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He Said, She Said Review Site

Jurassic Park

What She said:


I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but last weekend the cable TV channels were really playing the heck out of the 1993 sci-fi adventure film Jurassic Park. I was seriously having some flashbacks to my childhood, and I’ll tell you now that I was in awe as a ten year old, watching this movie at the local drive-in theater. It was an unforgettable experience. On the downside, I should divulge that this particular drive-in—like most others—is no longer in existence. But I still think of it every time I visit the Wendy’s or supermarket now gracing its sacred ground.

Jurassic Park

But back to the movie, Jurassic Park is, as most know, based on a Michael Crichton book of the same name, and tells the story of an amusement park located on a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica. As the name would imply, this park is home to a bunch of dinosaurs that have been cloned into existence using DNA that was found preserved inside mosquitoes trapped in amber. Before you get too excited, I recall reading an article about how it’s probably not possible to achieve what the geneticists do in the movie, at least not with DNA from mosquitoes. But, I think there are some very real implications to the scenario set up in this film.

Anyway, this rich dude, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), has set up this dinosaur theme park with real live dinos, but he’s running into some issues with the park’s investors and insurance. They would feel much more comfortable endorsing and opening the park if a few experts signed off on it. Of course, there really aren’t any experts out there on live dinosaurs, but lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and Hammond track down a few people they think can do the job. They are theoretical mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and renowned paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Dr. Grant has his arm twisted into attending under the promise of having his research fully funding for the foreseeable future, and he brings with him girlfriend, colleague, and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern).

The group isn’t really aware that there will be real live dinosaurs on the island, and so they are absolutely floored by what they encounter. But they also have concerns, which does not sit well with Gennaro and Hammond. Malcolm questions how ethical it was to recreate extinct species saying, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” He also warns that “nature will find a way.” This is all foreshadowing of all the bad stuff that is to come. Later, the group is joined by Hammond’s two grandchildren, Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello), who are going to make the entire experience more authentic by providing the childrens’ point of view.

Jurassic Park

They go out on their tour and things are all wrong from the outset. The dinosaurs are no-shows, even when prompted under the temptation of free food. To make matters worse, a hurricane is bearing down on the island and all the workers are leaving for their own safety. Ellie breaks off to help care for a sick Triceratops, while the rest of the group find themselves stranded on their tour after a power outage. It turns out that the outage is due to the security system being intentionally taken offline and bugged with a virus by computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), who had accepted a bribe from a rival company in exchange for stealing dino embryos for them. Once the system is down, he attempts to flee the island.

So, with all the electrified enclosures without power, things get even worse. The dinos start to break out, including the hugely formidable T. rex. The lawyer is the first to die—don’t worry about that—but everyone else is left fleeing for their lives. And before too long they also have the highly intelligent stealth killers, the Velociraptors, on their tails.  Can they survive?

Let’s be honest, you’ve probably already seen this movie, so what I just laid out is all too familiar to you. But it was worth taking the time to hash out anyway. Jurassic Park really has it all from a plot perspective. It manages to present a well-written script that is both interesting and presents some relevant themes to contemplate. It’s action-packed, and yet has some heart. The writers did a great job of covering every avenue to create a film that was sci-fi, but also made good sense and seemed realistic. And then they put all this in Steven Spielberg’s hands to see through to fruition, and he also does a masterful job of achieving great things.

Jurassic Park

The film is well-shot with sharp camera work and nice transitions. What really blows my mind about Jurassic Park is that it was produced and released during a time when CGI special effects were just in their infancy, yet somehow the dinosaurs in this movie look very real. Spielberg used a winning combination of puppetry and animation, and so I think this helps to fool the viewer into believing what they see on screen. Furthermore, I think that a lot of care was put into positioning the actors in a way that they appear to be genuinely engaging with the dinosaurs, even though they’re not there.

A lot of credit goes out to our talented suite of actors on this film. They did a wonderful job of appearing absolutely terrified despite the fact that what they were scared of actually didn’t exist. Very well done. Neill, Dern, and Goldblum are convincing and engaging as the leads, and Attenborough plays his role very well. There is a complexity in Hammond. He seems like a genuinely caring grandfather, but he also has this irrational dream that he refuses to give up on. I give Attenborough a lot of credit from jumping two sides of a fence like that, and doing it successfully. The child actors were convincing as well. Mazzello still does some acting work, and it’s funny to see him grown up as an adult, but Richards dropped off the radar after this flick.

Jurassic Park is a well written and expertly executed film that is wholly enjoyable to watch. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Thumbs up.

What He said:

Jurassic Park

You know how whenever a sequel or remake is about to come out, TV networks start playing the older movies? I always wondered if that approach results in higher ratings than if they showed any other movie. It sort of worked in our household. This movie has been playing on AMC lately and we were watching it one afternoon and I said, “No way, we own this. We’re watching the non-edited version.” Besides the fact that some content is cut from TV, I always hate watching a movie I own on TV. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine. If I want to see it that bad, why not just watch my copy? It feels like I’m wasting money if I don’t.

John Hammond is…well I’m not exactly sure what he is. He’s obviously a wealthy businessman, but I’m not sure how he made his wealth or what he specializes in. For example, we know Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak made their money on computers. However he made his money, Hammond seems interested in a few things. First, he wants to do something great. No, scratch that. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) wants to do something great that no one in the history of the human race has ever done before. He also wants to genuinely entertain people. He wants to make them feel awe and wonder like they’ve never felt before.

This is where Jurassic Park comes in. John – and dozens, if not hundreds – of experts have created a theme park where guests will have the luxury of viewing real living breathing dinosaurs. Long story short, a team of diggers came across some samples of dinosaurs DNA that has been preserved for millions of years. They were able to extract that DNA from the source and combine it with amphibian (frogs more specifically) DNA to bring dinosaurs back to life.

Jurassic Park

Due to an incident, investors are skeptical about the park’s ability to make money. They are not sure if the risks outweigh the rewards. So, they send a lawyer (Martin Ferrero) to the island to inform Hammond that he needs the approval of experts before they sign off on approving the park.

Mr. Gennaro (the lawyer) invites mathematician Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum). You might be wondering how much a mathematician can contribute to a conversation about dinosaurs, but Malcom can and does have a lot to say. Malcom specializes in chaos theory, which is essentially an attempt to predict the future. It’s not voo do, but rather a prediction of a situation based on all the facts presented. Oh yeah, Malcom is also a bit of a rock star. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now that I have worked in higher ed for quite some time, I can assure you these kinds of professors and scientists exist. They’re celebrities within their own field, that sometimes even cross over to the mainstream and attract the attention of those not in the scientific community. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a good modern real life example.   

Hammond gets two experts. He goes to a dig that he is funding. The man in charge of the dig is Dr. Alan Grant. He is paleontologist and one of the leading experts in the world in his field. Grant (Sam Neill) is dating one of his colleagues, whom Hammond also brings along. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is a paleobotanist and a high-ranking member of Grant’s team.

I forgot to mention that Hammon did not tell them what it is that they need his opinion on. Hammond simply promised to fund their dig for several more years and said their opinion would be used to help get a new theme park that was right up their alley off the ground. Once they arrive, they are of course shocked to see what it is Hammond and his team has accomplished.
Somewhere along the way, Hammond’s grandkids show up. Tim (Joseph Mazzello) is the younger of the two, a dinosaur enthusiast, and an Alan Grant fan. Lex is somewhere in the 12-14 range and more interested in computers than dinosaurs; though they are both blown away as the rest of the crew when they finally see the creatures.

Grant, Ellie, Malcom, the kids, and Gennaro are all sent out on the tour to experience what it is that guests will hopefully be experiencing one day; pending Grant, Ellie, and Malcom’s approval.

The group gets split up when Ellie decides to stay behind when they spot a sick animal. She wants to help the park staff try to figure out what it is that is wrong with the sick dinosaur.

Grant, Malcom, Gennaro, and the kids run into trouble when the park’s power fails. You see, the dinosaurs are not the only dangerous thing on this island. Disgruntled IT man Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) is planning on stealing some of the frozen embryos and selling them to a competitor. In order to do this, he has to shut the power down. He is a hacker, so he really fouls things up, and it’s too late before everyone realizes what is going on. The rest of the movie is spent trying to fix his mess and dodging dinosaurs.

This movie is simply awesome. There’s no other way to put it. It’s the Jaws of its generation. Sure, it’s got a ton of other stuff going on, but it is the monster movie of the 90s.

Jurassic Park

The multi-layered plot is what makes it interesting so interesting. First and foremost, it’s a great monster movie. The scares and tension are through the roof. A big part of that is the build-up. You don’t see the dinosaurs – the mean ones that is – for a while. There’s a lot hinted at and implied, but once you do see them, it’s terrifying – and that doesn’t stop until the movie is over.

The movie is also a cautionary tale.  The movie deals a lot with “playing God” and what not. Hammond is so obsessed with creating a legacy that, to quote Ian Malcom, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Sure, recreating an extinct species – and freaking dinosaurs of all things – but is there really a point to it? bringing a species back into existence just for our amusement seems extremely moronic. It’s a scientific feat and I’d probably want to see it as much as the next person, but it’s all really quite self-centered.
Speaking of which, there’s John Hammond. Unlike the book, he is much more jovial and well-intentioned in the movie. The She is right, he is a very complex man. There is no doubt in my mind that he wants to entertain people and do it in a way that no one else has ever done. He wants to give people something special. He also wants the credit for that too. there’s definitely a sense of ego involved here. It’s actually more interesting when there is, rather than just a straight up selfish guy. I’ve actually worked with people like Hammond. They are good people, who like doing good things, but they also like the attention they get for doing those good things. Both Attenborough and the writers did a great job of creating and bringing to life this very different version of this character.
This movie is loaded with great performances.

Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum are both too cool for school, but in very different ways. Goldblum is the typical looks cool, acts cool, and dresses cool. Malcom is the kind of guy who owns a room when he walks into it. Grant is cool because he thinks on his feet. He is very intelligent and respected in his field, but he’s very awkward socially. He’s not a typical suave hero. But when things get tough, Grant steps up to the plate, even if it means working with kids (whom he’s not exactly comfortable around). Laura Dern is both a damsel in distress, as well as a strong supporting female character. She is not one to be underestimated.

Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bob Peck are all also great int heir small, but entertaining roles. I would have loved to have seen more of all of them, but totally understand why they weren’t featured more prominently. Knight was great as Nedry, whom is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is the definition of a sleazebag. Jackson was Ray Arnold, the IT guy who steps in and tries to fix Nedry’s mess. This was before he was really famous, but he is still Samuel L. Jackson. I always though Muldoon (Bob Peck) was super cool. There’s more of him in the book and he’s just as cool there too.
This movie is an all-around enjoyable experience. Thrills, laughs, and a message are just some of what you will get in this classic.

The kids are great too. I'm not trying to short change them, it's just late and my eyes are crossed at this point. They are particularly easy to identify with if you saw the movie as a kid, like I did.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 23, 2015.

Jurassic Park