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Movies My Dad Likes: Jurassic Park [1993]


After inventing the movie blockbuster in 1975 with Jaws, Steven Spielberg redefined the genre again with his classic Jurassic Park. It’s been twenty-five years since Spielberg brought Michael Crichton’s novel to the big screen; thrilling audiences with life-size realistic looking dinosaurs last seen 65 million years ago. The park located on a remote island is the dream child of John Hammond an enthusiastic eccentric elderly gentleman of untold wealth played by the venerable Richard Attenborough. Unfortunately he forgot to do a safety plan and while preparing the park for his hoped for billion paying visitors a raptor eats one of the construction crew; most inconvenient. To calm his worried investors he arranges for an independent investigation by a team of impeccable standing.

The team includes palaeontologist couple Drs. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler who receive an offer to participate they can’t refuse. On arrival at the island their eyes pop out when lo and behold they see dinosaurs roaming freely. These are of course the vegetarian type but nevertheless they are most impressive and, if you didn’t know better, appear to be live animals. Alan and Ellie are played by Sam Neill and Laura Dern both of who cope with the range of expressions from joy through to outright terror with consummate ease particularly when the meat-eaters are on the loose.

Chaos Theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm is also part of the team, a very fancy title for what is basically a doom and gloom merchant. Jeff Goldblum seemed the natural choice for the role, a character type he seems most suited to. Perhaps though an unnecessary character as it’s pretty obvious even before the start that the dinosaurs would run amok, otherwise the movie would have no point. Still once his odds-on dire predictions begin to occur he is left with a small supporting role. The final member of the investigation team is Hammond’s lawyer Donald Gennaro who once on the island sees the park as a goldmine, but he really is just a snack for a T-Rex with a bad attitude. Well a lawyer of impeccable standing was somehow fanciful.

The dinosaurs are engineered by Hammond’s scientific team to be all female so they can’t breed. Notwithstanding this the dinosaur DNA obtained from the blood of a preserved mosquito was incomplete and had to be made whole with DNA from a frog, which can change its sex; well if humans can do it why not frogs or even dinosaurs.

The real culprit however for why Hammond’s dream falls apart is a crooked computer nerd who wrote the software code to control all aspects of the park including 10,000-volt enclosure fences. To make his escape easier he crashes the computer, which turns everything off. This is a weak link in what otherwise is a well-crafted and captivating story. Even Legoland couldn’t open if it relied on software alone to control safety features.

A large part of the movie is taken up with the adventure had by Grant and Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and younger brother Tim who have come for a weekend visit. Did their parents think Granddad just had a lot of pets! Before travelling to the island Grant had a phobia of children but after enduring the company of Lex and Tim for a couple of days dodging hungry sharp teethed predators he and the children become inseparable. There is a supporting role for Bob Peck as the park’s gamekeeper a somewhat thankless task considering the size of the opposition

The movie is full of just in time moments that create anxiety followed by blessed relieve in quick succession providing the audience with a roller-coaster ride of emotions. For me however the most memorable scene is as the end credits roll with what appear to be pterodactyl birds skimming over the ocean to the strains of the magical music score written by the renowned John Williams bringing pleasure to one’s eyes and ears. Ignoring the fact that a more accurate name would have been Cretaceous Park, Spielberg’s film has stood the test of time with Stan Winston’s animatronic dinosaurs looking as good today as they did in 1993.

As with most franchises, the sequels to Jurassic Park have not been anywhere near as enthralling or memorable as the original, although I’ve yet to see the newest Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s probable that the disappointments of the sequels are partly due to the lack of originality.

Graham

★★★★




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