Jurassic Park

Jurassic World is in theaters June 12, 2015. The newest Dino action movie starring Chris Pratt will revive a franchise dormant since 2001. With a little over two months to the big day, a review of all four movies seems a good way to examine the highs and lows of the franchise.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg’s special effects masterpiece, based on the Michael Crichton novel, takes viewers on an adventure through a theme park of cloned dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs escape, a small band of people must navigate their way to safety. The movie is part action, part adventure, part horror/thriller and can be summed up in one word: Perfection. Jurassic Park is the best film ever made.

Now that opinion can be argued against a million different ways. People may point to a mediocre script and flat characters as points against the movie. Jurassic Park shares a wavelength with Jaws, another Spielberg film, and you can certainly argue the “human” element of that movie shines through more effectively. However, I will methodically explain how excellence across the wide spectrum of filmmaking endows Jurassic Park with all it needs to compete for the top spot.

Directing – Few can dispute Steven Spielberg’s competence as a director. While his movies often lack the style and depth of a Quentin Tarantino, a Martin Scorsese or a Stanley Kubrick, the man knows how to shoot a film. Jurassic Park’s subject matter is the perfect vessel for Spielberg to bring his vision to life. Tackling a world where dinosaurs and man coexist, and making it believable to a mass audience, is no small task. Spielberg manages it beautifully.

Writing – Michael Crichton was an accomplished author and screenwriter. In addition to Jurassic Park, he created ER, The Andromeda Strain, Congo and other stories that exist in multiple mediums. Ask anyone who has read the novel Jurassic Park and they will tell you it’s even better than the film. Widespread popularity doesn’t always mean critical success, and vice versa, but he achieved both during his career.

Script – While the script rises to serviceable, it is by no means the driving force behind the movie’s success. The plot works for the genre but characters can sometimes seem stockish and one dimensional. Movies are often superficial versions of their source material, which is the case here. However, the excitement and thrills of the adventure outweigh any philosophical issues that may be lost in translation.

Score – John Williams composed the music for Jurassic Park. It is an iconic, epic score I’ve seen included on the playlists of people with varying musical tastes. That’s to say nothing of John Williams’ reputation as one of the best movie composers of all time.

Acting/Characters – As stated earlier, the characters can sometimes seem flat. However, the actors also provide some of the most memorable parts of the movie. Richard Attenborough’s interaction with a pre-recorded version of himself, Jeff Goldblum’s “One big pile of shit” line, and Sam Neill detailing to a bratty kid how a pack of Velociraptors would devour him are just a few of many wonderful moments in this film. The characters all have their “thing” and it works given the focus on the fallout of the events. Alan Grant has an arc, John Hammond has an arc, Newman gets eaten by a Dilophosaurus. These are positive things.

I’d also like to note that Laura Dern, who plays Dr. Ellie Sattler, was 26 when Jurassic Park was released. I am now older than she was back then. Craziness.

Quotability – This relates to both characters and script, but the movie is extremely quotable. A few of my favorites:

  • “Some of them smell. Babies smell.” – Alan Grant on kids.
  • “We have a T-Rex.” – John Hammond, to an incredulous Dr. Grant.
  • “Shoooooot her. Shoooooot her.” – Robert Muldoon, while a raptor attempts to tear a fellow worker apart.
  • “Dodgson, Dodgson, we’ve got Dodgson here! See nobody cares.” – Dennis Nedry.

The total list is about a hundred times more expansive. Basically, I can quote the script.

Special Effects – The impossible element to overlook. Jurassic Park set a standard for the time it was made and put most of its contemporaries to shame. While dated compared to the best CGI today, Jurassic Park’s computer generated effects still hold up. When you look at the dinosaurs and compare them to the cartoonish depictions of wolves or goblins in today’s crap, you realize that great care was given to breathing life into this fictional world.

The movie embodies the wonder of the filmgoing experience that’s so lacking in today’s big budget epics. A focus on bigger and better has superseded the need for any kind of realism or emotion (looking at you, Star Wars prequels). I twice saw Jurassic Park at a drive in movie theater, surrounded by trees and tall grass. The prospect of a raptor climbing out of the landscape scared the bejesus out of me. The film uses its effects effectively.

Critical Reception – Jurassic Park is 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box Office Success – Jurassic Park’s $50.1 million dollar opening weekend was record breaking for the time. The film made $914 worldwide in it’s initial run and combined with a 2013 re-release in 3D, has grossed over a billion dollars, which ranks 15th all time.

Watchability – One of the biggest elements working in Jurassic Park’s favor is its watchability. Films like Citizen Kane or Casablanca, both of which I love, the latter of which I consider my second favorite film, are often near the top of best movie lists. The truth is, though, that while these movies are classics and set the standard for countless others, they aren’t necessarily appealing to wide audiences. Critical acclaim (which Jurassic Park attained) can be seen as a measure of snobbery when more accessible movies are released to mediocre reviews. Jurassic Park toes the line between these two worlds.

Recap – While many movies may have some of the criteria listed above, few have all. Jurassic Park is a culturally recognizable icon that is still well regarded 22 years later. It remains my favorite movie of all time for the reasons listed above and because of the nostalgia factor. I used to create my own park with toys and actions figures based on the movie. My cousins and I used to trade off playing raptors and humans during our summers in Upstate NY. There was a magic about it all, which I still experience with every viewing.

Watch it now.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Steven Spielberg was partially responsible for coaxing a novel sequel out of Michael Crichton, which this movie was based on. It has a lot of the surface elements that made the first movie so good. Spielberg directs, John Williams composes, Jeff Goldblum is in it. Dinosaurs.

This movie is a turd. The lead child’s gymnastics skills are set up early on so the payoff can be her kicking a raptor through a window using uneven bars. Just no.

Also Vince Vaughn is in it.


Jurassic Park III (2001)

Spielberg is gone, as is Jeff Goldblum. Sam Neill is back and Lauren Dern makes an appearance. Joe Johnston directs. He also directed The Rocketeer, October Sky, Jumanji, and Captain America: The First Avenger. These are all facts.

Another fact: The movie blows.


Jurassic World (2015)

How does one review a movie that isn’t out you ask? This image is my review:


This movie is going to suck so hard.

Please skip it, so they stop making this garbage.

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