God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. – Dr. Malcolm
Jurassic Park is a dinosaur-action-disaster-horror-thriller-adventure movie that is one of my favorites for so many reasons. I love it. Nay, I adore it.
Is it a good movie? Yes!
Is it a great movie? ….Yes!
(You can keep escalating, and I’m not going to say “no.”)
But, above all, Jurassic Park is fun and exciting. I have great memories of watching this movie, and I am always game to spend an evening in the company of Hammond, Malcolm, Sattler, and Grant (and ESPECIALLY Muldoon).
Jurassic Park is infinitely quotable, and it has more classic performances than you probably remember — Jeff Goldblum, yes. But also Richard Attenborough, Wayne Knight, Samuel L Jackson, Sam Neill, Bob Peck, and the ageless marvel Laura Dern (who has recently been on my radar as Katy and I have watched through Enlightened, which Dern stars in).
Chances are that you either know this movie, or you’re Earn This co-founder Grant, who refuses to watch it for reasons beyond me. To each their own follies.
One of my favorite experiences ever watching a movie was Jurassic Park. I was about to start my junior year in college, and my roommate C-Bag and I had just moved into our new college house. Our house-mate Ryan had installed a kickass surround sound system. We turned the volume up REALLY loud and enjoyed this blockbuster classic in hi-def.
“This is going to be a good year,” I told myself as we watched it that August evening. (It turned out not to be a good year, but I still remember that night fondly.)
The premise of the movie is that an exceedingly rich man has spared no expense — except, apparently, on programming the security system; but I digress — to find a way to resurrect dinosaurs on a tropical island he owns. What could possibly go wrong?
This billionaire, John Hammond (Attenborough), invites two scientists to the island to receive their endorsement and votes of confidence. They are Dr. Ellie Satler (Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Neill), leading experts on paleontology and paleobiology. Hammond’s lawyer also brings Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), a chaos theorist who is there mostly to stutter and confound. They make a charming team.
Hammond takes them on a tour, which goes horribly wrong. Thanks to a treacherous programmer (“Newman!”) and “life finding a way,” Jurassic Park’s systems come to a halt. Dinosaurs, even predators, break out of their pens, and the parties split up. The child-averse Dr. Grant finds himself stuck protecting Hammond’s two grandchildren.
Meanwhile, Samuel L. “Hold on to your butts” Jackson struggles to bring the park back to life. In doing so, he frees EVEN MORE dinosaurs, including some raptors who corner Hammond’s kids in a kitchen in the movie’s most exciting scene.
At last the main characters escape the island and decide that Jurassic Park is a bust. It’s doomed to failure and should be closed forever.
The movie has an exciting climax, but ask most fans of the movie and they’ll agree that there’s something inconclusive and disappointing about the way things settle.
Brian wrote about JP as a selection his Film Favorites, and he does a great job breaking down why the events of the movie aren’t enough to reject the idea of Jurassic Park. The resigned, “life finds a way” angle — that Jurassic Park was doomed to fail because man can’t play God — doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.
If you look at everything that happened, you draw almost the OPPOSITE conclusion. These specific events had to happen exactly this way for this plan to fail. If they had chosen a different animal for their DNA base or had a competent, multi-person computer department, the park would have worked just fine.
But, despite that complaint, this is one of my favorite movies. Why do I love it so much?
To start with… DINOSAURS. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? They’re portrayed so brilliantly here with a combination of animatronics and CGI. This look has aged extremely well, and Spielberg’s cinematic instincts are put to good use: The movie is exciting not just because the dinos look fancy, but because the movie is shot in such an exciting way.
The next reason this movie works is because it has a solid script with good characters. How novel, right? But for movies in the “blockbuster” genre, that’s not something you can take for granted. Stuff like distinct, flawed characters and competent narrative structure with gradually escalating conflict — it turns tentpoles from watchable to excellent..
But if I have to select one thing as the special spice that makes Jurassic Park great — and, if you’ve been reading my other movie entries, you’ve probably already guessed it — it would be the music. The Jurassic Park theme is probably my favorite movie theme EVER. John Williams is a deity.
Like many movies that are forever burned into the hearts of fanboys my age, this movie is chock full of great comedy and just a little bit of cheesiness. The fantastic barrage of memorable lines is almost inspiring: “Life… life finds a way” – “Hold on to your butts” – “You can’t just suppress 65 million years of gut instinct!” – “…must go faster…” – “Don’t you mean extinct?” – “Clever girl!”
Lastly, there are very few movies that have been honored more extensively by the Internet. A few highlights:
- Someone recreated the console that Samuel L. Jackson tries to use to override the security systems.
- There is a whole family of videos of things replacing other things in Jurassic Park. Here are three highlights: the raptors replaced with cats; dinosaurs’ roars replaced with the word “hey!”; and dinosaur CGI replaced homemade effects.
- Another Jurassic Park classic is a YTMND (remember those?) that adds some hilarious but NSFW lyrics to part of the John Williams theme.
- There is a techno remix of Jeff Goldblum’s laugh.
- And, best of all, this cover of the Jurassic Park theme is one of the most beautiful, moving pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I’ve probably listened to it a thousand times.
(Before I wrap up, I wanna give another shout out to my friend Sean, without whom Jurassic Park would not be nearly as high on this list. He showed me the light with this movie. He’s seen it so many times and calls it his favorite movie. One time we were playing the DVD game “Scene It” where you have to guess the movie that a clip is from before your friends. The shot of the raptors opening the door came up, and he got it in like a quarter second. It’s one of my favorite memories.)