Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jurassic Park

I recently got to see 's classic dino-thriller in its full effect at a theater. I've seen it through at least three times now, and bit and pieces of it several more times, but I only now feel as though I've really seen it. So it's about time I reviewed this thing.

There's our hero shot.

As a movie lover I am biased toward the work of Spielberg. There is something truly magical that comes through his films, especially his science fiction films, and none more so than this one. The sense of adventure, the grandeur, the awe, is unmatched. I didn't even watch this until I was in my teens, and even then it didn't make a huge impression on me at first, but I still have a fierce nostalgic attachment to it. This flick has flaws, yes, mostly in the form of casual plot holes common in action and horror films. It's the nature of the beast, and in a lot of ways, those little marks and flaws endear the movie to me even more.

I think the reason I didn't originally fall for this film was because I saw it at an inopportune time. I was young enough that I tried to identify with the kids, and I had seen enough visually impressive movies that the dinosaurs weren't enough to win me without character. Of course, identifying with the kids didn't work out, because let's face it, they're annoying. However, now that I'm old enough to be naturally inclined to identify with the adults, it doesn't matter how annoying the kids are. In fact, it helps, because Dr. Grant thinks the exact same thing.

That of course is why it's so cute that he gets stuck with them!

It took me a while to warm to 's Grant (at first I thought Malcolm was supposed to be the main character, which was confusing for me) but now that I finally have, he may even replace Malcolm as favorite character. It's great that we can sympathize with his aversion to children even if we don't happen to normally feel the same way, and he doesn't comes across as too much of a jerk. So then his journey to overcoming prejudice and changing his mind is easy to get behind and enjoy. He has that Indy/John McClane cynical action-hero thing going, and balances it with brains and a big-softie side. My favorite thing about him is his immediate dedication to protect the kids even though they're not his favorite type of human. "He left us! He left us!" "But that's not what I'm going to do." The delivery of that line is spot-on epic.

Of course Dr. Malcolm is still that character that you just can't help but love, especially when he's played by . Everyone knows that the rock star scientist is the coolest kind of scientist, and, well, there it is. Malcolm keeps the energy going constantly with his clever and funny quips, doing great things with the majority of the film's comic relief, and generally just being Jeff Goldblum and therefore being interesting no matter what he's saying. 's Ellie came at a time when a female character didn't have to forgo being charming in order to be sufficiently feminist, so while she does quip about sexism, it's done in a way that lends her a cool confidence like she really couldn't care less. She has a natural, easy likability, and is smart and brave.

All the dinosaurs in the world (or not in the world) can't replace human characters. On that note...

Now the dinosaurs. And this is interesting, because I've actually grown more and more impressed with them over the years. Yeah, the animation doesn't hold up so well, and the first scene that shows them is probably the worst animation-wise which detracts a bit from the wonder of the moment. Really though, it holds up way better than a 1993 film has a right to, and that is due to the animatronics. This is the first viewing of this film I've had since I saw Jurassic World, and it really struck me how the animatronic triceratops is actually more believable than the apatosaurus featured in the sequel 22 years later. Maybe that believability has a little to do with the stunned look of awe on the actors faces in this one... or maybe not.

The T-Rex is spectacular. The animatronic is incredible and still pretty incomprehensible to me, and I barely even noticed animation mixed in with it, because I was so absorbed in the terror of the scenes featuring Rexy. My favorite though, is the velociraptors. Cunning, sneaky, and terrifying. With Rexy, all you have to do is hold still, but I've never been able to figure a plan for if ever I'm being hunted by a raptor, and that's what makes them so scary. They're featured heavily, and were probably very tricky to do. They're certainly at their best when in animatronic mode, but the mixing was done really well. The obvious reluctance to animate them made for some fantastic creativity with the filming that translates intensely onscreen. And then the rare animated shot fills in the gaps.

There's a realness to this that CGI still isn't able to fully recreate.

A lot of the time with classic films, I can tell why they're classics, but have trouble going past liking them as a classic and getting to a point where I like them in a way that is uninfluenced. It can be a large hurdle to get over. I believe I have officially made it over that hurdle with Jurassic Park now. Perhaps because now that I've seen it as it was meant to be seen -- felt the T-Rex roar vibrate in my chest while that magnificent theme brought on a cheesy grin and misty eyes. I experienced it fully, and have found my own reasons to love it. I've begun to understand the filmmaking aspects, fallen in love with the characters, laughed, cried, was thrilled by the well-crafted suspense and terror, and blown away by the awe and wonder. A Spielberg classic, absolutely -- and worlds more.


  1. Nice review! It's so cool you got to see it in theaters. I did too a few years ago and it was so much fun. I totally agree about the special effects. CGI can be great but an excessive use of it can make a movie look flat. The animatronics and the epic scale of the movie still holds up.

    1. Thanks Katy! It was a really fun experience. I'm definitely gonna have to do that again with more older movies! Exactly, CGI is great, but it still can't mimic the realism of practical effects like those. Maybe just because we know it's really there!

  2. Great review! I like your last paragraph especially, I haven't seen Jurassic Park yet (but it's on my watch list), but I can relate to that feeling in terms of other movies.

    1. Thanks a bunch Sarah! It's really nice when that happens, isn't it? I hope you love it whenever you get around to it!! :D