Jurassic Park (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough.
In 1993 the shock and awe on the face of Sam Neill’s character upon first sight of dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was mirrored on the faces of cinema audiences around the globe, as CGI fulfilled its potential in a family blockbuster for the first time. While it perhaps wasn’t the seismic cultural earth-shaker that was Star Wars in the late 1970’s, it was nevertheless a massively significant watershed moment for live action/CGI integration and served as a blueprint to names like Bay, Cameron, Jackson, Emmerich…even George Lucas himself, for what could now be achieved.
Adapted for the screen from the Michael Crichton novel, the film is based on the fantastic notion of using preserved dinosaur DNA from ancient tree sap to regrow dinosaurs in the modern age. Richard Attenborough plays a Walt Disney type – the man responsible for building a park attraction that ‘safely‘ showcases the wonder of live dinosaurs to the paying public. In this regard, the film shares DNA with Chrichton’s own Westworld and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as John Hammond (Attenborough), test-runs the park in the hope of gaining legal and scientific approval.
When it comes to thrill and suspense, Spielberg is a sure bet. While Jurassic Park might not posses the same depth of character as Jaws or Raiders, the big ideas and overall execution do enough to cover Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s slightly bland, template-like leading turns. Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum are comfortably the film’s most appealing presences, the latter giving a typically offbeat performance and delivering all the best lines as he smirks his way through the film.
Composer John Williams provides magisterial themes that imbue the images with a grand old sense of scale. The visual effects are a creative combination of rubbery realness and CG. Nothing in the way the movie is produced feels cheap or settled for.
Despite a few flaws, the film is widely considered a classic. For my money it doesn’t quite stretch to perfection but the CGI that wowed audiences back in ’93 works well over 25-years on. The ending might seem a little abrupt in its exit-through-the-gift-shop execution and some of the plot developments feel formulaic, but the ambitious technical achievement and overall ideas, grouped together with the real star attractions (namely the dino’s) do not disappoint. 4/5