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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Jurassic Park" Always Worth the Trip

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 117 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


Jurassic Park (1993)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense science fiction terror
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Michael Crichton and David Koepp (from a novel by Michael Crichton)
PRODUCERS: Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Cundey
EDITOR: Michael Kahn
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award winner

SCI-FI/ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, and Wayne Knight

Over a decade after I first saw it, I still get a thrill whenever I watch director Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. The Academy Award-winning film (Best Effects – Sound Effects Editing, Best Effects – Visual Effects, and Best Sound) is, like Star Wars and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a landmark film in the area of visual effects, in this instance, for its use of computer rendered characters or CGI, computer generated imagery. While the Terminator sequel introduced the moviegoers to the magic “morphing,” seamless changing a character into something or someone totally different, JP introduced a whole slew of characters that were not added to the film until principal photography was finished shooting. These were characters that only existed inside a computer and were digitally added onto the film.

In the movie, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), a billionaire industrialist, convinces colleagues Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to travel to his newly created theme park that he calls Jurassic Park. His company’s scientist have miraculously cloned dinosaurs to populate the theme park, and Hammond needs Grant and Ms. Sattler, two paleontologists, to examine the park and give their seal of approval to the venture which in turn will appease Hammond’s worried investors. But as with any test run, things go badly. The park suffers a major security breakdown and releases the dinosaurs, including a hungry T-Rex and pack of velociraptors who enjoy hunting humans. The computer malfunction has Grant, Sattler, and the rest of the park’s inhabitants and visitors (including Hammond’s grandson and granddaughter) struggling to survive the onslaught on vicious dinosaurs as they try to escape from the island.

Although Spielberg has made his share of “serious” films to impress film critics and Oscar® voters, his best work remains his films that have a sense of magic and wonder, and Jurassic Park has both. However, the film is also a razor sharp suspense thriller and amazing adventure filled with frightening pitfalls, daring escapades, and last minute reprieves – the kind that end just before the other shoe drops.

Spielberg is at his best when he manipulates his audience, but honestly by weaving a thrill-a-minute film that has heart. It’s more than just the things that stop your heart, and JP has lots of that. It’s also about the moments that warm the heart, and a Spielberg favorite theme – that of the father who earns redemption or the man who learns to become a father or father figure, is very strong here. A lot of the credit has to go to a script (by Hollywood screenwriting heavyweight David Koepp and the author of the novel upon which this film is based, Michael Crichton) that is friendly to the elements and themes Spielberg favors for his films.

Still, the master filmmaker takes it and not only does he make it work, he makes it work on a level that turns what could have been a novelty film into an movie that is both unforgettable and influential. On a purely entertaining level, JP is a great and a film that is a treat to watch. As a work of art, Jurassic Park’s subject matter may seem like B-movie material, but the entire work is both a brilliant piece of pop entertainment and masterstroke of film craftsmanship.

10 of 10

NOTES:
1994 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Gary Rydstrom and Richard Hymns), “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri), and “Best Sound” (Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom, Shawn Murphy, and Ron Judkins)

1994 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Special Effects” (Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri); 1 nomination: “Best Sound” (Richard Hymns, Ron Judkins, Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom, and Shawn Murphy)

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