The next film I revisited really needs no introduction. It is regarded as one of the greatest summer blockbusters of all time, and helped lead a game changing trend with what graphics and effects could be in film. It fascinated and wowed us as kids and adults alike. This is my Sunday with… “Jurassic Park”.
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Run Time: 127 minutes
Starring: Sam Neil
Director: Steven Spielberg
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm
Jurassic Park is the tale of a theme park designed by John Hammond that features cloned dinosaurs. The park is on Isla Nublar, a tropical Costa Rican island. Before the park can be opened to the public Hammond seeks the approval of a select group of scientists and paleontologists including Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Ian Malcolm. It is explained to them that the dinosaur DNA was extracted from a mosquito and mixed with bullfrog DNA to ensure that they are all female and thus cannot mate. This of course brings up the ethical and moral discussions of if this is right or wrong. As the visitors are getting ready to tour the park Hammond’s grandchildren, Tim and Lex, arrive to get a “target audiences” opinion on the park. As this is going on Dennis Nedry, a computer programmer for the parks systems, plans on stealing samples of the DNA and selling them to Hammond’s competition. As the tour progresses, weather and technical glitches prove to be a disaster and the tour groups are set to return. It is at this time that Nedry turns off the system so he can make his escape. Not only is Nedry escaping but so are the dinosaurs. Now Dr. Grant and the kids are stuck inside the park fighting to get back to the base, but can they survive one of the deadliest predators that ever walked the Earth? Jurassic Park is based on the novel by Michael Crichton of the same name.
Jurassic Park is a landmark achievement in cinema. Aside from what it did for the graphics and special effects industry, the story itself asks many large and grand questions. At the start of the technological boom this film burst on the scene and asked the viewer’s essentially how far is too far? Now of course this question is asked in a large fun way, but the sentiment rings true. In our lifetime we have already seen the cloning of a sheep (Dolly), as well as the genetic modifications of plants and food, as well as selective breeding in animals. These were all great leaps in the scientific world; however one must ask when will we leap too far. That is the question brought up in Jurassic Park, and is indeed a scary thing to think about.
Throughout most of recorded history, we as a society have been fascinated with “playing god”. The most famous account of this is of course Shelly’s Frankenstein, but it is a main topic in some supernatural horror stories, and is also a main topic here in Jurassic Park. The natural order of things is that we are born, we live, and we die; that is how it has always been. Jurassic Park offers the sentiment that somethings can be brought back after it has died, and better yet, asks should it be brought back. This question alone can cause many great debates, and even though he is a sarcastic character Dr. Ian Malcolm offers some solid insight into this question. Nature in all its beauty is summed up by the survival of the fittest. If something was given the chance to live, and it died out, what makes anyone think a second go around would result any differently? Jurassic Park offers some deep questions that minds brighter than mine still disagree on. This is not an article where I want to preach the merits for or against these kinds of things, I would just like to point out the difficulty of these points that the film raises. Dr. Ian gives us one of my personal favorite movie quotes in regards to these points, (The real quote can be found at the top) just because we could do something, doesn’t mean we should.
Enough of these existential questions of science and morality and back to the fun stuff – the actual film. Based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton, the adaptation to film saw many directors and film studios fighting for the rights, and it eventually landed with Spielberg and Universal. Crichton was brought on to be a screen writer helping to adapt his novel for the screen. In the end David Koepp penned the final script which was somewhat different from Crichton’s novel. Much of the violence was left out and character changes were required to appeal to the family target audience that it was after. The biggest example is the lovable grandfatherly John Hammond. In the film version he loved his grandchildren and was horribly concerned when their lives were in danger. In the novel he wasn’t as lovable and grandfatherly, as he is more or less using his grandkids to gauge the park. The opening scene was also changed as Spielberg found it to be too violent as we saw a child being attacked. Filming in Hawaii also affected the script as a hurricane passed through. The hurricane actually destroyed the set of what was supposed to be a chase scene ending in the death of Sam Jackson’s character (Hold on to ya butts!)
The most harrowing issue in the creation of this film was how to bring the dinosaurs to life. Bob Gurr, who had created a life sized King Kong for an attraction at Universal Studios theme park (which horrified me as a child) was originally brought on to create the dinosaurs. However due to the cost as well as not having the life like look that Spielberg wanted the film had to go in a different direction. Enter the Industrial Light and Magic team of Phil Tippett, Michael Lantieri, and Dennis Muren, which was brought in to create the go motion effects. Stan Winston and his team were also brought in to create the animatronic dinosaurs. Paleontologist Jack Horner was also brought in to oversee the designs and looks of the creatures to ensure that they were as true to life as they could be. Unsatisfied with the way the effects translated to film Spielberg brought in Mark Dippe, and Steve Williams of ILM to animate the dinosaur’s movement using computer graphics, and the rest as they say was history.
Jurassic Park sports an ensemble cast headed by Sam Neill and Laura Dern. The real scene stealer was Jeff Goldblum. His trade mark sarcasm has led to one of the most beloved, and quoted movie characters. He is also the inspiration behind numerous memes that still float around today. Richard Attenborough portrays everyone’s lovable grandfather as John Hammond, and Joe Mazzello and Ariana Richards played his grandkids Tim and Lex. The cast is rounded out with memorable performances by Wayne Knight (Newman!) Samuel L Jackson, and Bob Peck. The score for Jurassic Park is one of the most recognizable and loved of all time. Composed and conducted by John Williams, the score is its own character that is, if not more, recognizable than most of the faces in the film.
Jurassic Park opened to both critical and financial success. It made over $900 million in its original theatrical run making it the highest grossing film of all time, until Titanic came out a few years later. It has been re-released and has since grossed over $1 billion, and is ranked twenty first on the list of highest grossing films of all time. It has won over twenty awards as well as being regarded one of the best films ever made. It was ranked the 35th most thrilling film of all time by the American Film Institute, as well the 55th scariest film of all time by the Chicago Film Critics Association. It finds itself number 232 on Empires 500 greatest films of all-time list, and was even voted the third best summer movie of the past 20 years by Entertainment Weekly. Jurassic Park is a gem and an achievement in film making. I know you’ve all seen it so I don’t even have to tell you to give it a watch!