‘65 million years in the making’, Jurassic Park was released in the summer of 1993 and has since become a classic of both the action and thriller genres. Positioned between his directorial works of Hook (a Peter Pan adaptation starring Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams) and Schindler’s List (the definitive American film about the Holocaust, with Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes), Jurassic Park solidified Spielberg’s reputation as a visionary and a master of entertainment.
The film did not just revolutionise special effects, introducing computer-generated imagery (CGI) at an unprecedented level, but also earned praise for its pacing, music, and jaw-dropping scale. Also, it had dinosaurs. Herds of them.
Despite my childhood (did I just say ‘childhood’?) fascination with extinct reptiles, I had not been familiar with a single instalment in the Jurassic Park series until now. That was due to a combination of young age, infrequent visits to the cinema, poor choices made by Russian television networks, and the lack of initiative on behalf of my Biology teachers. Of course, the consequences were dire. When the time came, I was not able to understand at least five different strands of Internet memes. I have also been subject to ridicule in my own house, because Sam and Steve have a dinosaur shrine each. The shrines are made of gummy sweets and wishful thinking.
For the record, Steve’s favourite dinosaur is liopleurodon (liopleurodon, Charlie!), Sam’s preference is pachycephalosaurus, and I like triceratops. As, out of the three, triceratops is the only one featuring in Jurassic Park, I win.
Apart from the triceratops, there are velociraptors (both hatchlings and adults, they are quite the stars), stegosauruses, parasaurolophuses, gallimimuses, brachiosauruses, dilophosauruses, and a T. Rex. Every single one of those is brilliant and clever and charming and has remained as fascinating as they must have been twenty-three years ago.
The same cannot be said for the human characters. The tragic accidents and casualties which are rampant within the film are due solely to incompetence. Incompetence is well-presented on all hierarchical levels, from the brilliant paleontologist (Sam Neill) unable to recognise a raptor when he sees one, to the evil computer genius (Wayne Knight) who gets eaten by a curious lizard with a pretty fan around its neck.
If anything, competence gets punished by death, as we see with the characters of Bob Peck (‘Dinosaur’ Dundee) and Samuel L. Jackson (the best thing that happened to that film, minus the T. Rex).
The surrogate family made of the two archaeologists (Neill plus Laura Dern, a couple in well-coordinated safari outfits) and the park owner’s grandchildren (dino-bait!) has to survive, since they are the emotional focus of the narrative. A secondary plotline involving the paleontologists and their possible procreation is resolved in the grand finale, when we see Sam Neill cradling his protegees, having clearly proven that he is father material. That is how Eliza Thornberry came to be.
While enjoyable as an action film — and fascinating as a glimpse into the lives of dinosaurs — Jurassic Park is a flawed creation that does not shy away from toilet humour. However, the good parts of the picture are really, really good, and the amount of the suspension of disbelief, just right. You can’t help wishing Laura Dern had more lines and enunciated them better, or hoping that there would be less direct exposition; yet the music is beautiful, as are the helicopter shots, and that film is still the closest I have ever come to scratching Cera’s back.
Would visit again.
Filmography: Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg. United States, 1993. (IMDb)
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Not a Day Without an Adventure. July 2nd, Day Thirty-Two: The oldest surviving film.
The oldest surviving film is Roundhay Garden Scene (1888), recorded in Leeds, Yorkshire. It is a very short footage of four people twirling and walking in circles on a sunny day. At the presentation speed of 12 frames per second, the film amounts to 1.66 seconds only. It seems closer to gifs and Boomerang clips than to shorts, and remains amusing.
At that point in the history of cinema, film was seen as an attraction. It did not so much matter what type of movement was being recorded; rather, it was fantastic and unimaginable to have recorded movement at all. The same attitude will follow the invention of sound film and, later, colour on screen.
The author of Roundhay Garden Scene was Louis Le Prince, a French inventor. He was visiting his English parents-in-laws at the time, and they are the two figures in the background of the scene. It is quite remarkable that the first cinematic production was international, a joint European effort.
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