For almost as long as I’ve known this movie, the stupid problematic screenplay shut me off from enjoying it. I was never convinced there was anything intelligent about it, as it includes things as ridiculous as the plot convenience of how a teenage girl can function a supercomputer better than the adult professionals. That goes as well to its attempts at heightening the moral philosophy, particularly the famous line, “Life, uh, finds a way,” or Ellie saying after Malcom’s little thought on man destroying God after God destroys dinosaurs, “women inherits the earth.” These all are really just put in to foreshadow later events and make lame attempts on critiquing social mindsets such as the feminist rise amongst toxic masculinity; that in particular doesn’t work because the film has exactly two female characters who never make eye contact. So basically, such attempts at being smart are there to only serve the giant spectacles, proving why Jurassic Park is the defining cinematic experience with all its high and lows.
Those elements are all best represented in the big t-rex scene. Everyone knows the nitpick of the forest behind the fence which turns into a cliff, but remember when Gennaro fled to the restrooms? Once the t-rex tears it up, everything fell down EXCEPT the toilet the man sat on! What the heck? This isn’t a cartoon! The t-rex particularly shouldn’t have come back in the climax, which as of now is the worst movie ending I ever saw. Nothing about it makes any sense: How did nobody hear her loud footsteps approach? How did she appear the exact instant when most needed? How did she climb past the electric fences? That’s just the tip of the iceberg as to why that one resolution doesn’t make even a smidgen of sense, and could even be too childish for some older folks.
While the screenplay is plagued with problems, this defining feature rather makes room for Spielberg’s iconic directing style to shine, particularly in his method of staging the suspense. Right away when the men lose control of the caged beast, the danger this monster poses upon even trained professionals is clear, and the illusion of danger is made complete by the extra strange patterns created by the flashlights. Then just shortly after, Doctor Alan Grant is introduced by explaining how vicious a velociraptor attack gets, using a claw fossil as a visual aid. With these brilliant introductions, you already fear the beast long before getting a good look at her. After hearing how terrifying the raptors are, the next one seen is, funny enough, a baby fresh from the egg. But then a reminder comes up again to how destructive they are when a bunch of grown raptors gobble up a poor bull to the point where their claws shred the carrying harness to ribbons. Those little bits of escalating terror set the powerful payoff inside the kitchen; the monsters can take down a fully grown bull no problem—so just imagine what they can do to children!
The genius approach Spielberg takes on building suspense is best presented in that iconic t-rex attack scene. Even if it’s as stupid as blockbusters come, the visual impact is nothing short of beautiful: The water ripples, the rain, the minimal lighting that cloaks the giant lizard, the brief instant of her toe on the wire that indicates the electric fence went out, the one flashlight, it helps cover the fact that half the shots of the t-rex were made by some of the earliest ever uses of CGI. As much as the digital effects forever changed the way movies were made, the spectacle from this film actually comes mostly from times when all effects were achieved practically. Each of the puppets and animatronics demonstrate what it means to be in complete awe by the magic of movies, from the velociraptor hatchlings to the triceratops to the brachiosauruses, the immense wonder of these moments will bring tears even to this day.
Now enough on the animals, more on the people, particularly Dr. Grant, who is one of only two characters who has actual character development by the end of the feature. At first, he has no interest of being around kids, and after being forced to protect two kids from the thing he dedicated his career to, he gradually acts more dad like. The ways it’s shown is all subliminal, mainly by an electric fence prank he pulls on the kids, a classic dad joke.
Meanwhile, Laura Dern plays Ellie with the perfect display of joy melting to sympathy like that of a true mother. Her presence on screen is done in a way that naturally pulls female viewers along for the ride; they will more likely enjoy this in the long run than something older like Back to the Future, which lacks the proper girl power to take them onto the DeLorean. That classic film, while still enjoyable as always, just throws women to the side where they don’t do much anything to help the male characters. This time though, the ladies actually do things that are useful, and Laura Dern’s performance showcases a path in the right direction for women in major blockbusters.
But none of the cast acts more perfectly than Jeff Goldblum, who moves to that of a fossil’s pacing: slow and cold. He’s quite different in presence than how Richard Attenborough assumes the persona of such a twinkle-eyed child who never lets his cane limit his hurried excitement. Rather, Goldblum always appears intentional whenever he’s reacting to what he senses is a bad idea, long before everyone else senses it. He really is the smartest character in the film, not by what he says, but by how he says it. It shows just how much talent the cast have, who can take writing as dumb as this and turn your attention instead on how high the stakes are.
So ultimately, it means while Jurassic Park includes some great theatrical thrill ride elements, it’s also got the same type of content as any movie intent on making lots and lots of money. Good thing though it has such a talented director and a talented cast, otherwise it would be flat-out unworthy to watch.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!