A defining moment of my childhood and the reason I have never gotten over my childhood obsession with dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park (1993) is the first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and acclaimed writer, Michael Crichton.
While moving a giant steel cage, a man is dragged in and slain by the beast inside. Meanwhile, a corporate agent meets Dennis Nedry about stealing embryos for a competitor. Due to the death of the worker, Jurassic Park owner, John Hammond, hires archaeologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler to ensure his investors. His lawyer, Donald Gennaro, brings along chaotician Ian Malcolm. Once at the park, Alan and Ellie see live dinosaurs wandering across the field. Soon they're on a tour of the park with Hammond's grandchildren, Tim and Lex. Unfortunately this coincides with Nedry's plan to escape with the embryos, which involves shutting down the power to the park including the fences.
That summary does not do justice to that movie at all. The magic of this movie really stands the test of time. The CG is still absolutely phenomenal and puts to shame many high budget features twenty years later.The characters are relatively simple, but each has a part to play and even some growth to do as the story unfolds.
Alan Grant is an archaeologist who hates children. Naturally, this means he's going to be the one getting Lex and Tim back to the Visitor's Center while dodging all the predators. He's a brave and intelligent, if abrasive man. He is Ellie's boyfriend, though they share surprisingly little screen time. He's played by underrated actor Sam Neill who seems to love bad scripts. This is one of his few good roles and he really stands out as the unlikely action hero.
Ellie Sattler splits off from the tour group to care for a sick triceratops. However, this doesn't keep her safe since she must help get the power back online. She flirts a bit with Ian and forces Alan to chat with the kids. She is also surprisingly versatile when faced with Jurassic Park's most cunning foe.
Richard Hammond is a rich old man with a dream. He is also fairly comedic with his boisterous rich old man schtick, but he grows more tragic as the park turns more nightmarish.
Lex is the hacker vegetarian granddaughter of Hammond who learns to hate dinosaurs. Unlike many children in films, she actually proves to be more of an asset than a liability by the end.
Tim is a representative of every nine year old who managed to get their parents to let them watch this film, though I may be projecting. A lot. He is knowledgeable about dinosaurs, but not more than any obsessed kid. He's a bit precocious, but he hold his own against some of the most vicious dinos and manages not to be cocky about it.
Dennis Nedry is the starting villain whose MacGuffin allows the real terror to start. Ironically, he is killed not by one of the major antagonist Dinos, but by a seemingly insignificant one who is only mentioned once before her appearance.
The T-Rex is the big bad of the piece. She is huge and unstoppable. She starts the killing and is the most visible (she even appears in the logo sort of). The animatronics and CG combined make this an amazingly realized beast which is astonishing for 1993.
The Velociraptors are the hidden menace. They are unseen until near the end, despite being talked about from the start of the film. They are also the most directly threatening to out protagonists. Their intelligence is their weapon, which makes them the most tenacious of all the killing machines in the park. They're also my favorite dinosaur, although they're a composite of a few dinosaurs ( Deinonychus and the smaller real-life Velociraptor) which is a result of incomplete archaeology at the time.
As was mentioned earlier, the entire film is gorgeously set and shot. The mixture of practical effects and CG is something later films should have taken a harder look at. Plus, I defy anyone to listen to the John Williams score and not feel the excitement of heading into the awesome park. The entire package is irresistible and that's why people still love this film 20 years later.
In the End
The last ditch escape. Dino on Dino battle. Get to the chopper!
The blend of action and horror is something few films manage to emulate. The use of two primary antagonist dinosaurs with both having their own charms and horrors is a brilliant idea. Even as DC and I were re-watching this and criticizing it, we still both thoroughly enjoyed it. There are certain moments that are over the top and ideas that don't come off so well. Samuel L. Jackson's scientist and the Australian big game hunter are pretty stereotypical, but don't distract too much. These are minor things that really don't get in the way of this marvelous film. I think I've gushed enough. If you haven't seen this film, see it!
Next up is a movie that destroyed a friend of mine's love of dinosaurs: Jurassic Park: The Lost World.