Thursday, 16 July 2015

"Jurassic Park," Steven Spielberg, Film Review

"Jurassic Park," Steven Spielberg, Film Review

Children are always going to be a problem in a Spielberg film and Jurassic Park is no exception.  There are two kids in the film, brother and sister.  Their foul gluttony, dangerous love of fun, and unauthorized ingenuity are all trotted out as though they were good things.  But the potential of seeing one of the little blighters chewed up by a dinosaur at least allows adult viewers to watch with a sense of hope.


I remember one of the sequels to Jurassic Park (number 3, I think) had a direct correlation between the characters' moral fibre and their fates.  The goodies lived, the baddies died, and the one who showed some remorse for his evil only had his legs bitten off.  The vastly superior original has a bit of this – there's no way that naughty Denis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight) is going to get away with his greedy schemes, for example.  But good guy Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) gets injured and the park's mastermind, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) gets away unharmed.

Jeff Goldblum's character is a bit of an enigma.  He seems to be there primarily as male totty, often appearing bare-chested, and generally playing the libertine.  His love rivalry with dull Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) for hotty bone-botherer Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) never really takes off.  The main thing he does is to deliver killer lines such as 'Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should,' and 'Life finds a way.'  He also serves to show the humourless, child-hating personality of the pre-epiphanic Dr. Alan Grant, who starts the film as dry as a bone.

It's important that the macho man isn't allowed to save the day.  A big deal is made throughout about women and children having to sort things out for themselves.

Related to this is the line 'Clever girl' as the pack-hunting raptor sneaks in from left-field to eat one of the hapless non-essential tasty humans.

Just as in The Day The Earth Stood Still, it's touching to see the respect that scientists receive from everyone in the film, as opposed to the contempt and envy they receive in real life.  Respect is surely due, however, to Dr. Alan Grant's supernatural ability to deduce behavioural traits such as intelligence, pack hunting and acid-spitting of different types of dinosaur, just from a pile of fossilized bones.  (Of course, each and every one of these traits are employed to deadly effect by the cloned dinosaurs in the park.)

But despite the ridiculous science, absurd gender politics, sentimentalized kids and Hollywood hacking ('It's a UNIX system!  I know this!') the film comes together rather nicely.  Its strengths are things such as the care to attention on the set-pieces (the kitchen/freezer scenes echo bizarrely with Kubrick's 1980 The Shining), Spielberg's instinct to inject suspense at every opportunity, the understated (yet spectacular) effects, the wild storm scenes and the knowing way that Jurassic Park builds on the dinosaur films of the past.  

Personal Score: 8/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer.  The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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