Friday, June 11, 2010

"Jurassic Park" (1993)

"Jurassic Park" (1993)
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum
Written by Michael Crichton and David Koepp
Directed by Steven Spielberg

I can't lie, "Jurassic Park" is one of my favorite novels.  Its mixture of pulpy adventure and cutting-edge science-fiction struck me as a child, and it's stuck with me ever since.  Author Michael Crichton, a favorite of mine (despite the failures of his later years) crafted a story that appealed to the ever-present child inside of me.

As a child, like many others, I loved dinosaurs.  The massive, reptile-like beasts that roamed the Earth millions of years before my earliest ancestors are an appealing mystery.  At some point, I don't remember when, my father bought me "Jurassic Park," a novel which was obviously beyond my grade-level.  Yet, I read it, and I freakin' loved it.  My fifth-grade teacher thought it was totally inappropriate for me to be reading such a novel, and disapproved. 

In 1993, when I was merely 11 years old, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of "Jurassic Park" came out.  It would be the first movie I would ever see twice in theatres.

Bio-engineering company InGen, led by idealistic John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), has discovered a way to clone extinct animals by retrieving DNA from fossilized bugs ensconced in amber.  Hammond's vision is to set up a theme park, an attraction where people from all over the world can come and witness the amazing sights of a world long, long dead.  He recruits paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) to come and tour his island, named "Jurassic Park" before it opens to gauge its safety and authenticity.

Not long into their tour of the island, industrial espionage by computer expert Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) leads to a power outage that releases the dinosaurs from their pens to run amok across the island.  Grant, along with Hammond's grandchildren Tim (Joseph Mazzelo) and Lex (Ariana Richards), must make their way across an island full of dangerous creatures that have been extinct for tens of millions of  years to safety.

What a great, fun movie this is.  It could merely have been just a watershed of special effects, with ILM's groundbreaking CGI visual effects.  But instead, master craftsman Steven Spielberg created a film full of fun characters and fantastic, iconic action sequences.  John Williams delivers one of his best scores of the 1990s... "Jurassic Park" is a winner all around.

There's no question that "Jurassic Park" changed film forever when it was released in 1993.  The CGI dinosaurs meshed seamlessly (and still do!) with live-action footage shot in Hawaii.  Even 17 years later, "Jurassic Park" is still a visual feast to behold.  The centerpiece sequence where the Tyrannosaurus Rex attacks the tour cars looks amazing and totally real, and is a thrilling, iconic piece of filmmaking from a master director.

The film also popularized the then-little-known Velociraptor, a pack-hunter dinosaur that would become the franchise's signature "villain" even more so than the T-Rex, favorite of under-12 male children everywhere.

But beyond all the slam-bang wizardry, the movie is simply impeccably made.  With an interesting message about the dangers of science over-reaching its bounds, ground-breaking effects, fun characters and thrilling action sequences, "Jurassic Park" is a modern classic that can't be missed.  It just appeals entirely to the kid within me, with a sense of wonder and fascination that I can't deny.