Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler make a pretty good team. In the field, they’re considered to be at the top of their game. And even in their private moments they work very well together. They’ve actually thought about settling down and tying the knot someday. Maybe having some kids. Well, Ellie’s thought of that, at least. Alan isn’t so fond of small humans.
He’s fine with small dinosaurs, though! Both he and Ellie have spent their whole lives in pursuit of the fossilized remains of those splendid creatures.
Cue the entrance of eccentric multimillionaire John Hammond.
The man’s been building a theme park on a Costa Rican island. It’s something a little different. A little dangerous. And he needs some specialists like Grant and Sattler to give their thumbs-up to the park and put his anxious investors’ minds to rest.
You see, the ambitious entrepreneur has built a dinosaur park. That’s right, his scientists figured out how to harvest dino DNA from prehistoric insects. And he’s filled an entire island with Brachiosaurs and Triceratops, Dilophosaurs and even a Tyrannosaurus rex.
So he wants Alan and Ellie to join him, his grandchildren and a cynical mathematician named Ian Malcolm for a weekend tour of this marvelous park. After they all see how wonderful the place is and give it their stamp of approval, the investors and lawyers and insurance people will all calm down and stop worrying.
It’s a theme park, for crying out loud! A fabulous place with all the latest technological advancements and security. They’ll see that it’s really quite a miracle too. And with their help, millions of people will share in the excitement.
After all, what could possibly go wrong on an island brimming with enormous, bloodthirsty monsters … in a Steven Spielberg film?
Things do go wrong. Of course. In spite of very perilous circumstances and impossible odds, however, nearly all the trapped humans in the park respond with bravery—risking life and limb to help one another. Several even sacrifice their lives.
In the course of things, Alan steps up to be something of a father figure to Hammond’s two grandchildren, Tim and Lex. He rescues them, protects them, calms their fears and in the end forms a lasting bond with the kids.
Ellie expresses her conviction that in times of disaster and tumult, “the only things that matter are the people we love.”
Cutting a bit across the grain of the evolutionary angles inherent in dino destiny, Ian Malcolm sort of sums up the movie’s spiritual side when he worries over the idea of cloning dinosaurs, saying, “God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, man destroys God, man creates dinosaurs.”
A technician’s computer monitor sports a bikini-clad woman screen saver. A lawyer mistakenly asks if a park tour uses “autoerotica” figures (instead of animatronic figures).
Trembling rings of water in a cup speak to the terror that descends upon our heroes. But the movie doesn’t content itself with just visual symbolism. Early on, a man is dragged partway into an animal pen, and his lower extremities are obviously savaged by the screaming creature on the other side of the container’s wall. A bit later we see a full-sized bull lowered into a dinosaur den … and only a bloodied, broken harness pulled back out.
In neither case do we actually see the creatures attacking. We’re left to squirm instead while listening to the horrible sounds and watching the terrified human reactions. These intense moments—and many like them—are prime examples of how the movie makes what we don’t see as scary as what we do.
A T. rex munches a live goat, and the animal’s severed and bloody leg falls down on the sunroof of a vehicle parked nearby. That same dino chases after several people while roaring fearfully. It gobbles one guy up and systematically crushes a small truck holding Lex and Tim. It pushes the vehicle over a high ledge with one of the kids still inside. We later see the huge dinosaur snatch up several other smaller dinos, shaking and snapping their bodies. It plucks up a running dino and rips a chunk of flesh from its side. (To which Tim murmurs, “So much blood!”)
Grant helps Tim climb down from a dangerous perch in a tall tree while a car crashes down through the branches above them. Tim is also caught climbing on an electrified fence when the 10,000 volts of power are rebooted. The boy is thrown off the wires with an electrical jolt and lies temporarily dead until Alan applies CPR. A Dilophosaurus spits in a man’s face—blinding him—then attacks him in his vehicle. (We see the small SUV from the outside as it shakes.)
Velociraptors give hunt to adults and children in a number of very tense scenes. Their snapping jaws and sharp claws claim one victim. And we see the severed remains of another’s arm. Alan narrates and illustrates how a raptor will track and dismember its prey.
An s-word is accompanied by five or six uses each of “h‑‑‑” and “d‑‑n.” We hear “son of a b‑‑ch.” And Jesus’ and God’s names are abused two or three times each; God’s is linked to “d‑‑n.”
One park worker is a chain-smoker who always has a lit cigarette perched on his lower lip.
Malcolm cavalierly talks of having several kids and numerous ex-wives. “I’m always on the lookout for the future ex-Mrs. Malcolm,” he chortles. He makes several other lightly crude jokes, including one about “lifting a dinosaur’s skirts” to see which sex it is.
Dino dung plays a big role in one scene.
Jokes are made about body parts littering the site of a T. rex attack. One casualty comes when a dino demolishes a park restroom, then plucks a man off the toilet and starts chewing.
Jurassic Park is, quite simply, Hollywood doing what it does best. Under the watchful eye of director Steven Spielberg, the film features tight storytelling, edge-of-your-seat tension, perfectly orchestrated camera angles, incredible CGI and mechanical realism, and a sweeping score. It takes the concept of Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel and keeps pounding its audience with horrible—but relatively bloodless—terrors right up to its deus ex machina finale where everyone can finally sit back with a sigh and a happy ending.
There’s even a pro-family message packed in amidst the slashing raptors and other bellowing malevolents. I can see the trailer tagline now: “It took a T. rex to convince Alan Grant to give kids a chance. For you it only takes a movie!” Either that or, “Scientists learn not to mess with Mother Nature.” But I kinda prefer the dad-in-the-making take.
Now, remember what I said about that relatively bloodless monster mayhem? Well, for all of this flick’s wonder and spectacle, parents should realize that a gigantic roaring dinosaur can be a pretty intense thing for kids of a certain size.
Not convinced? Well, the director is. Mr. Spielberg himself said of his own young brood (in Newsweek), “I’m not going to let my kids see it for a couple of years.”
A 3-D UPDATE: The 2013 theatrical re-release of this film—in full IMAX 3-D splendor—makes that last little warning all the more pressing. True, most of the dinosaurs’ grisly bone-crunching mouthfuls are either hidden behind jungle foliage or caught in brief glimpses. But in IMAX form, just the prolonged screeches and thunderous roars alone can be enough to make a grown man grimace. (And the grown man I reference is me.)
We’ve gotten so comfortable with Jurassic Park’s growling and gnashing on our small screens that we may have forgotten just how nerve-racking and flat-out scary it can be in all its big-screen glory. Some of the enlarged, 20-year-old special effects can come off as a bit blurry or fuzzy, but the well-designed three-dimensional effects help turn jumps into leaps. It’s exactly like we wrote in our 1993 magazine cover story: “By scripting enough carnage to earn the film a PG-13 rating, Jurassic Park resemble Jaws more than it does E.T. or Hook.”
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.