I still vividly remember the first time I watched Jurassic Park. I saw the movie at a Tulsa Cinemark near 71st and Memorial. They had just installed new speakers in all the theaters, and I couldn't wait to see Jurassic Park in their new surround sound setup. There is something special about Jurassic Park, it just has a certain majesty to it. The movie still holds up today. I still get goosebumps hearing the theme music as they approach the island for the first time, or the first time Dr. Grant (Sam Neil) sees his first live dinosaur. If I had to pick a list of top ten movies which influenced my childhood Jurassic Park could sneak in somewhere.
The first act of the movie is all setup. We do not see our first dinosaur until almost thirty minutes into the movie. Spielberg does a masterful job of building this anticipation. The audience knows what it is going to eventually see. We could have been bored with the movie, but instead the story builds until they are revealed in a magnificent fashion to both our characters and the audience. The fact I still get excited about the reveal, after seeing the movie countless times, is amazing. John Williams score is perfect, and is sets the mood in this moment. The CG of the dinosaurs still holds up today. The CG in this movie revolutionized the industry, but Spielberg still used practical effects for the movie, which I think gives the movie more staying power. He did not go all out, just because he could. He still realized some practical effects were necessary. We go from seeing the dinosaurs to finding out how they were brought back.
I love the pseudo-science in the movie. Even though we know it is not possible to genetically engineer dinosaurs now, genetics at the time were a revolutionary field. The possibility was there, admittedly unlikely, but it was based enough in science to be plausible. I also enjoy the social commentary of the movie. One of my favorite quotes comes from fan favorite Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum): "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop and think if they should." It is a great quote about the dangers of science, and not proceeding without some kind of moral compass. I'm all for advancing and change, but always with some cautionJ.
The acting in the movie is superb. From Sam Neil as Dr. Grant to Richard Attenborough (RIP) as John Hammond, the entire cast does a great job. The child actors hold their own, which some credit should go to Spielberg. He seems to be able to find and get the best out of child actors (really wish he would have done Enders Game). Everyone is believable in the movie, the only character who I think is a bit over the top is the slimy lawyer (Martin Ferrero). He is a bit cartoony, but also has one of the most memorable and best cinematics deaths in history. Who else can say they were eaten by a T-Rex while on the toilet. Samuel L. Jackson, plays a very un-Sam Jackson computer nerd who gets eaten. I love seeing him in this movie, knowing if this were shot today he would have played the kick-ass hard nose game warden. Bob Peck (RIP) does a great job as the game warden. I can only hope Chris Pratt captures some of his essence in the new movie.
The second half of the movie is almost a classic monster movie. The dinosaur's, while just animals according to Dr. Grant, are modern day monsters. They chase down our characters for the last hour of the movie. They must complete harrowing tasks to escape the island with their lives. I'm not sure I could pick out who was going to die if I had never seen the movie before. Spielberg does a great job of masking who is going to survive and who will die. There are of course obvious ones, but I think they are masked well. I wouldn't have picked the game warden to die for example, and I think Hammond could have been a choice to be killed off. The suspense of the movie still holds up. The kitchen scene with the raptors still gets my heart beating faster. It is a great sequence. I remember the first time I watched the movie and jumping out of my seat when Lex was almost pulled down by a raptor jumping for her in the ceiling ducts. I still think of this every time I watch the movie.
Jurassic Park is the type of movie cinemas are made for. It is a summer blockbuster that holds up over the course of time. I think generations of people will be able to enjoy this film, well at least the next twoJ. I know my kids do. I'm not sure it is fair to try to hold the new movie to this standard. The two previous sequels did not capture the magic of the original, and I'm not sure Jurassic World will either. I hope it gets close.
Spielberg is one of the best directors of all time. I'm going to list my top five favorites that he has directed. Feel free to do the same.
My Rating: Must own on every format (VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital and whatever comes next)
Top Five Favorite Spielberg directed movies:
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Jurassic Park
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Saving Private Ryan