Film Discussion

Looking back at… Jurassic Park

“Dr. Grant, my dear Dr. Sattler, welcome…”

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hitting theatres soon, let’s take a look back at the film that started it all: Jurassic Park. The film is based on a 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton and was released in 1993. Twenty-five years later, it is still magnificent, and we are so very lucky to get to see a fourth sequel this summer.

If you haven’t seen the original film.. first of all, stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. If that’s the case, I did my best not to spoil too much. If you have seen the film, let’s reminisce…

June 11th, 1993. As audiences settled into their seats and the lights dimmed, ominous, tribal music signalled something thrilling to come. Dinosaurs roamed the earth once again, both beautiful and deadly. A genetics company has discovered a method for cloning dinosaurs and plans to build a destination theme park around them. However, an incident during construction calls for an independent review of the park, and the characters involved embark on a journey filled with creatures and adventure unseen for millions of years.

In its first 20 minutes, Jurassic Park showcases how varied and exhilarating its duration is going to be. A velociraptor is clever enough to cause havoc as it is being transported to its enclosure and sinks its teeth into a Jurassic Park employee. The method of the company that has made these dinosaurs possible is revealed, and an act of espionage is plotted to obtain that method. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), a paleontologist, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), a paleobotanist, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a chaotician, and Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), a lawyer, accompany John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough), entrepreneurial leader of InGen (the company responsible for the park), to Isla Nublar, Jurassic Park’s island location. Hammond’s grandchildren Lex and Tim (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) join the tour of the park later on as well.

Once they reach the island they are, in a way, transported backward in time: A resurrected Brachiosaurus strides majestically before their eyes, and other herbivores graze in the distance. John Hammond swells with pride at his creation, and his guests are dizzyingly awestruck at seeing the creatures, whose mere bones they’ve studied for so long. Moviegoers couldn’t believe their eyes either. What followed this exposition would become an essential title for every film buff’s shelf, a cornerstone of practical special effects in film, and an unexpected pop culture phenomenon.

Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images – © 2011 Murray Close – Source: IMDb

Steven Spielberg’s direction and John Williams’ musical score combined to make audiences believe that living, breathing dinosaurs were, in fact, walking the earth again. As one character’s acts of greed trigger the escape of nearly every dinosaur in the park, characters must do their best to escape an island of beauty and terror. Spielberg used his impeccable storytelling abilities and perfectly portrayals of human emotion to captivate audiences, and Williams’ score provided the atmosphere and emotional connection for the multitude of emotions present over the course of the film.

Real, physical animatronics dinosaurs were built by Stan Winston Studios for Jurassic Park’s production, the most significant of which was a full size, 40foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex. Performers also wore animatronics velociraptor suits in many scenes, and a full size Triceratops was also built. In addition, Jurassic Park was one of the first films to utilise CGI for its visual effects. However, the filmmakers used CGI sparingly and only for things the animatronics couldn’t be used for. The wonder and danger of the dinosaurs is all the more real because of these fantastic filmmaking decisions.

Jurassic Park is filled with timeless scenes and quotes referenced to this day.

The scene in which our characters arrive on Isla Nublar and see the Brachiosaur for the first time is especially wonderful. The film crafts a delicate, stirring build-up to this moment. The musical score swells with the tears in Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler’s eyes as John Hammond utters, “Welcome.. to Jurassic Park.”

The next scene is in Jurassic Park’s lab. The genetic process required to create these dinosaurs is further explained, and the parameters surrounding the security of the park’s creatures is outlined. Questioning the effectiveness of these parameters, Dr. Malcolm responds to InGen scientist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) with “Life, uh.. finds a way”.

In a subsequent dinner scene, Drs. Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm voice their concerns about the nature of the park and the danger of messing with genetic power. This prompts Hammond to say that the only person on his side is the ”blood-sucking” lawyer. The lawyer’s fate in the film is also quite memorable.

The full size Triceratops animatronics is on full display in a scene in which characters veer from their prescribed park tour to further check out the sick dinosaur. This is the first time the characters can see and touch a dinosaur up close. The scene is gorgeous and emotional on many levels.

Perhaps most memorable in the film is the scene in which the Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes its enclosure and terrorises Dr. Grant, Dr. Malcolm, the kids, and the lawyer. The scene is presented completely without music and features that massive T-Rex animatronics, making the terror all too real for the characters and viewers alike. The famous visual of rippling water with every step of the Tyrannosaur builds fear in the characters and the audience, leading up to the T-Rex’s escape and its first massive roar.

Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images – © 2012 Getty Images – Source: IMDb

The park’s game warden Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) is bested by a velociraptor on the hunt. Just before he is taken down, he speaks his famous final words: “Clever girl.”

As the film reaches its climax, Hammond’s grandchildren are trapped in the park’s kitchen area and menaced by two velociraptors. The tension created in this scene is absolutely marvellous, and the sequence is nerve-wracking to this day. This is another scene in which the practical dinosaur effects create what seems like a real and present danger.

The finale of Jurassic Park is not to be missed, either. Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and the kids are cornered by the velociraptors in the park’s visitor’s centre with no escape in sight, but receive help from a brilliant and unexpected ally…

One of the best things about Jurassic Park is the human elements present in the first film and the series as a whole. Humans have acquired groundbreaking scientific knowledge and must face the consequences of acting on it. Is it morally acceptable for man to play God? To bring back creatures that were wiped from the earth millions of years ago? Jurassic Park and its franchise debates those things. Also, while the dinosaurs are the imminent danger to our characters, nearly every obstacle they face in Jurassic Park and subsequent films is made by man as well. In Jurassic Park, characters must dodge man-made vehicles and electrical fences, and are placed in further danger when velociraptors figure out how to open man-made doors.

Perhaps the thing that makes Jurassic Park the very best dinosaur film as well as a staple of science fiction is its ability to balance the very real beauty and the very real danger of dinosaurs. While characters are able to see the glorious nature of these creatures, they are later forced to reconcile with the dangerous nature of them. This narrative is expressed in a poignant and beautiful scene in which John Hammond describes his dream in creating Jurassic Park, and faces the reality of its failure with Dr. Sattler. After all, genetic power is the most awesome force the planet has ever seen. It is something to stand in awe of, but also something to be meticulously careful with.

Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images – © 2012 Getty Images – Source: IMDb

Jurassic Park’s Legacy

I’ll never forget the first time I watched Jurassic Park. I was nine years old and not allowed to watch ‘scary’ movies yet. By pure chance, I found it on television one evening. As the cars approached the Tyrannosaur paddock, my aunt whispered to me, “Here comes the scary part.” I had no idea what I was in for. I will never forget how very real and terrifying it was. I remember fearing for the lives of the characters, and wondering how in the world there was an actual dinosaur on the screen. Seeing it then was topped only by the spectacle of seeing it on the big screen in a movie theatre for the first time. The scenes of wonder and terror resonated so deeply with me that Jurassic Park became and will remain my favourite film of all time. Personally, Jurassic Park solidified my love of dinosaurs, but most importantly sparked my love for science fiction and film music.

With the fifth Jurassic Park film nearing release, the question is often asked as to why the franchise is still going. Besides the obvious, yet not entirely important, “financial profitability” answer, I believe that it is because these stories genuinely need to be told. They need to be told because of how incredible the first film in the franchise truly is, and to answer the questions the first film poses.

Jurassic Park is a remarkable film whose story, characters, and legacy have made a life-changing impact on millions of moviegoers, inspiring them to be everything from paleontologists to filmmakers and more. For example:

“What does it (Jurassic Park) mean to me? It’s the movie that literally spawned my future published novella. Jurassic Park opened up such a gigantic imagination-dam and at seven years old, I went home and started writing fan fiction. I drew every dinosaur. I stapled a “book” together and read it to my friends at school. I fell in love with story-telling and at 25 years old, I wrote and published a novella that sold almost 4,000 copies. Very minute success, but huge for my self confidence. And it started right there: in a theatre, with my mom and dad, watching real-live dinosaurs run across the screen. My creativity was born, and I haven’t stopped writing and drawing since. I owe that film everything.”
-Dillon Brown (@DTDB35)

Jurassic Park is my favourite movie because of how magical it is. I remember being a kid and watching Alan and Ellie seeing a dinosaur for the first… It felt like I was seeing a dinosaur for the first time. I have that same feeling when I watch it now. The stars had to align perfectly to make this movie.”
-Samantha Endres (@SamanthaJo28)

Jurassic Park, to me, is the quintessential film that defined a generation. Since it was released the year after I was born, I feel like the movie grew up along with me. There are few movies that I can claim to have seen so many times that I have lost count, and Jurassic is one of them. Among those viewings, I can claim a vast array of emotions. I remember awestruck wonder seeing what I thought were real dinosaurs the first time I watched it as a kid. My first thought was, “where can I get one of those?” I remember absolute terror watching it as a child every Thanksgiving with my family. So much so, that I even refused to partake in the holiday tradition some years. I remember pure fascination with studying the past as a teenager. Paleontology was a front runner on my career path for a long time. I remember true admiration as an adult as I began to understand the innumerable hours spent crafting the masterpiece that became Jurassic Park. Most importantly, I remember the lasting respect and reverence towards the movie. Jurassic Park has paved the way for lasting friendships with fellow fans and admirers alike. For me, it’s always been more than just a movie; Jurassic Park is the imaginary friend that became real as we grew up.”
-Corey Anderson (@CoreyA1, an actual, real-life “blood-sucking” lawyer)

If you haven’t seen the original Jurassic Park film, I urge you to do so before you see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It will give you the ultimate perspective as to what this franchise is about, which I think you’ll appreciate when you’re in the theatre this summer.

My thoughts after watching Jurassic Park for the first time: giddy excitement that sequels had been made.

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