Friday, December 23, 2011

My Review of Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park is certainly an interesting movie. I have heard many great things about it from many different people, but I have also heard awful things about it from the person I ended up watching it with. But you may wonder, what do I think of the movie myself? Well, I think that Jurassic Park is an undeniable technical achievement and a landmark in CGI, and at times, it has some genuinely scary moments. However, it has definite scriptural flaws, especially having to do with the characters, and some problems with logic that somewhat hinder the story. However, in terms of pure spectacle and entertainment, Jurassic Park is certainly one of the best of its kind.

Jurassic Park is about Dr. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who has created an amusement park populated with real dinosaurs cloned from DNA preserved in mosquitos. The safety of the park is being questioned by the investors after a worker is attacked by one of the dinosaurs. They send their lawyer to the park, and three scientists are invited (a mathematician, a paleontologist, and a paleobotanist). These three are Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Satler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, easily my favourite actor in the movie). Joining them on the island are Hammond's grandchildren (who appear to have no parents of which to speak) Lex and Tim.

The scientists are skeptical of the idea of dinosaur cloning, but the group sets off on a guided tour of the park. This tour takes a weird turn when Satler sees a sick triceratops and goes out to take care of it (which doesn't make sense, she's a paleobotanist, not a doctor). In the meantime, it turns out that one of the computer programmers (Newman himself, Wayne Knight) is in the employ of one of the company's rivals, and is trying to steal dinosaur embryos. During the theft, the security systems are shut down, which includes the electric fences, allowing the dinosaurs to run rampant through the park. These dinosaurs don't know what century they are in, and they know to defend themselves against predators, which these humans appear as. I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.

The system shutdown also means that the group is stranded in their tour cars, leading to one of the iconic scenes involving the two kids and a T-Rex. I'll take this time to talk about the kid actors and how they are one of the most notorious parts of the movie. A lot of people don't like the kid actors in this movie because they think the kid actors are annoying. In the beginning, I agreed with them because before the dinos, they were annoying as all hell. However, when they are in the car during the T-Rex scene, I sympathize with them because if I were in that situation, I would be terrified too. In fact, I probably would have hyperventilated severely, as that is what I tend to do when I'm nervous. The actors themselves are not quite as awful as many kid actors nowadays, but I do see the annoying aspects of them.

The rest of the movie entails the doctors running away from the dinosaurs and trying to reboot the park's security system to get the dinosaurs back in their place. They also discover that the dinosaurs are breeding on their own, reinforcing (through some genetobabble) what Dr. Malcolm says earlier in the movie with regards to controlled breeding, "life will find a way". The whole ethical question of cloning is one of the main aspects of the book (so says the person I watched the movie with), and it is kind of dumbed down to appeal to broader audiences. I will have to read the book someday, as I also hear it is more detailed in the scientific stuff as well as the character relationships. However, it is kind of unfair to compare a book to a movie, so we'll just look at the movie by itself.

First of all, let's talk about what is easily the best and most talked-about part of the movie. The special effects in this movie are absolutely amazing, and they were absolutely state-of-the-art at the time this movie was released. This was the first time that realistic dinosaurs had been portrayed on film, which is why this film is considered a landmark in CGI work as well as just special effects in general. This is funny because anyone who watches the TV show Terra Nova (executive-produced by Steven Spielberg) knows that the show draws a lot of parallels from Jurassic Park, including the animation for the dinosaurs. However, the dinosaur animation actually looks much crappier on the show than it does in Jurassic Park. One would think that with the technological innovations that have happened between 1993 and 2011, the dinosaur animation would look better now right? You'd be mistaken. Quality in other media notwithstanding, the effects, as well as the set design and scenery, look amazing, making for a visually splendid movie. The soundtrack is also amazing, with some of the best themes that John Williams has ever composed outside Star Wars. It is extremely obvious what emotions they are supposed to encite (the first theme being used during epic moments, like when Neill and Dern see the dinos for the first time, and the second being used for tender moments) but that doesn't stop them from being any less epic and any less brilliantly composed.
The film also has some extremely viscerally thrilling and oftentimes terrifying moments. This brings me back to the iconic scene where we first see the T-Rex. I'm sure if I saw that in theatres, it would have utterly terrified me. Seeing it on a small screen definitely lessened that, but I can't deny the effect that it must have had on some audiences, likely really young kids that wanted to see the cool dinosaurs. However, kids like being scared more than we give them credit for, because it keeps them interested in the story. I would have no problem showing Jurassic Park to my kids (were I to have any) if they were older and really wanted to watch it, because even though there is some scary stuff, it adds to the overall quality of the film. The way Hollywood is going nowadays, I can see Jurassic Park getting a 3D rerelease, which I'm sure would upset some people, but I would be interested to see it on the big screen, mostly because it came out three years before I was born, but also to capture the thrill on a large screen.

However, there are definite flaws in logic that might seem like nitpicking, but they just really bugged me throughout. The first big one is the mind-boggling lack of security on the park. I mean, there is some mention of nondisclosure forms and one security system that keeps watch of the entire park, but on a top-secret project such as this, you'd think Hammond would arrange for it to be a bit more safe. If security in the park were realistic, anyone entering or exiting would likely be searched, there would be multiple backup systems and ways of manually operating everything on that island. There would also be better door locks and more than just electric fences to contain the dinosaurs. But if everything in the park was more logically designed, we wouldn't have a story. Secondly, if Lex and Tim (Hammond's grandkids) had responsible parents (or any parents at all for that matter), they would not be going to the island by themselves. If Hammond's son or daughter is a responsible parent, he will be in deep shit for putting their children (and his grandchildren) in danger. However, they are not mentioned, so they might not have any parents and Hammond could be their guardian.

Story problems and gaping flaws in logic aside, there are also some problems with characters. Sam Neill and Laura Dern give agreeable performances, but their characters are both kind of bland. My personal favourite of the performances was by far Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Malcolm. Goldblum is one of my favourite actors by far, and he is charismatic enough to cover the awkward moments with Neill and Dern, as well as the forced cutesy moments with Neill and the kids. Richard Attenborough is excellently nutty as Hammond, and you can somewhat feel for him when all he has worked for comes crashing down around him. There are other small roles in the movie, like B.D. Wong playing a geneticist and a pre-Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson as the park's chief engineer, and not to mention Wayne Knight as the computer programmer who's fault it is that the dinosaurs escape. They are all decent in their performances, and Knight is deliciously villainous, making it all the more hilarious the way he is (SPOILER) dispatched (END OF SPOILER). Needless to say, decent performances all around.

For all the flaws I have pointed out, I do like Jurassic Park, and I would definitely watch it again. It is one of the definitive 90's movies and definitely for a reason. It is a landmark in special effects and it still holds up to this day as an utter classic. It isn't perfect, in fact it's far from perfect, but I do suggest those who haven't seen it to give it a look-see. I know I scored it rather low, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good movie, and that doesn't mean that it isn't worth watching. I also watched the sequels today as well (which I have no intention of reviewing) and while they certainly aren't awful, they are nowhere near as good as this, which is probably in my top 5 favourite Spielberg movies. So in short, see Jurassic Park. Flaws notwithstanding, you likely won't be disappointed.


Don't kill Jeff Goldblum, he's the best actor in this movie

1 comment:

  1. good review, Harley. A friend of mine keeps asking me whether i've seen this film whenever he see's me, and my answer is always No. I feel like I need to remedy this soon