Jurassic Park is without a doubt one of the most thrilling sci-fi action films ever, an original spectacle predating the devolution of the genre into numbing banality. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel was my first introduction to how terrifying a real dinosaur could be, as opposed to the more cartoonish depictions on television.
I can usually handle action films just fine, even when horror elements are involved like in Aliens, but Jurassic Park is one of only two films that I’ve caught myself actually on the verge of hyperventilating from the breathless danger and close calls (the climax of Oliver! was the other time; weird, right?). My mom had a similar reaction; she actually saw it in the theater while she was pregnant and got such an adrenaline rush that she was concerned for the baby me afterward. Assisted by one of John Williams’ most outstanding scores, Spielberg and company created some iconic edge-of-your-seat sequences that never fail to thrill, from the T. Rex’s initial attack with the vibrating water glass to its pursuit of the jeep to the raptors’ cat-and-mouse chase with the kids (a.k.a. someone’s in the kitchen with dinos).
Even if the characters exist solely to be attacked, threatened, or eaten, the actors succeed in creating memorable victims, from Jeff Goldblum as odd, wisecracking mathematician Ian Malcolm; Wayne Knight as slovenly mole Dennis Nedry; Samuel L. Jackson as ill-fated Mr. Arnold; Sam Neill and Laura Dern as two likable dinosaur experts; and Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello as the requisite children in danger, one an up-and-coming scream queen, the other an amateur paleo-aficionado. As starry-eyed entrepreneur John Hammond, Richard Attenborough illustrates the blind hunger for success in those who “spare no expense” to make their dreams realities, proving he was as skilled at acting as directing. As is typical, Goldblum gets the best lines and stood out enough to warrant his own return to the world of dinosaurs in the good but lesser sequel.
Unlike the sequels, which succumbed to the cliché of people in danger acting stupid, there’s an air of intelligence to the original thriller, aided by the plausible method by which the great lizards are said to have been resurrected. Though there’s a winsome subplot about Dr. Grant’s bonding with the kids, the film is overall a science fiction frightfest, one of the greatest ever made, a nonstop thrill ride that nonetheless captures the wonder of a lost world and concludes on a placid, breath-catching note. Ignoring fictional aliens and shapeshifters and whatnot, the real terrors belong to the past, and I can only hope that scientists never play God and reanimate the worst of carnivores. I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming Jurassic World; let’s hope it’s a return to the excellence of the original.
Best line: (John Hammond) “All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!” (Ian Malcolm) “Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
VC’s best line: (Ian Malcolm) “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” (Dr. Ellie Sattler) “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.”Rank: 58 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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