawyer (Martin Ferrero). The group is taken by the grandeur and improbability of the park, but they can’t help but worry about what happens if something goes wrong. When something does go wrong, all hell breaks loose.
Jurassic Park wonderfully draws up some scientific and moral questions. The issue of whether or not we should venture forth into certain scientific arenas is crucial, especially to Malcolm. The majesty of looking at real dinosaurs is one thing, but the fact that the animals went extinct for a reason and are not evolved to be a part of our modern environment comes into play. These issues have contemporary context, as our paths to discovery are rarely tempered by questions of whether or not we should go further. Human arrogance tends to have quite a cost.
Despite the fact that some practical things go wrong on the path to chaos at the park, the issues remain. Something probably would’ve gone wrong inevitably. It was just a matter of time. The human-built safeguards, electric fences and genetic alterations, would’ve only gone so far. When the discovery as to the amphibious DNA is made, a whole other avenue of danger arrives.
Beyond the ethical quandaries Jurassic Park brings up, it really is a hell of a good adventure film. There are many famous scenes, from the dazzlingly shot T-Rex sequence when the power first goes off to the scary-as-hell Velociraptor bits involving the two kids (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) in the kitchen. Spielberg’s cinematographer, Michael Kahn, skilfully illuminates the tension and danger with impeccably chosen shots.
Jurassic Park also scores points for providing a sense of ever-unfolding wonder. The sheer scope of the picture is hard to imagine, but Spielberg wisely unrolls things at a slow pace. The dinosaurs are revealed carefully and precisely, with tension building through the movie’s earlier scenes as the audience wonders when the inevitable is going to happen. The magic of the massive front gate of the park is still a sight to behold.
Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is a marvellous achievement that still towers as a great work today. It is a classic spectacle of a movie, but it still presents ethical questions and has a lot more depth than most of today’s blockbusters. It has wide appeal, having generated accolades from the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Werner Herzog, and remains a superb example of storytelling and the cinematic medium at its very best.