“Welcome, to Jurassic Park!”
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Wayne Knight and Samuel L. Jackson
Music Composed by John Williams (Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Star Wars Franchises)
Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects (1994)
Special Effects by Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Micheal Lantieri
Jurassic Park is based on a novel by Michael Crichton with the same title. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is opening a new theme park in Costa Rica, but after an accident happens, his investors are requesting he has experts sign off on the park before it opens. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Niell) a palaeontologist, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) a paleobotanist, and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) a mathematician specialising in chaos theory, spend a weekend at the park in order to give it their endorsements. Jurassic Park is essentially a dinosaur zoo, created after scientists found a way to bring dinosaurs back to life from mosquitoes fossilised in amber. Everything falls apart when a disgruntled employee turns off the power to the electric fences so he that he can sell dinosaur embryos to the competition undetected.
One of the may great aspects of Steven Spielberg work is that he asks simple questions and lets those drive the plot. Spielberg asks us: if dinosaurs came back to life, what would happen? This is even reiterated when the experts are discussing the pros and cons of the park:
Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we have the slightest idea of what to expect?
Spielberg creates science fiction storylines that respect his audience. He understands that the audience may not be dinosaur fans or have any science background and therefore he has to explain difficult concepts if he does not want to leave them behind. He does this by having children in the scenes with the dinosaurs. Not only does their amazement reflect the audiences’ amazement at the special effects, they also provide a vehicle to explain information about the dinosaurs in easy to understand ways, without the audience feeling patronised;
It’s okay! It’s okay! It’s a brachiosaur!
Veggiesaurus, Lex, Veggiesaurus!
Spielberg also introduces the complicated science behind the creation of dinosaurs through a 3D ride that is at the beginning of the park. Through he ride, Hammond introduces the park like he would to tourists and explains how the cloning of the dinosaurs actually worked. Surprisingly and thankfully, the science is fairly accurate and therefore anyone with a science background (ME!) can enjoy it, and blatant inaccuracies do not ruin the flow.
The ethics of this cloning are also explored thorough the character of Dr. Malcolm. He is worried about whether Hammond has really thought about what he is doing:
Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
This has become relevant recently when scientists genetically edited human embryos to make them resistant to HIV, implanted them via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and the children were born in 2018. This was very controversial among the scientific but also the general community. Maybe scientists should be asking themselves more often – not can we, but should we?
Humans have introduced many different species into habitats they don’t belong causing many environmental disasters with the loss of many different species. The most famous example is the introduction of cane toads to protect Australian’s sugar cane crop from the cane beetle which resulted in mass destruction of the natural fauna that is still continuing today. The film explores these concerns when it is announced that all the dinosaurs are female so that the populations are controlled, through the character of Dr. Malcolm:
Life, uh.. finds a way
The foreshadowing that life does indeed find a way is seen when they are arriving on the island and Dr. Grant can only find two female parts of his seatbelt and makes the seatbelt work anyway by tying them together. This leaves us questioning when we learn that the dinosaurs have been genetically edited to need to be fed the essential chemical lysine, and therefore if they are not fed by humans, they will die;
Dr. Wu inserted a gene that makes a single faulty enzyme in protein metabolism. Animals can’t manufacture the amino acid lysine. Unless they’re continually supplied with lysine by us, they’ll go into a coma and die.
Will they actually die? or will life, again, find a way?
The foreshadowing continues as they enter the park and go through a gate similar to that seen in the original King Kong (1933);
What have they got in there, King Kong?
King Kong has a huge, monstrous gorilla escape captivity and run havoc on New York city, foreshadowing the escape of the dinosaurs from their captivity.
Spielberg reminds his audience to respect powerful creatures, which could be a commentary on how animals such as tigers and lions are treated in zoos. Those that do not respect the dinosaurs are punished. Firstly, John Hammond does not respect his dinosaurs by trying to keep them in captivity and treat them as tourist attractions, like many animals are treated today all over the world;
Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.
He loses control of his park and eventually has to give it up, leaving the dinosaurs to die;
Control?! You never had control! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. So I made a mistake too. I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now.
Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) turns off the power to the electric fences that enclose the dinosaurs so that he can get their embryos on a boat to sell to a competitor, indicating he does not see them as threat. He also tries to play fetch with one, indicating that he sees them as nothing more than a scaly dog, and when that fails he threatens the dinosaur:
Ah, no wonder you’re extinct. I’m gonna run you over when I come back down!
Nedry also refers to the dinosaur as a boy, even though we have been told they are all female;
Hello, nice boy. Uh, nice boy. Nice dinosaur. I thought you were one of your big brothers, you’re not so bad.
The lack of respect he shows for the power of dinosaurs is ultimately punished as Nedry is eaten by the Dilophosaurus.
Spielberg’s wonderful storytelling is complimented by John Williams’ distinct and powerful score. The collaboration of Williams and Spielberg has remained strong through many film franchises such as Indiana Jones and Jaws, and the audience knows they are in for a treat. The full sound that is created by the symphony Williams conducts reflects the huge adventure that Jurassic Park is going to take us on.
Jurassic Park, regardless of storytelling or music, would be nothing without its special effects – a dinosaur film needs dinosaurs! The special effects are absolutely astounding with a mixture of animatronics and computer generate imagery. I think I will always support puppets and animatronic use because of this film, because the dinosaurs actually exist they will hold up for years to come. The special effects are flawless, unlike even many films today, it is very difficult to differentiate the tangible from the computer generated. There is nothing more distracting than an imperfect green screen or CGI- generated monster, but Jurassic Park has neither and the audience themselves is as amazed as the characters in the film at the dinosaurs;
Look at that!
It’s.. uh… it’s a dinosaur!
The one fault I will point out is Bob Peck’s accent. Bob Peck plays ‘crocodile dundee’-like character, Robert Muldoon. He wears an akubra with one side folded up, clearly indicating he is Australian. However, his accent leaves so much to be desired! As a fellow Australian I find American or British attempts at the Australian accents impossible to listen to and this breaks the atmosphere for me.
Regardless, Jurassic Park is a Spielberg masterpiece and you will not be disappointed with your decision to watch this on your Friday Night!