Jurassic Park


PreCommentary: See also my Encyclopedia of U.S. Popular Culture articleon Jurassic Park.

Notes: Universal / Amblin Entertainment. 2 hours 7 minutes.
Alan Grant: Sam Neill
Ellie Satler: Laura Dern
John Hammond: Richard Attenborough
Ian Malcolm: Jeff Goldblum
Murdoch: Bob Peck
Lawyer: Martin Ferrero
Dennis Nedry: Wayne Knight
Lex: Ariana Richards
Timmy: Joseph Mazzello

Based on the Novel by: Michael Crichton
Screenplay: Michael Crichton and David Koepp
Produced: Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen
Directed: Steven Spielberg
Live Action Dinosaurs: Stan Winston
Full Motion Dinosaurs: Dennis Muren
Special Effects: Michael Lantieri.

Summary: A worker on “Isla Nublar: 120 miles west of Costa Rica”is chomped by an animal in a large crate. His family launchesa $20 million lawsuit and investors in the project have safetyquestions, so a lawyer is sent to inspect. Two experts must signoff, and chaotician Ian Malcolm is too trendy, so elderly JohnHammond visits paleontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist EllieSadler who are digging up a velociraptor. Grant pontificatesabout the dino-bird connection, and a fat brat who sounds likePamelyn Ferdin remarks, “That doesn’t look very scary–morelike a six-foot turkey.” Grant graphically describes huntingstrategies of the dinosaur, the “coordinated attack patterns”from the sides: “He slashes at you here, or here, or maybeacross the belly, spilling your intestines. The point is youare alive when they start to eat you. . . . Try to show a littlerespect.” Grant hates kids: “They’re noisy, they’remessy, they’re expensive, they smell.” Amen, though he’llnever be off the hook for this rational ’90s blasphemy.

Hammond will fund the two for three more yearsif they’ll endorse his park, to open next year, “and there’sno doubt our attractions will drive kids out of their minds.”

Fat hacker Dennis Nedry makes an industrialespionage deal with a Dodson who wants dino embryos–his companywill catch up on several years of research. Nedry will have asecurity-free 18-minute window to steal them.

Hammond, Grant, Sadler, Malcolm, and the lawyerfly onto the island for the weekend. They see an apatosaur andare in awe; then they see flocks of dinosaurs and weep. Hammondshows them a cheesy amusement park documentary film which explainsthat researchers recovered DNA strands from dino blood preservedin mosquitoes caught in amber. They used frog DNA to fill gaps. The group sees a velociraptor hatch. They are assured all theanimals are female on the island, but Malcolm insists that “lifefinds a way.”

They witness the sacrifice of a steer to thecrafty “problem-solving” velociraptors, and sit downto lunch. Malcolm is troubled by the “lack of humility beforeNature”: these are “not condors. Dinosaurs had theirshot and Nature selected them for extinction.” Hammond’sgrandkids, Lex and Tim, arrive, and all visitors hop into thecars for the tour. The gates are enormous, so Malcolm asks, “Whatdo they got in there, King Kong?”

Richard Kiley narrates the tour. A goat issacrificed to the T-Rex, but this dino is a no-show. Lex objects,is tacitly accused of culinary hypocrisy, but she says that sheis vegetarian. Malcolm is full of “chaos” crap. TheDoctors see a sick dinosaur and Sadler investigates her droppings. With a storm coming, Nedry initiates his computer trick in whichsecurity systems go down. The other computer expert grows frustratedwith the resulting problems: “God dammit I hate this hackercrap!” The two cars are stopped in front of the T-Rex exhibit,and the goat is gone. A piece of corpse falls onto the car window. The lawyer runs into an outhouse. The dinosaur terrorizes thekids in their car, but the other men lure it away with flares. Malcolm ends up hurt but the lawyer is snatched off the toiletand eaten by the T-Rex. Grant and the kids are now terrorizedand their car is pushed off the road into a tall tree. Sadlerand Murdoch, a hunter, will rescue Hammond’s grandchildren. Nedrysteals embryos but is eaten by a dinosaur when his car goes offthe road.

Murdoch and Sadler find Malcolm and are chasedin their Jeep by the T-Rex. Grant and the kids rest for the nightin a tree and see brachiosaurs: “They’re not monsters, Lex,they’re animals. These are herbivores.” The kids wonderwhat paleotologists like Grant will do now that dinosaurs existagain. “Guess we’ll just have to evolve too.”

We see Jurassic Park merchandise. Hammondis eating melting ice cream and remembering his flea circus. Sadler is pissed, but eats ice cream. In the tree, the threewake up to the brachiosaurs: “veggie-saurus.” One blowssnot on Lex. They find empty egg shells and Grant realizes thatsome West African frogs spontaneously change sex: “Malcolmwas right. . . . Life found a way.”

The entire Jurassic Park system must be shutdown and rebooted; circuit breakers must be switched on. WhileGrant and the kids see a flock of dinosaurs and one eaten by theT-Rex (Tim gasps, “Look how much blood!”), Sadler andMurdoch are hunted by velociraptors on the way to the powerhouse. Sadler turns on the electric fence, zapping Tim but alas notfatally. Sadler is attacked; Murdoch gets eaten; Grant and thekids get back to the center. The kids gorge until two raptors,who have learned the art of doorknobs, stalk them in the kitchen. they get to the computer base and Lex locks the doors. All ofthem crawl through ceiling ducts, pursued by velociraptors. Theyhang from a collapsing dino-skeleton display in the atrium. Aboutto die, the T-Rex intervenes and snatches the raptors. A bannerreading “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” flutters downas the humans make their escape.

In the helicopter, we see a lot of smirkingabout Grant protecting the kids. Some kind of flying prehistoricthings are out the window and serene in the sunset. The momentis so deep that no one has anything to say or any perspectiveto offer. . . .

Commentary: I do. First, everyone who liked this film kept telling me thatit was because “the dinosaurs were so real.” What inhell does this mean?

Concession: the Jurassic Park documentary filmbegins with the filmic Hammond interacting with the actual Hammond–anice recall of Gertie the Dinosaur (1914).

Anyway, the film makes one feel cheap. Itplays to adrenalin and smirkiness, but these pass quickly–whichI think explains on the larger scale why the film was availableat sale prices in a matter of months after its theatrical release. What also is the significance of the fact that one always hears,regarding this film, that it made 14 kajillion dollars? Moreevidence that there is no movie here, just “effects.”