An accident at a new tourist attraction leads a group of scientists to investigate the wisdom of a theme park which showcases real-life dinosaurs.
Master of the Blockbuster
Is there any piece of this movie that is not iconic?
Every set piece, every character, every bit of dialogue, every swell of music, every dinosaur… just… Wow!
Sure there are flaws in logic here and there, but I expect that from Spielberg. In his blockbusters he always puts the fun of the movie ahead of the logic of the movie, but always in a way that doesn’t betray the other parts of the film which make it fun. This is what makes him the master.
There are directors with higher box office totals, more awards, and higher rotten tomatoes ratings, but none of them create the holistic works that Spielberg does. His blockbusters have something for everyone without leaving anyone feeling like they were paid lip service and frustrated.
I won’t pretend that I have anything close to objectivity when it comes to film. It’s one of the first movies I got to watch with my dad without my little brother because, “he is too young.” It made me feel older and like a man, but scared of what I was about to see.
I won’t pretend it’s ever been my favorite movie but it has always been an important one to me. That’s one of the reasons it is hard for me to review. I’ve seen it so many times and have so many thoughts on it that I don’t know what to talk about except to say that it is a GREAT film.
I guess the first thing I think about when I remember Jurassic Park is the Tyrannosaur sequence. It’s one of the most iconic action scenes ever shot and a classic movie monster moment.
A lot about this movie that sticks in my memory is the action. Nerdy getting spit on, the raptor’s head poking through the bushes next to Muldoon, hiding from the raptors in the kitchen, and running among the dinosaurs as they stampede are all beautifully done.
This is the film that made people believe computers could really create something spectacularly real looking. It’s actually really amazing to re-watch. The graphics in this movie are better than most blockbusters these days.
Much of this is due to the fact that there are relatively few VFX (Visual Effects) shots in the film. Most of the shots are done with SFX (Special Effects) like animatronics and practical sets. The VFX is used to smooth out the rough edges of the SFX or do things (like the full body of a T-Rex running) that you can’t do well with a model.
When the first response to how to do something difficult is, with a computer, the result is an increasingly washed out and fuzzy cartoon quality that pervades many films today, especially the Marvel films.
The other thing that works so well about the action is the pacing. This is a movie that rises in intensity. The most intense scene of the film is the final one and once it is done the movie is over within 3 minutes.
It also starts with a bang, but not in the way you might think. It opens on some trees swaying as something moves through them and a bunch of armed guards watching in fear. You are watching a movie called "Jurassic Park” so you expect a dinosaur to break through those trees at any moment.
But, no. It’s a box on a forklift. As it comes closer and is set in position and opened, you see the methodical nature and fear of those interesting with it. They are scared. There is something dangerous in that box.
Something has gone wrong and one man is pulled into the box as the rest of the team try to free him to no avail.
This is a movie about scary things happening, but we haven’t seen a dinosaur at all yet. We actually won’t see one for another half hour, another person won’t die for another hour, and we won’t see the creature that killed that first guy for over an hour and forty minutes.
This is rarely done today, but by exposing us to the danger without showing us the danger explicitly, Spielberg saves his best tricks for the best scenes.
We actually never really see the raptors run in the open. We are told that they run as fast as a cheetah so when people run from them we are scared because we know they can’t outrun the raptor and we know the raptor will rip them apart because we saw the harness from the cow they ate earlier in the film.
Being scared of them before we see them prepares us for greater scares later because if they are scary when we can’t see them, then what now, when we can?
The thing that sets Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”) apart is that all of the pieces of Jurassic Park fit together and compliment each other so well. I would classify Jurassic Park as an Action/Adventure movie but it may not feel like one to audiences who expect superhero fights every 15 minutes.
Other that the first death, there isn’t another action sequence in the film for an hour. That hour is all setup. Just because it’s an action movie doesn’t mean that Spielberg neglects the character development or the exploration of the setting.
But that also doesn’t mean it is boring. The film is still fun, interesting, and awe inducing. The action is not the ONLY thing interesting in an action movie and actually, if the rest is not done well, even the action will not be interesting.
The problem is, that most filmmakers who are good at conceptualizing big fun action sequences aren’t great at the more “boring” scenes. I say “boring” in quotes because the only reason they are boring is because the director can’t make them interesting (looking at you Michael Bay). Steven Spielberg can make them interesting.
This film has a lot of exposition about how they created the dinosaurs, philosophical discussion about the ramifications of this discovery, a fat guy asking a rich white guy for money, and a tour where not a single dinosaur shows up. These would be boring scenes in another director’s hands.
But instead of getting this exposition in a VFX composited room with swirling cameras around a Sci-Fi conference table (Marvel’s The Avengers) we get that exposition as a group of tourists would at the theme park. We get to see a baby dinosaur born. We discuss velociraptors outside their paddock as they are being fed.
None of it is action, but it makes learning about the characters more interesting when you don’t feel like the film doesn’t care about the characters. When a film doesn’t care don’t be surprised when the audience doesn’t care either.
Look. What do you want me to say. This is a great film. You’ve probably seen it more than once already, but I hope you appreciate this film for what it is and demand this sort of quality from your action movies today.
There is a reason that Jurassic Park is constantly quoted, verbally, cinematically, or even in meme form. Anytime you see a raptor in popular culture, thank Spielberg. Anytime you see a monster’s eye dilate through a window, thank Spielberg. Anytime you see a pool of liquid shake, hear a mix of animal sounds as a creature’s roar, or see a threat magically appear from just off-screen where the characters should have been able to see it but didn’t, thank Spielberg.
He is simply the best and there is no excuse for Marvel and DC to be turning out the drivel that they do when Spielberg showed them how to do it right 25 years ago.
So enjoy your summer blockbusters, but also, demand more from them. Don’t settle.
And that goes for you too Spielberg. “Ready Player One?” C’mon.
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