Jurassic Park (1993)

Review

When John Hammond, the rich billionaire who creates Jurassic Park, says he ‘spared no expense,’ we might as well be listening to Steven Spielberg, the film’s prolific director. Jurassic Park cost somewhere in the vicinity of $63 million to make but that seems like nothing compared to the return, which was only a hair under $400 million. This is when we really knew what Spielberg could do: He could make a blockbuster better than anyone in the world. Jurassic Park isn’t his best film by a long shot, but its mesmerizing entertainment and proof that the man is the go-to guy for action and adventure.

The beginning sets the pace perfectly: While transporting a cloned dinosaur into the titular theme park, a worker is pulled into its cage and ravaged while the other workers prod the beast to no avail. It’s the following lawsuit that makes the park’s owner, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), want to bring in married paleontologists Alan and Ellie (Sam Neill and Laura Dern), theorist Ian (Jeff Goldblum), and his lawyer Mr. Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) to consult and give the park their seal of approval. When they first arrive, they are amazed by the dinosaurs and charmed by Hammond, his money and his technology. They are also charmed by his grandchildren, Tim and Lex (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards), who come right before the security breaks down. Soon enough, the dinosaurs are loose, eating humans (and each other) with rampant glee.

The main attractions, obviously, are the dinosaurs and the wizards at Stan Winston Studios and Industrial Light and Magic, who did the special and visual effects for the film. For the raptors, specifically, they give the creatures such a fluid range of motion that the carnality of their attacks gives off a vibrant feeling. Spielberg has a knack for mixing visual fireworks with a solid storyline, but he still has trouble with his characters and making them deeper than mere sketches of people. It’s easy: Hammond is the rich guy who learns his lesson, Alan is the logical, surprisingly adept hero, Ellie is his equal but understands more emotional things, Ian is the comic relief, Lex and Tim are the innocents, and the lawyer is a meal. But none of these characters really go beyond these archetypes, although the actors try their hardest to give the lines depth (special kudos to Dern and Neill). David Koepp, assisted by Michael Crichton, has crafted a great story in his screenplay, but he never gives enough care to the details of the characters.

It’s been argued by a lot of people that Spielberg is a hack; that he treats his controversial films (Schindler’s List, Amistad) with the same do-anything rush of his action/adventure films (Minority Report, the Indiana Jones trilogy). Maybe they have a point, but there is no arguing that Spielberg is an important director and a potent storyteller. Jurassic Park serves as an example of his control of story and imagery but also shows off his lack of character development, which has only really been cured in Jaws, indisputably his best film. His next film, Munich, was written by Tony Kushner, the famed author of Angels in America, which might make for a deeper drama from Spielberg. Either way, I guarantee that the producers spared no expense.