Jurassic Park Retrospective (Part 1)
By John Hussey
With Jurassic World due out next month, I thought it would be a good time to look back on Steven Spielberg’s previous three entries within this classic franchise, starting with the original film, 1993’s Jurassic Park.
Based upon Michael Crichton’s acclaimed novel of the same name, Steven Spielberg’s masterful directing brought about a film that was unheard of, revolutionising the movie industry for years to come. The idea of having dinosaurs brought to the modern world was a stroke of genius on Crichton’s behalf and it translated well onscreen with Spielberg’s action- packed, family adventure adaptation.
The narrative was driven by a bunch of engaging characters, with the likes of Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) taking the centre stage. These three characters, all respective scientists within their own fields, were brought together by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) who wanted them to give their opinions on his latest work. Little did they know that this work entailed cloning dinosaurs for the purposes of a family theme-park.
The themes of the original Jurassic Park are fascinating when you look deep within the narrative and question its logic, respectively that of the characters involved. Hammond, played fantastically by the late Richard Attenborough, wanted good intentions from his work but failed to see the implicated dangers. He didn’t comprehend the mere scenario that he was never in control of the prehistoric animals he was resurrecting. This was the great thing about the narrative because it was all about this dream falling apart and Hammond, as a character, being proved wrong.
Foreshadowing played a massive role with indicating the outcome of the story. Constantly Hammond was warned about the dangers of his actions by Alan, Ellie and Ian but he failed to listen, believing his actions to be justified. This resulted in the park losing control and the animals escaping, ultimately going on a rampage. Ian’s chaos theory was another great foreshadowing, pointing out the fact that nature and evolution had its own design and couldn’t be controlled by scientific meddling. This resulted in the dinosaurs ultimately changing sex, as a result of the frog DNA they were spliced with, and reproduced in the wild. One of the greatest ones was Alan’s demonstration of the Velociraptor’s capabilities near the beginning of the film, shown later when Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck), the park’s game warden, was killed after being tricked by the main female.
One of the things that always puzzled me about Hammond’s logic was his insistence of keeping such dangerous predators such as the Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptors and Diloposaurus, all of which were described as unsafe throughout. Even his own game warden warned everyone at how intelligent the Velociraptors were getting and yet nothing was done about this. The dangers were perfectly visible to Hammond with any of these grey areas and yet he felt his ideas of opening a dinosaur park were both safe and sane. The scene, in which, Ellie confronted Hammond on the matter over the dinner table was powerful because for the first time he was shot down in flames and made to confront his decisions as bad ones. His actions had caused miscalculations on a massive scale and now the park was out of control and people’s lives were paying the price.
The part I always hated was the storyline concerning Dennis Nedry. I have to give Wayne Knight credit were its due because he played the role well despite the fact his character was a despicable, selfish, money-grabbing ass. Due to his deemed ‘unfair treatment’ through lack of gratification and pay-check he decided to betray Hammond in the harshest way by tampering with his systems and attempting to steal his research in order to sell them to his revival, BioSyn. But, as the old saying goes, ‘bad deeds don’t go unpunished’ and it’s fair to say that Knight’s character got what he deserved.
Jurassic Park was filled with so many wonderful moments that stand, to this day, as iconic cinema moments. The first time we gazed eyes on a dinosaurs was just stunning and completely magical. Accompanied with John Williams’s awe-inspiring score, that still stands out today as being memorable, the scene will always touch the hearts of everyone, old and new, that sit and watch this film. The film took on a very magical approach within its journey through the breathtaking visuals that were way ahead of their time, the outstanding acting and the beautiful music. I always love going back to the original to watch Hammond showcase his wonderful ideas and seeing the park in all its glory (despite its flaws). There’s no other word than to say magical. It really is something special (almost like Christmas).
Then you delve further into the story and the tone changes drastically from a family friendly adventure to a very gritty, serious adventure centred round survival. Once death becomes a huge factor within the narrative it strays towards feeling less magical and more terrifying (and without a doubt unsafe). We caught our first glimpse at the iconic water ripples to indicate the approach of the big bad of the franchise, the T-Rex. The animatronics, alongside the special effects, worked amazingly to bring to life this prehistoric creature, granting it threat and sheer size and power. Then when the Velociraptors came into play the film became even darker, almost turning into a horror. The music was just unsettling, and still sends chills down my spine to this day. They were certainly destructive creatures and it showed through the visuals and Williams’ score.
The film shows tons of character development, particularly with John Hammond as spoken about in-depth above, and shown well with Alan and his association with children. The first half of the film showed him as a bit of a distant man that didn’t have time for kids. By the end of the film he’s risking his life for Hammond’s grandchildren and happily lets them sleep on him during the journey home. The inclusion of children also added a new kind of danger to the film and made for some extremely vulnerable moments. This became the trend for future instalments. It’s also worth noting that this film holds one of the rare moments within the filming industry that Samuel L. Jackson got a role that wasn’t his usual type, bringing about a new side to his great presence. Sadly, like with Deep Blue Sea, he met with a tragic end.
The resolution is always memorable to watch as the Tyrannosaurus leaps in to save the day by killing the Velocirpators and allowing Alan, Ellie and Hammond’s grandchildren, Tim and Lex, to escape. It always saddens me to see Hammond’s face of sorrow before boarding the helicopter. Despite his flaws he was still a good man. He didn’t build the park for his own selfish ambitions but rather to give the world something to be amazed by and now that dream was destroyed by one man and his greedy ambitions. Then of course you got the symbolic ending of the birds flying home, indicating that dinosaurs still live on within our modern world through generations of evolution. Life will find a way.
It is fair to say that this film was a masterpiece. This was one of my childhood films and I loved watching it over and over again because of its magic and thrills. Spielberg is a great contribution to the filming world and this will remain one of his greatest gems. His ambitions and shared desire to bring Crichton’s ideas to life brought about the foundation for the modern-day blockbuster in terms of scope, casting and effects.
At the time it was never thought that there would be more films, so the question is did its sequels stand-up to this classic? Find out in my next articles.