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Jurassic Park (1993) Retrospective Review

Cameron's an avid comic book collector, has been watching geeky tv since the early 90s, and for a brief period, ran a comic book shop.


A Bit of History...

On November 20th, 1990, Michael Crichton's classic novel, Jurassic Park was released. The novel, like the films that were later based on it, was a cautionary tale about pushing the scientific boundaries that humanity has achieved. The anti-"cloning of primeval beasts for the sake of entertainment" message was loud and clear in the original novel and carries on throughout the movie franchise. The biggest difference between the novel and the film adaptation of Jurassic Park is the overall theme. Steven Speilberg's Jurassic Park had its share of thrills and chills (that rainy night in the tyrannosaurus's paddock haunts me to this day), but Crichton's novel was a downright horror novel. For obvious reasons, Speilberg left out most of the gore that is described on the pages of the source material, but the end result is still one of the most visually stunning films of the 90's.


The Premise

John Hammond, a venture capitalist and the founder of InGen, began the construction of a theme park/biological preservation on the island of Isla Nublar. Before he can be given the green light to open the facilities, he needs to get a handful of experts to give their seal of approval on the park and its attractions. This brings the expertise of Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist working at a dig site in the Badlands of Montana, and his onsite paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler to his island, along with the eccentric chaotician, Dr. Ian Malcolm. While Hammond is very flighty about his reasons for choosing Grant and Sattler, it becomes apparent shortly after their arrival when the group comes across a grassland inhabited by several dinosaurs (specifically three Brachiosaurs and around a dozen Parasaurolophus). If that wasn't enough, Hammond drops the bombshell that he also has a T-Rex, causing Grant and Sattler to effectively swoon at being introduced to the fossilized creatures they'd spent their lives studying. Along with the scientists, Hammond's test group includes the lawyer Donald Gennaro and Hammond's two grandchildren, Tim and Lex.

Arrogantly, Hammond initially presumes that Grant and Sattler would be enthralled with the idea of Jurassic Park, seeing as they work in the field of dinosaurs, but is quickly shut down as they and Dr. Malcolm begin to question the moral implications of resurrecting dead species, with Malcolm introducing his peers, and the audience, to his patented "chaos theory". Despite their misgivings, the group begins their tour of the park, giddy to see more of these real-life dinosaurs, but are quickly deflated as the Dilophosaurus and Tyrannosaurus are both no-shows. With the warning of an oncoming tropical storm, Hammond reluctantly calls the tour vehicles to be returned to the visitor's center. As the vehicles make their return trip, the group disembarks from the vehicles when they see a sick Triceratops. For the first time, Dr. Grant is able to reach out and touch a living dinosaur, and he is over the moon about it. Dr. Sattler offers to assist the onsite doctor, Gerry Harding to care for the Triceratops, while the rest of the group returns to the tour vehicles.

Unbeknownst to Hammond, or any other workers in the Jurassic Park facilities, Dennis Nedry, a programmer for the park, was bribed to steal dinosaur embryos to bring back to the mainland for one of InGen's competitors, Biosyn. To do so, he injects a virus into the Jurassic Park systems with the intent of distracting Hammond and his employees long enough to steal the embryos and deliver them to Biosyn's worker on the docks before the tropical storm hits Isla Nublar. While he does warn Hammond and the others that he is running a "debug" on the system, which may cause some systems to fail for 15-20 minutes, things begin to go sour when John Arnold (played by the ever-wonderful Samuel L. Jackson) notices that park fences are turning off. Unfortunately, for the visitors in the tour vehicles, with the power being cut, the cars have stopped in front of the Tyrannosaurus paddock. While Grant and the others are initially indifferent and opt to just wait out the storm in their cars, the sound of thundering footsteps begins to cause alarm.

As the Tyrannosaurus (affectionately known as Rexy) notices that the electric fences are no longer powered up, she begins tearing her way out of her paddock, snapping the cords with her powerful jaws. Grant confides to Malcolm to keep still, as the Tyrannosaurus's vision is based on movement, but all hell breaks loose when Lex breaks out a large flashlight in the other vehicle. Rexy takes notice of this bright source of movement, and believing the car to be a tasty morsel, smashes through the glass, attempting to get to Tim and Lex. Grant uses a flare to redirect Rexy's attention and to get her back in the pen, and his plan seems to be working, until Malcolm lights a second flare, intent on drawing Rexy further away. After Rexy's breakout, Dr. Malcolm is left injured, buried beneath a collapsed bathroom, Gennaro has been eaten alive, Dr. Grant and Lex are stuck at the bottom of Rexy's holding paddock, and Tim is stuck in a smashed vehicle at the top of a tree.

Meanwhile, Nedry is racing through the park, trying to find his way to the docks, but ends up getting his vehicle stuck, and finds himself face to face with one of the denizens of Jurassic Park. While Nedry laughs off the dinosaur's small stature, even threatening to run it over when he dislodges his car, his smarmy remarks are soon replaced by screaming as the Dilophosaurus's frill neck opens, and the dinosaur spits a tar-like venom into his eyes. As Nedry struggles to wipe the venom from his eyes and gets back into the driver's seat of his car, he turns to see the Dilophosaurus has climbed into the car with him. While the violence within the car isn't seen, the shaking of the car, along with Nedry's screams paints a clear picture of what is happening.

As the sun rises on a new day, Grant and the two children begin making their way back to the visitors center, with Malcolm having been picked up by Sattler and the big-game hunter, Muldoon. As the workers try to get power repaired to the park, the threat of an escaped Velociraptor pack keeps everyone on edge. Muldoon sends Sattler off to turn the power back on while he takes a stand to distract the Raptors, believing himself to be the superior hunter. He was wrong. In the power bunker, Sattler comes across the remains of John Arnold and comes face to face with another Raptor who had been trapped in the bunker. After another near run-in with Rexy, along with a flock of Gallimimus, Grant, Lex, and Tim finally arrive back at the visitors center with Sattler.

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As the power systems are beginning to reboot, the survivors realize that the Velociraptors are more intelligent than they had initially thought, managing to break their way into the communications room. As Grant tries to lead the others to safety, the pack of Raptors is pitted against Rexy, who makes short work of them. As the survivors make their way back to the helicopter to get off the island, the banner of Jurassic Park falls as Rexy lets out one of her trademark roars, proving that Isla Nublar is her territory.


What's There To Love?

Steven Speilberg is a masterful director, and opting to use a combination of practical effects and digital magic to bring the dinosaurs to life is something that can either make or break a movie. In Jurassic Park's case, it was a perfect fit. The dinosaurs that appeared on-screen did not look or feel animatronic or clunky. The effects that were used in 1993 still manage to hold up, even to this day.

The casting for the film was perfect. Sam Neill as Dr. Grant was a natural and believable everyman that got caught up in an adventure he hadn't signed on for. Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Malcolm became an icon of internet fame, going so far as to warrant his own Funko Pop in his reclined injured state, rather than the standard formatted Funko Pop. The late Sir Richard Attenborough was spot-on as an eccentric billionaire throwing money at making real-life monsters. Nobody felt out of place or awkward in the roles they played.

Unlike a lot of films that come out of Hollywood, Jurassic Park is rewatchable over and over, if not for the storyline, then for the spectacle alone of knowing that when Dr. Grant was pressing his face against a Triceratops, Sam Neill was actually touching the closest thing to a living Triceratops that exists in our world.


What Could Have Been Better?

Let's face it, as an adult, my taste in movies has changed a bit from when I first saw Jurassic Park. One thing that has not changed much is my views of this film. If anything, I would like to see a version of the story that retains the horror aspects more closely akin to the original novel, but doing so would likely require an entire reboot of the franchise, which we do not need to have.

Final Thoughts?

This movie is a masterpiece. It holds up, even after nearly 30 years, and is something that kids and adults can enjoy. The action sequences are believable, and despite being a "creature feature", this movie does not feel hokey to watch. The grounded science makes this feel like a plausible outcome to a possible future.

All things considered, I give this movie a perfect 10, not only for nostalgia but because its special effects still holds up in ways that the Jurassic World franchise just doesn't quite do.

Thanks for reading! If you think there's anything I should review next, leave a comment below! Until next time, stay frosty!

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