Thursday Night Movie Club
Jurassic Park
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Release Date: 11 June 1993

Director: Steven Spielberg
Sam Neill
Laura Dern
Jeff Goldblum
Richard Attenborough
Bob Peck
Martin Ferrero
Joseph Mazzello
Ariana Richards
Samuel L. Jackson
BD Wong
Wayne Knight
Gerald R. Molen
Miguel Sandoval
Cameron Thor
Christopher John Fields
Dr. Alan Grant
Dr. Ellie Sattler
Dr. Ian Malcolm
John Hammond
Robert Muldoon
Donald Gennaro
Tim Murphy
Lex Murphy
Ray Arnold
Henry Wu
Dennis Nedry
Gerry Harding
Juanito Rostagno
Lewis Dodgson
Volunteer #1
Jurassic Park movie poster Jurassic Park movie poster Jurassic Park movie poster
Gateway into Jurassic ParkJurassic Park is a fantastic film. The movie is wonderful, beautiful, delightful, amazing, scary, horrific and tender. Some scenes will have the audience jumping out of their seats.

Director Steven Spielberg goes back to his roots after his blockbuster success with Jaws. Jurassic Park does not hit the level of suspense and terror of Jaws but it is still scary. Novelist Michael Crichton adapts his novel for the big screen. The movie suffers the same fate as the novel. There isn't an ending to the story. The film just ends... abruptly.

Off the coast of Costa Rica, capitalist mogul John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has invested heavily in a grand project. His team of scientists have found a way to isolate dinousaur DNA and then grow living dinosaurs through the technique of cloning. He is on the verge of making a killing. Little does he know what a "killing" he will make.

Hammond's secret is closely guarded. However, in the business community, there is no such thing as a secret. A competing company will stop at nothing to steal Hammond's research. A tropical storm is building off the coast. The storm is nothing compared to the rampage it will release.

Joseph Mazzello, Sam Neill and Ariana Richards Jurassic ParkJust like any new theme park, Jurassic Park is fraut with problems. A worker is killed while transferring a velociraptor into its new pen. Investors are concerned. The investors want a complete review of the park by a team of experts. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are working on their own dig site in the Badlands of Wyoming when Hammond comes calling. The promise of full funding for their research gets them onboard to review Hammond's project.

Hammond keeps his information close to the vest. On the helicopter to Hammond's preserve, Grant and Sattler meet mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and Hammond's In-Gen lawyer Donald Gennero (Martin Ferrero). These four people constitute the review team. Each person has his own particular field of expertise. Grant and Sattler are still wondering what they are doing here. Once on the ground, the team heads through a large gate labeled "Jurassic Park". Malcolm idly wonders, "What have they got in there... King Kong?" The gate does look similar to the gate enclosing the famous ape King Kong.

What the team finds inside Hammond's preserve is jaw-dropping, not only for the characters but for the audience as well. Jurassic Park sets the special effects bar very high. Animation gurus Stan Winston and Phil Tippett bring their A-games breathing life into dinosaurs that went extict 65 million years before Man populated the planet Earth. The dinosaurs are amazing. A combination of optical effects and puppeteering techniques of full-sized dinosaurs blend seemlessly into the foreground elements. Best of all, the actors are all great at reacting to "empty" space where the dinosaurs will eventually be placed.

Jurassic Park is the story of a modern-day Frankenstein. Hammond and his scientists play God. They spend years and millions of dollars perfecting their craft without ever considering whether they should proceed. Morality goes out the window. Afterall, they are furthering Man's knowledge. They have no concern for the consequences. The power of Creation is nothing more than the will to succeed.

T-Rex attacks in Jurassic ParkThe scientists have made a few mistakes. The scientists have no idea what dinosaur is going to be born. They breed both herbivores and carnivores. Along with Brachiosaurs and Apatosaurs, and Tricerotops, Jurassic Park is also home to velociraptors and a T-Rex. These aren't lions and tigers. These are animals that no one really knows how they will behave.

Hammond has also made mistakes. The enclosures are not designed with several levels of security. Take a look at the big cat exhibits of any zoo. These enclosures have moats that the animal cannot possibly leap over or climb out. In Jurassic Park, if the power goes down, the dinosaurs will knock the wires down. The only thing keeping the animals in their respective enclosures is a massive network of electrified wires.

Hammond has also left all of the computer programming for Jurassic Park in the capable hands of Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight). Nedry is a highly skilled programmer. Until Nedry debugs all of the code in the system, Jurassic Park is under his control. He has fallen on hard times. Continued arguing with Hammond have led Nedry to Hammond's competitors who pay him a small fortune to steal viable embryo's from the facility.

Laura Dern and Sam Neill with a sick Tricerotops in Jurassic ParkThere are two major factors that hinder Jurassic Park. The fantastic sequence involving the escape of the T-Rex switches from the animal calmly walking out of its enclosure. Moments later, the T-Rex pushes an electric tour jeep over the edge of the enclosure and into a moat. Huh? The other factor is Kids. Spielberg just cannot help himself including dyfunctional families in his films. Arianna Richards as Lex and Joseph Mazzello as Tim are annoying at best. At one point, Grant and Sattler are frantically trying to barricade a door against a velociraptor. Lex, a self-proclaimed hacker, is navigating through the most ridiculous computer interface ever designed. Lex's cursor is slowly moving through a vast 3D landscape of folders. Obviously no one ever heard about point-and-click!

Acting talents are not at a premium in this type of escapist-fare movie. However, Neill and Dern are great together. They have great chemistry together. Their acting shows that Grant and Sattler have known each other for years. They trust each other. They value the other's opinions. They truly care about each other. They are best friends as well as colleagues.

Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Peck in Jurassic ParkJeff Goldblum provides most of the comic relief in Jurassic Park. As Ian Malcolm, Goldblum's singular vocalizations are a joy to hear. Goldblum can spout complex theories using words only Ian Malcolm would know. At times, Malcolm's personality comes close to "finger nails scraping on a chalk board". Malcolm is also brutally honest in his assessment. One of Malcolm's best lines is, "I hate being right!"

Bob Peck is wonderful as Gamekeeper Muldoon. Muldoon has a long resume working at animal preserves on several continents. Muldoon is out of his league and he knows it. He learns about the dinosaurs' behaviours through trial and error. For the most part, he has them figured out but the Velociraptors present a special problem with their problem-solving ability. For protection, he arms himself with a single-shot folding rifle. What he really needs is a jeep outfitted like The Rat Patrol and a machine gun Rambo would love. Unfortunately for Muldoon, Grant never tells him that Velociraptors are pack-hunters. Ooops!

An Apotosaurus in Jurassic ParkThe dinosaurs are the true stars of Jurassic Park. They are all believably lifelike. The addition of puppeteering techniques like attaching a wire to the top of a tree realistically depicts a tall dinosaur eating leaves from the top of the tree. The treetop tips over as the dinosaur tugs on the leaves and then snaps back. A 3D T-Rex head has the power to forceably nudge the side of a speeding jeep. The audience will believe that these dinosaurs exist. Fantastic!

Director Steven Spielberg uses all of the camera tricks he has become associated with. He uses his panning camera to show elements not yet visible and thus ramps up the suspense. A panning camera show a line rails to eventually reveal the mangled bars where the raptors have escaped. The best shot has Muldoon checking the side mirror on his fleeing jeep. The mirror is filled with the huge head of the T-Rex. At the bottom of the mirror are the words, "Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear."

A few flaws keep Jurassic Park from being a great film. Just like in Jaws, being eaten alive is a primal fear all humans have. Spielberg is at his best ramping up the fear.