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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Personal Canon - Jurassic Park

The Personal Canon is a recurring column discussing my favorite movies of all time.  While they may not necessarily be "A" rated, they are the movies that, for some reason or another, hold a special place in my filmgoing experience.

Jurassic Park (1993)
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Join in over the next four days for a look at the Jurassic Park Quadrilogy:
Today:  Jurassic Park
Thursday:  The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Friday:  Jurassic Park III
Saturday:  Jurassic World

This is how you make a movie that is innately special effects-driven work.  More than twenty years later, Jurassic Park still works its magic and I was quite happy to be able to see it once again on the big screen (even if the 3D, though admirably done, wasn't really necessary).  Editor's Note:  I watched Jurassic Park in its theatrical re-release two years ago, but for some reason failed to complete this review.  With the impending Jurassic World release, I decided to revisit the film (and its sequels) on dvd again.  This review is mix of the theatrical release draft I created and new work.

Everyone knows the plot -- billionaire entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invites a trio of scientists (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum) and his grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards) to a remote Central American island off the coast of Costa Rica where his researchers have created a slew of dinosaurs that Hammond plans to show off in a theme park-like setting.  Michael Crichton has taken a seemingly ridiculous plot and created something (along with co-screenwriter David Koepp) that comes off as totally believable and fathomable.  Rather than have the science come off as silly, it seems legitimate and this intelligent base for a big-budget blockbuster action flick can't help but resonate.  

The early 90s were a pivotal time in my movie-going life with Beauty and the Beast coming onto the scene in 1991 and then the influential year of 1993 which featured both Jurassic Park and The Fugitive -- two movies that absolutely enthralled me as an eager film-loving thirteen year-old.  (And that's not even including Schindler's List, Philadelphia, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Sleepless in Seattle [another Personal Canon film])  Admittedly, Jurassic Park was probably the film that put Steven Spielberg on the film map for me.  Here, the director takes just the right amount of time to set up the story before turning everything upside down.  Surprisingly, both aspects of the plot -- the exposition and the payoff -- work incredibly well with neither feeling like they wear out their welcome or are cut short by the other.

There are so many really great moments here --
  • The first moment the scientists see the giant dinos and that iconic John Williams music just swells.  This is also the first moment that we see the dinos as well and considering this film was made more than two decades ago, the special effects look absolutely fantastic.  There are moments in this movie that I feel like the effects look better than most of what is out there today.
  • The entire sequence of the T-Rex wreaking havoc on the two tour vehicles.  From the moment when that cup of water starts to shake to the giant reptile eating the guy on the toilet (Spielberg also has a eye for uncomfortable comedy) to the two kids being panicked in the car -- it's all great stuff.
  • Although I dislike the very end of the showdown with the velociraptors, the kitchen scene with the two grandkids is stellar stuff.
  • Even the scientific set-up with the animated DNA strand is amusingly done.  This should be boring expository stuff and it still is amazingly interesting.  
Jurassic Park really is a fantastic flick and one that truly stands the test of time.  It's an incredibly fun roller coaster ride that Steven Spielberg crafted here and it's one of the best "popcorn" movies of all time.

The RyMickey Rating:  A

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