Twitter Plot Summary: John Hammond has built a theme park and filled it with cloned dinosaurs. This can only end badly, right?
Five Point Summary:
1. Sam Neill scares a kid. Hah.
2. A first glimpse of the future. Dinosaur special effects = epicness.
3. The T-Rex gives chase whilst Goldblum does his thing.
4. “Clever girl…”
5. Slightly deus ex machina ending, but we’ll let it slide.
Here’s a little story for you, just for a change. Jurassic Park was one of the few films I went to see at the cinema in the days before I had a disposable income. At a mere 9 years of age I went to our local cinema, the ABC on Unicorn Hill in Redditch (now a Lloyds bar and nightclub) to see the film along with my brother and my grandparents. I took a photo on the day, of my brother and grandparents stood in the queue (and it was a sizeable queue – it was a three screen cinema and the ticket booth was just inside the door). Because I was 9 and not very good at pointing a camera, I managed to cut off my grandparents’ heads, but despite this I have fond memories of that trip. Why? Because I spent most of the film running out to the toilet because I was scared of all the dinosaurs. I would like to say it was because the effects are incredibly realistic, but the stark reality is that I was scared of everything. Fast forward twenty years and to mark the anniversary of the film’s release it had a special IMAX run. Could the older, wiser me make it through the film without running screaming for the exit? Given the amount of times I’ve seen it in the intervening years without another such incident occurring, I had high hopes for success.
So, the story is that mega rich John Hammond has found a way to clone dinosaurs and has built a massive park on Isla Nublar. But before he can open it to the public he needs to have the park signed off by an array of experts in the field. Seeing as dinosaurs have been extinct for 65 million years, he has to rely on archaeologists Dr Grant and Dr Sattler, and chaos ensues when one of Hammond’s employees takes the power out and makes off with some dinosaur embryos to sell to a rival company. It’s then a question of survival as the dinosaurs take over the park and the remaining people left on the island try to get away at the earliest opportunity.
The film itself is a riot, and with some deus ex machina aside, is a gripping story from start to finish. There are all of Spileberg’s staple elements present – characters we care about, a human story at the heart of the spectacle (in particular the development of Dr Grant’s attitude towards children), and most importantly of all – spectacular action set pieces. The story itself lacks depth, with corporate espionage and human frailty the reason for everything going horribly wrong, but much like the more recent Gravity, the story doesn’t have to be multi-layered if the rest of the film’s elements make up for it, and Jurassic Park delivers big on that front. We also get Jeff Goldblum doing his thing, which is a delight as always. Even the secondary characters have enjoyable moments, in particular Bob Peck as Muldoon, the park gamekeeper, whose dialogue I still quote on a regular basis (“Clever girl…” and so on). The effects were a revelation at the time, and whilst they may not look as impressive now what with twenty years worth of CGI development, they still have the power to generate amazement, if not the outright awe that we experienced in 1993.
I’ll return to this as and when I get round to reviewing The Lost World, but it’s clear that Jurassic Park would have been a completely different film, at least tonally, had Spielberg made Schindler’s List first (they were both released in 1993). It would have no doubt been a much darker, less family-friendly affair and maybe that’s why the second in the series wasn’t as warmly met as this opening entry. It’s worth noting that, having read Michael Crichton’s novel many years ago, the film interpretation is a much lighter affair. Yes there’s still the peril and the element of danger, but it’s not as dark as it could have been. Small mercies, perhaps.
Was the IMAX or the 3D worthwhile? No, not really, but seeing it on a massive screen was worth the price of entry. Needless to say, this time round I sat through the entire IMAX presentation and didn’t run out to the toilet at any point. I think the cowardly 9 year old me would be proud and/or inspired to stop being a cowardly sort. That unfortunately would have to wait until I went to university, another 9 whole years later and that, my friends, is a story for another time.