October 3, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Jurassic Park blew my mind as a kid. I was just a tad too young to see it at the cinema when it came out in 1993, but saw it soon on video and fell in love.
So did a lot of people. The film grossed $900 Million worldwide and toppled E.T. to become the best-selling film of all time, until Titanic came along and sank it. It would a list of awards longer than a Diplodocus’ neck, revolutionised CG and paved the way for pretty much every epic special effects film released since.
Rant over. But last week it was being shown in screens across the country to promote the blue-ray trilogy coming out soon. Many films declared great at the time don’t age well, especially dino-themed ones (See The Land That Time Forgot for proof). So after nearly 20 years on, does Spielberg’s ultimate dinosaur film still stand tall?
For those somehow unfamiliar with the concept, a rich businessman, played by Richard Attenborough, has created an island park populated by dinosaurs. A groups of archeologists, mathematicians, lawyers and Attenborough’s grandchildren all take a tour of the park, and due to some corporate espionage by a disgruntled technician everything goes tits up fairly quickly.
In terms of story and science, it holds up well. Though in reality it’s impossible, using dinosaur blood found in fossilised mosquitos to create clones still sounds plausible, indeed every time any bit of ancient tissue is found, promise of Jurassic Park-esque cloning is suggested in the news. After the frozen baby woolly mammoth was found a few years ago some news stations were promising fields of the cloned beasts or crossbreeds in a few years (Pleistocene park doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?). Likewise the idea of a disgruntled computer nerd, played excellently by Joseph Mazzello (who could easily be the prototype for all slobbish bloggers of today), trying to give the park’s secrets to another company is a great catalyst for the events in the story.
In fact the only thing that lets the plot down are the computers. The simplistic nature of how the park is run looks almost laughably backwards by today’s standards, chances are that the nearest iPhone or Blackberry have more processing power than the whole of Jurassic Park did. But it’s all a small niggle and adds a bit knowing humour as the answer to all their technology problems is the tried and tested “Turn it off and on again.”
Even though chances are you know the outcome, the action still draws you in, the quick turns and surprises can still make you jump. The fear of being face to face with giant reptiles bent on eating everything that moves still has the power to make you root for everyone to make it out.
In terms of special effects, it’s aged incredibly well. Spielberg’s use of animatronics means most of the scenes look as real and classy as the first time. The few scenes where the film shows it’s age are forgiven, the drama or excitement (The T-Rex chasing a 4×4, velociraptor trying to eat children) sucking you in far too much to notice. The Sound deserves a mention, the dinosaur calls stick scare you crap out of you, and when you find out how they made them it’s really rather clever (The T-Rex was a mix of baby elephant, tiger and alligator, while the velociraptor were a mix of walrus, goose, african crane and human rasping).
Of course John Williams’ epic soundtrack is up their with Star Wars and Indiana Jones in terms of instant recognition and hum-ability. His score adds the drama and tension at all the right points and rounds off a classic film.
The themes and questions that are raised in between exist the action and adventure still ring true today; Is it ethical to bring back Dinosaurs if we could? How would Dinosaurs react to humans? Could we coexist? Why isn’t Jeff Goldblum in more films? How come we don’t all own islands off Costa Rica?
Dinosaur films since Jurassic Park and it’s sequels are few and far between, and with good reason. It’s a damn near perfect example, and any attempt to outdo it would be futile. But what did happen was people started to realise that grand things were possible with computers. It was possible to create whole worlds and fill films with special effects without it looking naff.
(As a side note, Wiki claims that Tim Burton was interested in buying the film rights from the Michael Crichton book before Spielberg got to it. Can you imagine how dark, weird and disturbing that would have been?)
There have been plenty of films that I loved as a kid are nigh on unwatchable now. Jurassic Park is not one of them.