December 2, 2010 by abbyo
In 1993, I was five years old. At that age, most kids are only interested in two things: princesses and dinosaurs. So it makes sense that while I remember very little about that year, I do remember “Jurassic Park.” Everyone and their mother (including my mother) wanted to see this movie. It was groundbreaking. It was exciting. It was a Steven Spielberg movie. It was everything a blockbuster should be. I think the appeal for me was more along the lines of getting to watch dinosaurs, and a trailer that included Samuel L. Jackson saying the word “butt,” which, at the time, I thought was risqué. Ah, youth.
Anyway, “Jurassic Park” was a movie that took popular culture by storm upon its release, and continued doing so for years afterward. It’s a movie that left a Tyrannosaur-sized footprint on my childhood. Even so, I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety since I was 11 years old, so I thought it was high time to revisit it.
As you can probably guess, a second viewing of “Jurassic Park” didn’t really change my overall love for the movie. However, it was deepened. Part of this was out of a sense of nostalgia, but there were also some parts of the film I hadn’t caught as a kid. That being said, there were a few things this time that stuck in my craw, so let’s just get those out of the way, beginning with how poorly planned that damn park is.
As a kid, I think I was just wowed by the visuals and the concept of “real live” dinosaurs onscreen, and also didn’t have the common sense modern safety concerns that adults did, so I overlooked a lot. But watching it again, it’s pretty funny to see just how easy it was to turn that park into a pit of bloody chaos. Consider: crackpot head honcho Richard Attenborough didn’t plan for tropical storms, despite the fact that his park is located in South America. He didn’t put locks on the car doors, completely ignoring that this would likely be a natural reaction for anyone who wanted to get a closer look at the creatures (and ignoring the advice of ace gamekeeper Robert Muldoon, who knows a bit about Safaris). He breeds velociraptors, a dangerous, smart and deadly creature, again despite Muldoon’s warnings. Also, if your entire defense system can be shut down by Newman from Seinfeld, perhaps it’s time to rethink your security. Just saying.
I also like how Attenborough’s excitement over his park makes him blind to what seem to me like pretty basic arguments against his work. At the beginning of the movie, he brings Sam Neill and Laura Dern to check out the park to get their scientific stamp of approval, but really he just wants some “yes men” to placate his slimy lawyer. He’s hoping their amazement at what they find will give him the OK he needs, no questions asked. But when the slimy lawyer also brings chaos theorist Jeff Goldblum (in full manic cool-guy mode) along for the ride, Attenborough immediately dislikes him, because he questions the magic, and makes Neill and Dern question it, too. Goldblum doesn’t think it’s the place of scientists to go back and mess with millions of years of evolution just because they can. Fair point. Of course, Goldblum’s problems with the park turn out to be exactly the problems the group encounters, proof that you just shouldn’t screw with science. Or at least just make it harder for your genetically rebred dinosaurs to kill you.
So, point one: As a child, I was pre-disposed to like Richard Attenborough’s character because the actor looked like a sweet old man, and resembled Santa Claus (who he later played in the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street”). I felt sorry for him that his park wasn’t working. I didn’t blame him. But now, with all of this evidence and poor planning in front of me, I have no sympathy. All of the problems were his own damn fault.
Second point: child actors. As a kid, I loved Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards as Tim and Lex, Attenborough’s plucky grandkids. They were probably my favorite characters. I think mostly I was just excited that children around my age were main characters in a movie. But perceptions change. I used to think Lex was a super-cool hacker girl. She was awesome. Not anymore. From my adult point of view, Lex is panicky, dumb and annoying, barely redeeming herself by saving everyone at the end with her tech knowledge. Tim, who’s basically adorable, and does way more than freak out every time, is a much more likeable character. He also gets some of the movie’s best one-liners.
This movie also introduces audiences to the official paleontologist uniform. Behold:
It’s some form of cotton shirt, with sleeves rolled up, and beige pants. Hat is optional. Because I wanted to be a paleontologist for about three years after seeing this movie, this was the look that dominated my wardrobe from age 6 to age 9. Thanks Steven Spielberg.
You’d think that the technology in a movie like “Jurassic Park,” considering how old it is, wouldn’t have held up over time. But it has. I’ve long been of the opinion that puppets, despite occasional jerkiness, are consistently better than CGI when it comes to creating believable creatures, and this movie is an excellent example of how effective they can be. Some of the elements in Jurassic Park, of course, are CGI, and some involve green screen work. But that T-Rex? That scene with the water glass that everyone remembers because of how threatening that dinosaur is? It’s a 20-foot animatronic puppet, and for most people, it was what made the movie. I rest my case.
Despite a few goofs here and there, “Jurassic Park” mainly made me feel a huge sense of nostalgia. I miss old-school Spielberg movies, back when he was at the height of his skill. Even his movies that didn’t succeed at the box office, like “Hook,” are still great. There’s this sense of old Hollywood magic and wonderment in these movies that you just don’t see much in his work post-“Schindler’s List” (part of this may be due to John Williams’ iconic scores). His attempts to re-capture that wide-eyed excitement and grand adventure have fallen flat, like 2001’s “A.I.” He’s directed a Tintin movie coming next year that’s got some top writers (Edgar Wright, Stephen Moffatt and Joe Cornish) on the script, so here’s hoping it’ll be a little reminder of what his movies used to be like.
Extra bit of fun: Epic “Sweded” version of “Jurassic Park”