Jurassic Park

Tagged: Film

Film (1993). Amblin Entertainment/Universal. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R Molen. Written by Michael Crichton and David Koepp, based on Jurassic Park (1990) by Crichton. Cast includes Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Mazello, Sam Neill, Bob Peck and Ariana Richards. 127 minutes. Colour.

A theme park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica has been stocked with Dinosaurs cloned from DNA that was found within mosquitos preserved in amber. A male palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant (Neill), a woman palaeobotanist Dr Ellie Sattler (Dern) and a male mathematical expert in chaos theory Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) are invited by the entrepreneur who had the place built, John Hammond (Attenborough), to give their opinions of his success. Also present are Hammond's two grandchildren, Tim and Lex (Mazello and Richards). A criminal scheme from the chief of the park's computer systems combines with an oncoming storm so that the security systems break down while all these characters but Hammond, along with a nasty lawyer, are on a tour of the park in automated cars whose power fails. The dinosaurs are loose, the characters are stranded in the wind, rain and darkness, and a tyrannosaurus rex is not far away. The rest of the film is a jolly roller-coaster ride with only subsidiary characters getting killed (unlike the book), and an astonishing display of convincing dinosaur animation – it was the first time that CGI had been used to generate dinosaurs – climaxing back in the park's headquarters with velociraptors out to get the kids. This, unsurprisingly from Spielberg, the man who directed E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), cost $60 million to make, was the blockbuster of its year and, internationally, the highest grossing film ever made, taking only theatre receipts into account; by 2015 it had slipped down to number seventeen. Although it easily won a Hugo in 1994, and was hugely enjoyed by almost everyone, it did not escape criticism.

Nearly all intellectual toughness has been leached out of Crichton's original novel, insofar as a Horror in SF assumption that Technology is inherently wrong, and that the status quo should be restored if we are to be saved: the Luddite chaos theoretician who explains why things are bound to go awry in these terms has nearly all his lines cut in the film, which leaves him little to do; the theme-park designing capitalist, rather nasty in the book, is rendered as cuddly as Santa Claus; a miscellaneous collection of narrative loose ends points towards what must have been gargantuan script difficulties never adequately resolved. In rendering the film not too scary for kids and not too critical of the entertainment business, the film is softened. The relationships play it cute, notably child-hating Grant having to take care of the two children, and becoming a sentimentalist. There has been much discussion of who first had the idea of cloning Dinosaurs from DNA; it appeared in an exploitation film of the same year, Carnosaur (1993), based on the 1984 horror novel by Harry Adam Knight (John Brosnan) which predates Crichton's, but in fact it has been a repeated theme in sf, an early example being "The Hunting Season" (November 1951 Astounding) by Frank M Robinson. But a more direct and obvious source for both book and movie is Crichton's own film Westworld (1973), which was also about a theme park whose inhabitants – in this case robot gunslingers – become homicidal. However, criticisms cannot harm this state-of-the-art sf extravaganza, for the heroic abilities of the myriad special-effects designers and the cinematographer (Dean Cundey), far outweigh the shortcomings of the script for nearly all viewers. After all, it is primarily a film for children.

The first sequel, also directed by Steven Spielberg, was The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), based on Crichton's inferior follow-up novel The Lost World (1995); he was executive producer of the second sequel – and Jurassic Park III (2001), which was directed by Joe Johnston. Spielberg was not directly involved in the third sequel, Jurassic World (2015) directed by Colin Trevorrow. [PN]

see also: Seiun Award.

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