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  • Post last modified:12/13/2022

Jurassic Park: A Day at the Zoo


Photo: Universal

Computer animated effects was not a new thing in 1992 when Steven Spielberg started shooting this film. Beauty and the Beast (1991) had certain parts of its animation done in a computer with very smooth, discreet results. Terminator 2 (1991) also employed the technology and wowed audiences. But that was nothing compared to the phenomenon that was Jurassic Park. Suddenly, computer animation showed how a creature that had been extinct for 65 million years could be brought back and look as real as you and me.

Spielberg at his most childish and playful
You could say this film was made by the same Spielberg who once made Jaws, not the guy who would go on and direct Schindler’s List. This is Spielberg at his most childish and playful; it’s a glorious adventure film. We’re introduced to paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) who are whisked away from their site in Montana by their financier, grandfatherly billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). He takes them to an island off the coast of Costa Rica; Hammond recently purchased the island with the intention of turning it into an amusement park. Not any kind of amusement park, though. Using the DNA from dinosaurs that’s been preserved inside mosquitos that subsequently got stuck in amber, Hammond’s scientists have managed to do the impossible and create real dinosaurs. Now he has an entire island full of the creatures, including a T Rex, and is preparing to open the Jurassic Park. Alan and Ellie are absolutely thrilled to see the animals, but quickly realize that the island is a dangerous idea. 

Even more skeptical is another visitor, mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who explains to Hammond that his attempts to control life, to manipulate nature, is useless because life will always find a way to prosper on its own. As the group embarks on a tour through the park, together with Hammond’s two grandkids, the technology breaks down and the T Rex wreaks havoc. Now, the survivors must make it on their own in a place with animals that weren’t meant to hang with humans.

Superbly crafted first appearance of the T Rex
There’s an obvious message here, kids. Respect nature and the evolution. Vanity and greed is what creates Jurassic Park and it is what destroys it. John Hammond is perhaps the film’s most complex character. This is a kind man who wants to do something good with his money, something that will benefit others. But he is also greedy and quite possibly not altogether sane; he tosses aside any notion of responsibility and can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t go ahead with the idea, which is essentially one of the craziest ever hatched. Attenborough is very good at combining these two sides of the character. 

What marvelous people he brings to his island of wonders. Neill and Dern are exceptionally likable as the leads, the kids are perfectly tolerable and Goldblum is great fun as the mathematician who should have heeded his own advice and left the island as soon as he heard about its novel theme park concept. Wayne Knight is also amusing as the annoying traitor. 

John Williams has written a rousing adventure score as only he can, with a very memorable main theme, brilliantly supporting some of Spielberg’s most exciting action sequences. Moments that will have you sit in attention include the superbly crafted first appearance of the T Rex (who initially remains somewhat hidden, just like the shark in Jaws), and the scene in the kitchen with the raptors.

14 years after the premiere, the dinosaurs still look amazing.

14 years after the premiere, the dinosaurs still look amazing. We believe in what we see and the movie makes an effort in trying to convince us that the science is real. Above all though, Jurassic Park is fine popcorn entertainment, and there’s a science to that.

Jurassic Park 1993-U.S. 126 min. Color. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay: Michael Crichton, David Koepp. Novel: Michael Crichton. Music: John Williams. Visual Effects: Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and others. Cast: Sam Neill (Alan Grant), Laura Dern (Ellie Sattler), Jeff Goldblum (Ian Malcolm), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond), Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero… Samuel L. Jackson.

Trivia: Tim Burton, Joe Dante and Richard Donner expressed interest in the film rights. Harrison Ford and William Hurt were considered for the part of Grant; Robin Wright and Gwyneth Paltrow as Ellie. Rereleased to theaters in 3D in 2013. Followed by five sequels, starting with The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).

Oscars: Best Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing. BAFTA: Best Special Effects.

Quote: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” (Goldblum)

Last word: “I would say about 80 per cent of the time, the dinosaurs were actually present – and only a small portion was CGI. The dinosaur models were absolutely incredible – the team that Stan Winston put together to create these dinosaurs, they were absolutely amazing. These dinosaurs were so life-like, and so I got the chance to relate to them in person. In fact, when the T-rex was crashing down on the Jeep, it really was. And they had to do a bit of dinosaur dental work between the takes!” (Ariana Richards, Den of Geeks)

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