Jurassic Park (1993)
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum
HAMMOND – “All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!”
MALCOLM – “But John, if the Pirates Of The Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
My childhood memories of Jurassic Park are a mixture of peaceful moments involving brachiosaurs and a triceratops, and loud noises played over a bright lime green colour. You see, when it first hit cinemas in 1993 I was ten years old and I, my mum, my dad and my dinosaur-mad brother went to see it. Signs at the cinema warned that, although Jurassic Park was rated PG, there were some scary scenes that would be unsuitable for young children. Anyone seeing us go into the cinema would think my seven-year-old brother was a potential problem, but in fact the opposite was the case.
For want of a better phrase, I was a bit of a pussy when I was younger, whereas at the tender age of seven my brother loved A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play and the like. That’s why, when the T-Rex attacked the jeeps in the pouring rain and ate the annoying lawyer, or when the Dilophosaur spat on the double-crossing Dennis Nedry and attacked him in his car, or when the raptors were chasing Tim and Lex in the kitchen, I never saw those scenes – I only heard them, with my lime green t-shirt pulled over my face in fear.
Despite this fear I still loved Jurassic Park, and the majority of 1993 and 1994 was spent playing with the toys (remember the ones that roared when you moved their hand, and the Dino Damage ones that had chunks of flesh you could pull off?), playing the video games (the Mega Drive one let you play as the raptor) and re-watching the VHS over and over again, the smaller telly and lower volume providing me with a safer environment to watch the dodgier scenes. It was a part of my childhood and now, aged 28, I still love it.
For the sake of procedure I feel obliged to explain the story of Jurassic Park, this being a review and all, though you really should know it by now. Eccentric Scottish billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has opened up a theme park in a remote tropical island, a theme park that features real life dinosaurs he’s managed to clone using the DNA extracted from blood found in fossilised mosquitoes. Excited about his park, he invites some guests – palaeontologist Alan Grant (Neill), palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler (Dern), theorist Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) and the aforementioned annoying lawyer – to see the park before it opens and get their expert opinions. Oh, and he’s invited his two grandchildren too, because things definitely won’t go tits-up.
After a while, things go tits-up and, thanks to some underhand subterfuge from park IT nerd Dennis Nedry, the electric fences around the park go down, leaving the dinosaurs free to run riot and do what they feel like. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, what they feel like doing is munching on humans. It’s up to the gang (who are scattered around the island) to regroup and get the fuck out of Dodge before a raptor puts them between two slices of bread.
Even watching it eighteen years later on Blu-ray, Jurassic Park still looks sensational. There are one or two moments where the CGI now looks ever so slightly dated (most notably the scene with the brachiosaurs where everyone sees the dinosaurs for the first time), but the fact that all of the dinosaur effects are still infinitely more convincing than the tripe churned out today – I’m looking at you Dinoshark, Lockjaw and Mega Piranha – just shows what an incredible achievement this film’s special effects were at the time on computer hardware that nowadays would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, prehistoric.
It’s just a perfect film that works on so many levels for all ages. Children get a kick out of seeing people interact with dinosaurs – something we’ve all wanted to do at some point – while adults can appreciate the arguments the characters have over the ethical and moral implications of cloning and disrupting the laws of natural selection by bringing back extinct animals, topics that are still strikingly relevant almost two decades later.
If you’ve never seen Jurassic Park, I feel like crying right in your face then whipping my head left and right so the tears slap across your inexperienced eyes. It’s simply an essential film that everyone with any sense of wonder or imagination has to see. At the time it was released it was a revelation in filmmaking and its use of CGI changed the way movies were created, while these days it’s become a demonstration that even though its special effects DNA has been cloned and misused so many times since, when used properly it can make for some of the most spectacular cinema ever seen.
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Jurassic Park was recently released in a lovely Blu-ray trilogy boxset. UK peeps can get it by clicking here or get the DVD trilogy by clicking here. If you’re a Yankee Doodle Dandy you can get the US Blu-ray trilogy here or the DVD trilogy here.