Jurassic Park (1993)


If you think of this movie as Jaws on land, as director Steven Spielberg has suggested, it can’t quite compare to that masterpiece. The characters aren’t strong enough. But it’s still a hell of a summer event movie, delivering groundbreaking effects and well-choreographed thrills. The Michael Crichton story focuses on an island theme park where a wealthy entrepreneur (Richard Attenborough) has resurrected dinosaurs from DNA trapped in ancient amber. Characters played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum are brought in to endorse the park — but of course, things go awry and before you know it, everyone’s trying to avoid the jaws and claws of monsters that went extinct 65 million years ago.

The first half of the movie builds beautifully, taking us into the heart of adventure — an island promising both wonder and terror. The film’s most terrifying sequence comes at about the middle-mark, when our protagonists are trapped in jeep rangers when the Tyrannosaurus rex escapes its confines and preys upon them. I remember literally exhaling in the movie theater after this sequence was over.

The cast pulls its weight, even when their prehistoric costars threaten to overshadow them. Jeff Goldblum is quirky and amusing as an adversarial mathematician and Laura Dern delivers some fun, feminist banter as the film’s lone heroine. David Koepp manages to give each of the cast members a few moments to shine, with Sam Neill’s character even learning to prefer the company of living humans to fossilized dinos. Gary Rydstrom’s sound design is utterly spectacular and John Williams’ majestic theme for the dinosaurs is among his very finest.

But the real stars of Jurassic Park are effects wizards Stan Winston, Dennis Muren, and folks at Industrial Light and Magic. The movie employs ILM for the digital dinos, and Winston for the animatronic ones, and it’s a winning combination, resulting in visual effects that are as compelling now as they were when the film was released.

With Bob Peck, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards.

Academy Awards: Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects

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