Just on the Horizon is one my most highly anticipated films of the year, “Jurassic World”. Why? The original 1993 “Jurassic Park” is one of my most enduring and favorite movies of all time. I grew up watching the movie at a young age, memorizing every line, every moment and in utter awe of “real” Dinosaurs on the big screen. I had it on both VHS and DVD formats, watching both of them constantly and even the DVD to this very day. Still though we often have childhood favorite flims that we later in life look at and go, “well maybe that wasn’t as good as it was as a kid.” That childhood movie may still hold a special place in your heart but you understand as an adult that it’s not quite as good as you remember it. “Jurassic Park” isn’t one of those movies.
“Jurassic Park” is a movie that only improves the older you get. Now armed with the Blu-Ray trilogy pack, I popped in the first movie (with 5.1 digital surround sound) and I fell in love with it all over again. Not only is “Jurassic Park” a thrilling summer blockbuster movie with special effects that hold up to this very day but it’s a movie with a ton of heart, terror, intensity and childlike wonder. It’s a smartly scripted film with great actors filling the roles and stunning direction from director Steven Spielberg; an absolute masterpiece.
The story of “Jurassic Park” starts with a man named John Hammond. A man rich beyond the heavens, has gathered the best scientists in the world and genetically engineered Dinosaurs back to life from finding Dino DNA in fossilized mosquitoes. Creating a theme park/zoo for the entire world to come visit these animals called “Jurassic Park” on an Island off the Coast Rica, it has hit its first hitch after a worker is killed by one of the Dinosaurs. Facing pressure from the insurance companies, threatening to shut down the park, Hammond brings in a group of top level scientists to tour and hopefully get to endorse his park. But in the midst of tour the park something goes horribly wrong and the Dinosaurs get out of their pens.
With a movie liked “Jurassic Park” it’d be very easy (and tempting) to center everything around the Dinosaurs. Show off enough Dinosaurs and maybe you can get the audience completely enamored and that would be enough for the spectacle. Yet, director Steven Spielberg is smart about this and decides to create a movie that’s actually more of a slow burn; introducing the characters, driving the plot slowly building everything up, giving the audience enough Dinosaurs to keep their interest until the crisis happens (which takes a good 40 or so minutes to get around too).
With all of that it gives us time to get to know the characters and care about them. Sam Neil as Dr. Alan Grant, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcom, Laura Dern as Dr, Elliot Sadler, Richard Attenborough as John Hammond, Muldoon, Lex and Tim, (among so many others) make up a group of both talented performers and also help create these great characters.
A lot of what people talk about when praising this film is the ground breaking special effects (which they should and I will get to that later). I think what a lot of people miss is just how smart this script actually is. Revisiting this film again I had forgotten about a lot of the great debate about the power of science and how far we should go with that power. How much is too much control or too little? Can mankind interfere with nature to the extent that the scientists do in the film? Both sides of the debate are done by great characters that you can like and understand. John Hammond isn’t your typical evil rich business guy that you normally see in film. He has a heart and a dream that may be misguided but is driven by passion and does care about the people around him.
Now that we have that out of the way we do need to take some time and talk about the groundbreaking special effects in this movie. Before this movie computer generated imagines were used sparingly in small moments that either weren’t noticeable or didn’t last very long. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is one of the few movies before “Jurassic Park” that used it a great deal. But, we’ve never seen special effects used at the scale of creating animals in the computer. “Jurassic Park” was a true game changer with every single shot of CGI looking nearly 100% real looking.
This is of course is due to the mix between the computer and the practical effects. Whenever there is a close up shot, normally it’s done with a real life puppet which makes the actors actually interact with real animatronics. While most of the wide shots were done in the computer and they blend so well together. Even today 22 years later these visual effects outshine and hold up to the modern day effects that we’re used to seeing, which is astonishing.
Spielberg is known to be able to create child like wonder and magic in his movies. From “E.T.” to “Hook” there is a great deal of majestic nature that is enriched into his productions. “Jurassic Park” is no exception with this film being able to create a child in all of us; being in awe of the Dinosaurs and smiling throughout the feature. Yet Spielberg is also able to create some of his most terrifying sequences since “Jaws”. Spielberg brilliantly weaves through the emotions of both without the two tones conflicting with one another. Some of the sequences he creates are unforgettable like the first T-Rex attack in the rain, the velociraptors in the kitchen, among so many others.
This is a film that actually doesn’t stick very close to the bestselling novel by Michael Crichton. A novel that I read many years after I watched and re-watched this film to no end. It’s a very good book and this movie has the core storyline and ideals from the novel but deviates very far from it. If you’re looking for something like the book you won’t find it here. The book is certainly more like a techno thriller while the movie is….well a Spielberg production (there is no other way to describe it for the reasons I listed above). Yet another example though where the movie doesn’t always have to follow the book (and now we have two different versions of the same story to enjoy as well for their own merits).
This is one of Spielberg’s best movies period. The cast all wonderfully performed, the movie is intense and exciting but also has a large heart for the kid inside of all us. Yet all at the same time the movie can have this great ethical debate within all of that and balance all the different tones out equally. The special effects were and still are ground breaking (and the Dinosaurs look great on screen). “Jurassic World” has a lot to live up too.