Jurassic Park [1993]

Review written 1993

The crowd at a showing of Jurassic Park I attended recently were primed and ready for fun. The (mostl)y full theatre filled with laughs and gasps at this very Spielbergian Steven Spielberg film.

The special effects are tremendous. With recreated dinosaurs this film excels, but there is a lot of confusion elsewhere in the plot and characters.

Plot Problems

A few obvious elements of plot-insanity are: why is the landing pad for the helicopter at the bottom of a big waterfall/wind-tunnel? Why is everything on the island automated except for the gate on the dino-transfer cage (where the human gate-opener is promptly gobbled up).

When Laura Dern's Australian hunter-protector runs off into the jungle and gets eaten, she doesn’t know that... yet she leaves the island without as much as a mention of his name. For all she knows, he is still on the island trying to protect her.

How is the island run from two or three Macintosh computers? (They look like Quadra 700’s — not exactly powerful at 40 mhz.)

Why do all the workers leave the island? Because of the predicted hurricane? But it doesn't amount to much, it simply drops some rain and then vanishes from the story. It's supposed to be a big deal, with nature shaking up the island, but it's the human activities that really screw the place up.

Sure, this is just a movie, but why can't the plot points agree with each other?

The dinosaurs are amazing creatures to see. They are designed entirely from the idea that the bones we see in museums were once covered in alligator-purse hide. It is impressive how well Spielberg merges the special-effect creatures with the live-action human forms fleeing in fear from them.

Yet these creatures are all-powerful reptile gods one minute, and then strangely two people can keep a door closed against a Velociraptor the next. This doesn't make sense.

After the film ended, many of the theatre patrons around me were gushing with praise for the film. True, the film is magnificently entertaining. Spielberg tended carefully to the first law of movie thermo-dynamics: keeping the audience engaged.

Also, the characters are carefully and quickly sketched out early, with humor and some feeling. They're likeable (or not, e.g., the poor lawyer who ends up facing down a T-Rex from a toilet seat.)

But the characters are reduced to props as the film skips along, left alive only to move the action from one scene to another. They stop developing and just start running for their lives.

Dern's character becomes mere sentiment and maternal concern over the children being menaced, and Sam Neill the common sense and manly action. Though he starts the film off as repulsed by children, he rapidly changes to a competent father-figure once in the wild of the primordial jungle of the dinosaurs.

Many of the other characters start off in the film only to become dinofodder later (and you can tell which ones they are early in the movie). So the question becomes not who will die, but rather in what inventive way will they die?

Unlike a film like King Kong [1933], which reduces the mammoth monkey on an island to human-sized emotions and character, the Jurassic Park monsters remain only huge, menacing, otherworldly threats to the human characters who are just Lillipution-size.

Original Page 1993 | Updated Jan 2014

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