Retrospectives are my way of revisiting older movies that I love and delving into the why.
Isla Nubar. An Island 120 miles west of Costa Rica. As a seven year old, I had no idea where Costa Rica was much less how far a mile would get you. But I knew I loved dinosaurs. My bedroom was full of dinosaur toys, books, video games and so much more. So, of course, I lost my tiny little mind when mum told me there was going to be a new dinosaur movie coming out. And I loved it but in the way kids love movies about things they’re obsessed with, not quite understanding the nuances but finding it fascinating nonetheless.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to love Jurassic Park even more and in the deeper way of true pop culture love. Plus, I now understand how much of a treasure Jeff Goldblum is to the world.
Doctor Grant scaring the ever loving crap out of the smart arse kid is legitimately one of the best character introductions of the film. Between that and his technological failings you can tell right off the bat that he is a serious scientist who is passionate about his work and not so passionate about future generations’ disrespectful heathens.
As soon as we meet John Hammond, we see Doctor Grant falling over himself to be polite. This is despite the fact that Hammond’s dramatic entry risked great damage to something that has remained pristine for 65 million years. So we immediately know he is powerful, rich and a tad eccentric.
The rest of the character entrances are as well shown, not told, as these two. From Doctor Malcolm immediately flirting to lawyer being an uptight weasel from the get go.
The film also has a lot of things that make Spielberg action movies so delightful. There’s humour, wit, the aforementioned seamless character introductions, beautiful visual effects and instantly recognisable music. There are parts in Jurassic Park that, over 25 years after originally seeing them, still fill me with pure joy. The most iconic being the scene where the scientists first see the Brachiosaurus nomming on his leaves. I love that the segue goes from Doctor Sattler being fascinated about an extinct leaf to a giant extinct beast flooring all of them. It is the pure definition of movie magic, those moments when you see a scene that can still take your breath away.
You know those people who always ask “name me a movie that’s better than the book — I’ll wait” and you can feel the smugness dripping off them like Dilophosaur poison on a corrupt computer geek? My answer is always a resounding “Jurassic Park”. I really struggled to finish the novel upon which Jurassic Park is based both as a dinosaur obsessed youngster and a movie obsessed adult. Spielberg took the bones of the novel, reworked them a bit and created pure cinematic magic.
It has only been since getting older that I realise the dinosaurs are not the monsters or the villains of Jurassic Park, but instead it is man and their greed. From Hammond himself who bribes Doctors Grant and Sattler with funding he knows full well the very task he is taking them on will render their exploration next to useless — extinct as Doctor Malcolm so deftly puts it — to Dennis Nedry and his willingness to put at least eight human lives at risk by shutting down a park in a storm just to make bank because Hammond “got cheap” on him. And let us not, of course, forget about the scientists who were so concerned with whether or not they could do it, that they didn’t stop to think about whether they should.
Also, stop taking kids to dangerous places. Someone just died there, John. They were eaten by one of your super safe dinosaurs. And you invite your grandkids up for the weekend. Not cool, dude. Not cool. While I’m on the stupid things that happened … how do you have technology to clone dinosaurs, have electric cars and spare no expense on fancy ice cream, but you have to get some poor bastard up on a crate to open a gate?
I feel like if there is a moral to Jurassic Park — other than don’t clone dinosaurs — it is that the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptors and Dilophosaurus are simply doing what is in their ancient nature. Humans have the capability, but not always the willingness, to do better and to use reason better.
… And that if the electric fence you’re dangling from starts bleating an alarm, don’t just dangle there waiting to be barbecued — move your butt!
If you have a different take or would like to chat about what you’ve been watching and reading, drop a comment here or hit me up on Twitter!