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Saturday, April 26, 2014

My 40 Favorite Films of the 90's - 34 - Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993; Universal Pictures)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers Michael Crichton, David Koepp
Starring: Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum

Here is an obvious one!  Jurassic Park is Spielberg’s very well-made adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel.  Considered unmakable at the time, this movie was a tremendous undertaking.  The film had a massive budget, loaded with huge sets, large-scale animatronics, scientific advisors and some of the best computer animation the early 90’s could offer.  However, despite its lowered expectations due to skepticism given the scale of the production, the film nearly made its entire $63 million-dollar budget back on its opening weekend in June of 1993 (sources:,

Jurassic Park tells the story of an eccentric billionaire named John Hammond (Attenborough) who opens a theme park populated by genetically-engineered dinosaurs.  A group of scientists and specialists, as well as Hammond’s grandchildren, arrive at the island park for its dry run, only they were not expecting a dangerous tropical storm and a slimy hacker to cause a lot of trouble for the awed visitors.  What transpires is a high-tension monster movie filmed with a lot of love for the material.  The money also shows on screen, with big sets and convincing effects.  One downside of the movie I would say is how Spielberg uses the night setting and the tropical storm to obscure some of the technical limitations, giving the movie a dark, occasionally colorless look.  It is a monster flick, though, but it is important to know that the dark imagery standard set in the 70’s was also to hide effects and makeup, so take from that what you will.

The acting is fair, with Ariana Richards giving a solid performance as the Hammond’s granddaughter, Lex.  However, she has not appeared in much outside of some B-movie material.  Laura Dern, Attenborough, and Jeff Goldblum are all quite good in their lead roles and Wayne Knight and Samuel L. Jackson give entertaining supporting performances in the few scenes they are in, and over all, there are no performances that come off as stilted or annoying, as is often the case with Spielberg's films, especially from the child actors who appear in his movies.  That said, Sam Neil is good with his lines but he really seems to be sleepwalking through the movie and his character Dr. Alan Grant only seems to exist to provide exposition about the dinosaurs.  

All-in-all, Jurassic Park is not a flawless movie, but it is an entertaining one.  It has some good effects work, some pretty tense moments and a few quotable lines.  There was effort here, and sometimes that is all you need to put something fun on screen, and despite all of the effort to make a big effects movie, Spielberg is usually pretty good about keeping the focus on the characters, which he does do here.  You never feel disconnected from the action and there is a sense of dread and fear for the lives of the park’s patrons.  You can not really go wrong with this material either, I mean it is a T-rex chasing a jeep in the rain.  That is so badass.

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