Tuesday, February 19, 2013
(June 1993, U.S.)
Hard to believe it's been 20 years, but...
During the Summer of 1993, I'd never seen such fever, excitement and mania for a brand new summer adventure blockbuster movie since Steven Spielberg's own E.T. in 1982. Key words here are BRAND NEW; not a sequel or a remake (not at that time, anyway). That summer I was working in a local book store while trying to find a more permanent career position and let me just tell you that with the new film came a dinosaur craze like I hadn't seen before. The paperback version of Michael Crichton's original novel was selling like hotcakes and parents were buying any and all books on dinosaurs for their children to read. Even before Crichton's book was originally published, many studios had already begun bidding to acquire the motion picture rights. Yes, it seemed that even if JURASSIC PARK had sucked, it still would have been an incrediby high-grossing movie sensation.
Although it's understandably easy and tempting to classify JURASSIC PARK as a monster movie, this tale of the fictional island Isla Nublar near Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, where a billionaire philanthropist of the InGen Corporation named John Hammond (played by the great Richard Attenborough) and a small team of genetic scientists have created an amusement park of actual cloned dinosaurs, authentically plays out not only the very real possibilities of the cloning procedures but also explores the very real dangerous powers of bringing back dinosaurs in the 20th Century to live amongst mankind. As mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum) clearly puts it, "God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs." With Dr. Malcom are paleontologists Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern) who are brought to the island for the weekend in the hopes that they'll professionally endorse the new theme park. As in many cliche tales of terror, all seems fine and good with things in this little world of the unknown and the awesome...until something goes wrong.
Once the viewer is brought past the technical and educational facts of dinosaurs and how they can be (fictitiously) created, then the real fun and the real terror begins. Like JAWS (1975), it's nearly an hour before the real action of survival against the monsters begins, and it's absolutely terrifying that it all begins with the simple thump of the approaching menace. One can feel the true fear of what's coming to get us simply by watching the electrical fences fail all over the park as well as watching a plastic cup of water in a car ripple as the monster's footsteps gets closer and closer, louder and louder. Like the arrival of KING KONG himself, the first time we see the great Tyrannosaurus Rex, we know bad things are about to happen and people are going to get killed. This is a truly scary action sequence that doesn't even require any of John Williams' brilliant score to help it along. This particular scene also invokes an observation I've maintained for sometime in that as gentle a man as Steven Spielberg is, particularly with children, he never fails to put them in the most horrifying situations of fear, peril and survival. Consider these examples:
- Alex Kintner killed by the great white shark in JAWS.
- Barry Guiler taken from his mother by aliens in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.
- The Freeling children scared out of their wits and taken away in POLTERGEIST.
- Children abused and made as slaves in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.
- Young Celie raped and abused in THE COLOR PURPLE.
- Young Jimmy suffering the abuses of war in EMPIRE OF THE SUN.
- The Panning children kidnapped by pirates in HOOK.
You see what I'm getting at here?? My son is seven years-old and I just know that one day he'll absolutely love JURASSIC PARK. But for right now, the scene of those two poor children getting attacked by a ferocious meat-eating dinosaur would surely keep him up for a few nights.
JURASSIC PARK is surely a CGI lover's dream-come-true! Having taken the first steps that had already been done in James Cameron's THE ABYSS (1989) and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991) and bringing them to the next level, we are truly witnessing the miracle of a species of animal long-since-extinct come back to life again on the big screen. And as I mentioned earlier, this is not brought to us as some cheap monster movie. This is a very convincing fictional tale of man and beast, the scientific realities of what is possible and the things that can go horribly wrong when the power of such possibilities is unleashed on the world. Like other Spielberg efforts before it, JURASSIC PARK is a perfect eye-popping, mind-bending, kick-out-the-fucking-jams thrill ride of the summer blockbuster genre. The film perfectly delivers on its promise to show us all dinosaurs and to show them early and often. They are, indeed, a visual triumph of special effects artistry, with some of Spielberg's best sequences of sustained awe and sheer terror since JAWS. And like that great film of 1975, there probably isn't very much more I could say about JURASSIC PARK that any loyal fan doesn't already know. I will say, though, that the two sequels that followed, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997) and JURASSIC PARK III (2001) did very little for me. It was a simple case of SSDM - same shit, different movie! Heaven help us, but JURASSIC PARK IV is coming soon!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Dr. Ian Malcom (to the security camera in the tour car): "Ah, now eventually you do plan to have DINOSAURS on your, on your dinosaur tour, right? Hello? Hello? Yes?"
John Hammond: "I really hate that man."