This film has a special place in our pallid hearts. Jurassic Park (1993) stunned the world upon release – we were nine! A landmark experience with special effects that still hold up to this day, it truly was a roarsome experience.
Adapted from Michael Crichton’s (1942-2008) eponyomous novel from 1990, Spielberg’s spectacle opens with Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck – 1945-1999 – most famous for his role on the BBC’s Edge of Darkness) assting with the transportation of a velociraptor to its holding cell.
That incident leaves a man shredded to bits. In turn, that places InGen – bioengineering billionaire John Hammond’s company – in a spot of legal bother.
Hammand (Richard Attenborough) has a theme park involving dinosaurs opening on a remote island in Isla Nublar, Costa Rica.
He essentially bribes famed paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to visit the island and give their vote of support – with the latter two having no idea of what the invitation is about.
Also invited is scientist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and money-obsessed lawyer Donald Gennero (Martin Ferrero).
And their role is to, basically, test the park – Hammond wants their feedback on everything. Can’t go wrong, right? Well, Dr. Ian Malcolm sure isn’t impressed… although he does like Dr. Grant’s girlfriend.
Jeff Goldblum is brilliant as the wise-cracking, pessimistic, chaos theory obsessed Dr. Ian Malcolm. Sporting a leather jacket and buckets of flirtatious charm, he immediately starts to hit on Sattler – but his overall purpose is to act as an ironic commentator.
But he proves himself more than a casual flirt, challenging John Hammond about his decision to bring dinosaurs back to life. It’s a surprisingly intelligent scene for a massive blockbuster movie – and one severely lacking from the film’s various sequels.
Predictably, as this is a movie, it all turns to chaos.
Skilled computer technicial Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) is fed up with being underpaid by Hammond. Despite his brilliance in keeping the park running borederline singlehandedly, he turns to a rival and plans to steal dinosaur “amber” so a competitor park can open.
In so doing, Nedry triggers off the collapse of Jurassic Park’s security systems – in turn, this leaves Hammond’s grandkids – Lex and Tim – stranded next to the T. Rex enclosure.
That scene scared the living shit out of a young Mr. Wapojif, who took to hiding under his puny woollen jacket as cover from the T. Rex. Hey, it was 1993, it made sense.
Anyway, more chaos erupts and we’re left with a classic fight for survival. And the moral of the story is very much, of course, don’t mess with nature.
Which, of course, the human race is continuing to ignore in pursuit of big business – a handful of folks get to be mega rich and have a delusional superiority complex, whilst the free world implodes due to pollution and staggering inequality.
But amongst the chaos there’s still time for classic Spielberg sentimentality, with Dr. Grant’s child hating scientist developing as a character towards a new man.
But, on the plus side, Jurassic Park holds up magnificently. We’d hesitate to call it an outright classic, but the outstanding cast certainly helps to elevate it above your average daft action romp.
But in 1993 it was as if Spielberg had directed it just for us. The dinosaur obsessed young Mr. Wapojif! So it was just so perfect at the time, even though now we can see through the stupidity of the concept.
But the legendary director filmed it almost in tandem with Schindler’s List, an experience he found emotionally exhausting and left him unable to work for years after.
The contrasts between films is beyonf belief. But off a $63 million budget, Jurassic Park made over $1.030 billion. Roar!
It’s also the only film we can remember where the queues stretched outside Preston cinema right down the side of the building. As kids, we were worried we wouldn’t get in and see it!
in 2013, we caught up with its re-release. And whilst far from perfect, we still love it for what it now is for us – a gigantic nostalgiafest with an uncommonly stunning set of actors.
The film is a fine example of how great actors can transform a project. It had the potential to be a schlocky B movie type romp – kind of like the modern Jurassic Park films – but Spielberg chose very wisely.
The cast is exceptional. Very natural and engaging, particularly Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum.
Filming took place across California and Hawaii in an apparently largely trouble-free process, with the August-November 1992 run not going over budget or schedule.
But it was all about those special effects – everyone was going wild for the film! The hype machine was incredible.
Industrial Light & Magic was behind it. But, initially, Spielberg had thought of using go-motion animation – you can see concepts of this in action below.
However, once the director saw footage on a PC of a CGI dinosaur he knew he could create something far more spectacular.
Along with extensive and brilliant animatronic models (as there really isn’t that much CGI in Jurassic Park), everyone did themselves proud – decades later, it still looks amazing.
And the Academy was in agreement, handing out three Oscars for the film’s exceptional technical achievements.
In recent times, an iconic momentary section of charismatic eccentric Jeff Goldblum has shot to fame. This is all thanks to the advent of the internet.
Around 40 in 1993, for some reason he ends up near shirtless and showing off his abs in this fight for survival moment.
Away from that, he’s fantastic in the film. Some of his – clearly ad libbed – daft moments really add to the character of Dr. Ian Malcolm.
Such as weird attempt – whilst admittedly looking like a rock star – to flirt with Dr. Ellie Sadler. Ladies, would that do it for you?
Anyway, Goldblum’s character does stretch far beyond amusing asides – he’s the first person to challenge John Hammond’s business decision in the (higher above) dinner scene. He’s scathing, in fact, indicating he’s not just some leather jacket sporting eye candy sort.
He’s also eager to explain that the park’s decision to host female only dinosaurs is irrelevant – “Life finds a way.”
Too bad his subsequent appearances in the series aren’t quite as charismatic as his first outing.
As with Spielberg’s other (far superior) classic Jaws, the series has since fallen off a quality cliff.
In 1997, Spielberg started the process himself by directing the first sequel. He had essentially forced Crichton – against the author’s wishes – to write a sequel. That was released in 1995, but the main principle behind all of it just comes across as a money making exercise.
David Koepp’s screenplay ignores huge chunks of Crichton’s novel anyway, rendering the latter’s writing exercise somewhat pointless, and makes the highly popular Jeff Goldblum the central protagonist. Great decision!
Yet, bizarrely, Koepp took Goldblum’s often hilarious Dr. Ian Malcolm and turned him into a moping, moody, unlikeable, world-wearing individual.
To this day we can’t understand why – you could argue PTSD after the first film, we guess.
The whole film is actually a bit of a mess, unfortunately, as Spielberg struggled to add anything new to the outing – even letting a T. Rex run riot in a city, Godzilla style.
There are also some horrendous plot holes that make no sense.
Despite these issues, the film was a smash hit – making $618.6 million off its $73 million budget.
In 2001, Jurassic Park III hit our screens – the budget was upped to $93 million but it only recooped $368.8 million. That brought it to a decade-long halt.
Sam Neill returns for that outing, but other than that the film (despite brilliant special effects – they really are something!) is mediocre stuff.
In 2015, the series returned with Jurassic World. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard lead the film, which is possibly one of the most stupid blockbusters ever imagined.
But… it was a smash hit! Raking in over a billion dollars at the box office, a sequel was hurried out in 2018.
It also made over a billion, but was utterly thrashed by many film critics and cinema buffs (as Mauler’s hilarious biting critique below displays – well worth a listen if you have a spare hour).
Even as a dumb, popcorn-happy blockbuster the film is enormously flawed – and that’s putting it nicely. It’s a disaster.
And there’s one more on the way, to wrap up a Jurassic World trilogy. All of which is rather distant from the 1993 classic that started it all.
But when Hollywood c-suite execs growl for money, it’s more terrifying than any genetically modified T. Rex.