For our recent “Retro Reviews”, we’ve been going back through our movie collection and re-visiting some of our old favorites. This weekend, after a long hard week of work, I was in the mood for something fantastical – and Jurassic Park came immediately to mind.
I still remember seeing this one in theaters back when it came out, and remembering being blown away by the realism of the dinosaurs. Would Steven Spielberg’s epic dinosaur pic (which has spawned two sequels so far) still be as exciting for than 15 years later?
Sam Neill really made a name for himself with Jurassic Park. Before this film, he was more of a bit actor, popping up here and there, but never really taking the spotlight and making his name something every household would know. In Jurassic Park, however, he took center stage and did an excellent job. Whether he’s tripping over himself at the majesty of the dinosaurs or awkwardly comforting frightened children, he really seems to be perfectly suited for the role (which might explain why he’s appeared in all of the films of the series so far). ‘
Jeff Goldblum, already known for playing odd characters (The Fly (1986)) takes on his role of chaos mathematician with gusto, spewing out random chaos theory ideas in his own neurotic way. Sure, he seems a bit slimy at first, but ends up redeeming himself as the film progresses. Of course, he would later take this neurosis to another level with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (TV), but his performance in Jurassic Park still stands strong even so many years later.
Laura Dern, on the other hand, seems a bit out of her element. She’s decent enough as the female lead, but tends to overact a bit too much throughout the film, even making a rush to safety at one point seem so reminiscent of the swinging-over-crocodiles bit in that old Atari® game Pitfall that one expects to hear the cheesy music of the game played throughout the scene.
The rest of the cast is decent enough, with Samuel L. Jackson not getting enough screen time and Wayne Knight (Newman from “Seinfeld” (TV)) giving a decent (and yes, entirely selfish) performance.
The special effects which originally stunned viewers back when the film was in theaters aren’t quite as impressive these days. With the use of CGI for nearly everything now, seeing an animatronic dino isn’t quite as thrilling as it used to be. Still, most of the effects still manage to still be as realistic as they ever were, with only a few moments (mainly close-up shots) that are starting to look a bit dated.
While the dinosaurs don’t “wow” like they used to (especially after that stunning sequence in King Kong when he’s battling two dinos at once), Spielberg’s direction helps this one stay entertaining. From the first sequence, as the viewer follows the helicopter in to the chasm on Isla Nublar, audiences will still be captivated by the scope of the setting…and when the first dinosaur is spotted, they’ll still catch a bit of that excitement and awe from the characters that helped make this film such a success during it’s theatrical release.
While Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum help lead the cast with their performances, it’s really Steven Spielberg who makes this film so enjoyable even 16 years after it’s release. He manages to keep showing us wonders with his films, whether it’s a dinosaur roaming around in present day or a squat little alien sitting in bike basket framed by the moon, and viewers will keep coming back to his best films time and time again, just to again catch a bit of that childlike wonderment he so easily evokes from viewers.
Definitely a sci-fi classic by this point, Jurassic Park is almost as much fun to watch today as it was back in ’93 (and so much better than it’s sequels it’s sad). Jurassic Park should be in everyone’s movie collection. If it’s not in yours, what’s stopping you? Go out and buy it today.