Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
This article is a part of a series of imposed movie reviews in the participation of this films critic to the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Club. It is an attempt at catching up the reviews that I’ve missed in my recent period of inactivity in the blogosphere.
Back in 1993, I was 10 years old and the movie Jurassic Park was on the lips of everyone. It was the Star Wars, the E.T., or the Avatar of my childhood. I vividly remember when my father bought the VHS and we would sit in front of the television to watch the film. It is one of the films I’ve seen the most times in my life. TO illustrate that : in 2006, I was in Italy with my wife and I watched the film in Italian and I could cite every line in French with the right intonation. I can play the movie in my head and I remember every frame and camera movement. Lately it has been announced that the movie that made 900 millions of dollars, when it came out, will be re-released in 3D for its 20th anniversary. This mean two things : the fact that this movie could have easily came out this year and that it passed through time and that I’ll be thirty years old this summer.
More seriously, I admire this film because of its value of sheer entertainment and its box office success. It is also one of the films that made the cinephile that I am today. Often, I will cite Pulp Fiction as the film that opened this pandora’s box for me, but Steven Spielberg and his Jurassic Park still stands as a reference of entertainment and wonder just like his Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Of all the action and the sequences of CGI in Jurassic Park my favorite scenes are the ones when the action pauses and the humans take the time to have a break. With this film I’ve learned to actually enjoy those moments of humanity and exchange of feelings. One example, is the talk between John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and Ellie (Laura Dern) when they eat the melting ice cream. For die hard cinephiles, the dialogue might recall a scene in Charles Chaplin’s masterpiece Limelight. In all of Michael Crichton’s (author of the novel Jurassic Park) story, we have many confrontations of human beings and Dinosaurs that brings the great debate of cloning on another level. Just like the classic Sci-Fi film Westworld, also written and directed by Crichton, that involved androids in an amusement park where nothing can go wrong. Obviously, just like Jurassic Park there was a flaw somewhere and it involves a lot of action.
With Jurassic Park, Spielberg achieves to use his behemoth props and open the gate of the relentless use of CGI in blockbusters while telling a human story. This story is the one of Dr. Allan Grant, portrayed by underrated actor Sam Neill. While Spielberg always said he casted almost unknown actors to help the public to identify with the characters and involve the audience in the action, just like one of his masters Alfred Hitchcock always targeted in his films. His Dr. Grant, is a man obsessed by his job as a paleontologist and didn’t took time to have a life with a woman, possibly Dr. Ellie and have kids. The later, he dislikes their presence. In the obvious opening scene of the film we discover his temper and his aversion to kids. The plot of the movie will lead him to care for others and he will learn how to be a man, and be a father with the little Tim and Lea. Another great moment of pause is the scene where Grant sleeps in the giant tree with both kids after the T-Rex attack. By this imagery, he protects the children like a bird in his nest.
At some points, this leading character reminds of Indiana Jones : a scholar who is not acquainted to be involve in real action and is asked to become more human than the academic, you can read nerdy here, world he is comfortable in. However, in Jurassic Park, it is more of an ensemble effort from the cast than an actual hero-like movie like the Indy Jones trilogy.
Sure, Jurassic Park is in Spielberg’s paved way of Sci-Fi movies and he is reusing some effects that his favorite films of the 1950’s and 1960’s have used. Spielberg sees the family cell in a very conservative way and he has often been accused of old fashioned in his vision of the American family. Just like his movies, he exploits his talent into a particular genre and excelling in it. However, he never will be the one to mix them and reinvent a whole genre. Spielberg exploits the textbook lessons of his predecessors and indulge his own breath into it while staying in the way, very conventional. His obvious search for the reunited family might be an effect of his family being torn apart following his parent’s divorce. However, this is just cheap freudism that I’ll let my more educated peers get a view on it.
As a final note, it is difficult to talk about Jurassic Park, released in 1993, and not link Steven Spielberg’s other film released that year : Schindler’s List which earned him his first Best Director and Best Picture Oscars. While the two being completely different I don’t think they put a shadow on each other. It just proves that Spielberg has the right flair for adventure films and can treat serious issues with the right amount of sensitivity and respect while presenting the Holocaust.