It’s a movie that changed film making, ushering in a new era of computers and as the film tagline said, “an adventure 65 million years in the making.” Jurassic Park was released on June 11, 1993 to rave reviews by critics and the public alike. This PG-13 movie captured the hearts and minds of everyone, their children and their inner childs.
The beginning narration to the “Making of” special was done by James Earl Jones, and he stated, “With Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg recalled from extinction the greatest creatures our planet has ever known. Reborn before our eyes were living, breathing dinosaurs.” I couldn’t have written it any better myself.
The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Micheal Crichton. While it may borrow from the book it is based on, the two do differ greatly. The book focuses more on the science and the parent company for Jurassic Park InGen, whereas the movie focuses on much more.
The setup in this movie of bringing all the parts together, including both the characters and the plot, is so very well shot and sequenced that it is a model for other movies to follow.
The film starts with the Velociraptor delivery disaster on Isla Nublar, 120 Miles was of Costa Rica, where Jurassic Park is located. Although the gatekeeper is just a raptor snack, the scene and shooting of Muldoon’s eyes and the raptor eyes as he screams “shoot her,” is very well done to illustrate the dangers these creatures present.
Next, in the Dominican Republic’s Mano de Dios Amber Mine, we meet the lawyer Donald Gennaro, who represents the parks investors. Gennaro and the investors are deeply concerned with the park’s safety after the accident. If he can get paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant to sign off on the park, the investors will back off. The man Gennaro is speaking to, says, “Grant, you’ll never get him out of Montana… he’s a digger like me.”
With that we’re taken to the Badlands, near Snakewater, Mont., where Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler have found a beautifully preserved Velociraptor. Using computers, which Dr. Grant isn’t a fan of, they get a digital image of what they’ve found. Dr. Grant, somewhat of a Luddite states, “I hate computers,” to which Dr. Sattler replies, “The feeling’s mutual.”
Looking at the image on the screen, Dr. Grant explains his theory on dinosaurs and their relationship to modern day birds, a theory that is well documented throughout the book and the movie. He even scares a kid at the dig, saying that, “You are alive when they start to eat you, try and show a little respect.” Dr. Sattler, always the instigator where kids and Dr. Grant are concerned, says, “You know if you wanted to scare the kid, you could’ve pulled a gun on him.”
This conversation is cut short with the arrival of a helicopter, where Grant and Sattler find John Hammond in their mobile home. Hammond states, “I own an island, a biological preserve… spared no expense.” “Spared no expense,” is the go-to line for Hammond, throughout the entire movie. He explains that if he can get them to sign off on the park, he’ll be back on schedule and bribes them with dig funding and it works.
From there we get to meet the villain of the film, Dennis Nedry, who has hatched a plan to steal some of the dinosaur DNA created by Hammond’s team. Why is this? In this meeting with Dodgson, who is with the organization that is funding Nedry’s scheme, he gets the check for his meal and states, “Don’t get cheap on me Dodgson, that was Hammond’s mistake.” Sometimes evil really is black and white and with Nedry, it’s all about green, the color of money.
Most of the party taking part in the inspection of Jurassic Park, meets each other for the first time on the helicopter to the island. This is Grant and Sattler’s, as well as the viewer’s, first introduction to mathematician, or chaotician, Dr. Ian Malcolm, who was brought by the lawyer Gennaro. Of Malcolm, Hammond says to Gennaro, “I bring scientists, you bring a rock star.”
Fresh off the helicopter and into Jeeps, the party gets their first look at what Hammond’s team of Jurassic Park scientists have done. Docs Grant and Sattler are overwhelmed. When Hammond tells them he has a T-Rex, Malcolm mutters, “The crazy son of a bitch did it,” while Gennaro has already started counting the money saying, “We’re gonna make a fortune with this place.”
At the visitors center, Hammond is talking about his “living biological attractions,” and asks Grant and Sattler what they think. Grant says, “I think we’re out of a job,” while Malcolm chimes in, “Don’t you mean ‘extinct’?” This must be what the puppet masters of the time were thinking when they saw what the computer dinosaurs looked like.
Next up, the party takes a tour, or ride of sorts, explaining the cloning process and seeing the laboratory where it all takes place. Grant, Sattler and Malcolm, prematurely leave the tour to go to the lab, but not before learning that the holes in the DNA code were filled in with frog DNA, a major piece of information for later in the movie. In the lab, they meet Dr. Henry Wu, who explains among other things, the safety of not allowing the dinosaurs to breed in the wild because all of the dinosaurs are female. Malcolm isn’t convinced and states that “life will find a way.”
The party is privy to the birth of a Velociraptor, which leads them to the Raptor pen around feeding time. It is there that they are introduced to Robert Muldoon, the park’s game warden, who states of the Velociraptors that “they should all be destroyed.”
Two things are great about this scene. First, Grant and Muldoon talk about the raptor’s intelligence, “problem solving intelligence” according to Muldoon. He goes on to explain how the big one took over the pride and has them checking the fences for weaknesses because they remember. The other great thing about this scene is part of Spielberg’s brilliant vision. During the feeding of these dangerous dinosaurs, the audience doesn’t see them. Just a bunch of noise and moving vegetation, but that’s all that’s necessary. We don’ t need any more than that.
From there it’s off to their own lunch where the conversation appears more interesting than the food. Genarro is going off about making money, which Hammond responds to by stating that the park should not just be for the super rich. “Everyone in the world has the right to enjoy these animals,” he pines. But that’s the extent of the sparkling positive conversation. Dr. Sattler is outraged by some of the poisoness plants chosen for their physical beauty.
Dr. Grant flatly states, “The world has just changed so radically, and we’re all running to catch up. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but look… Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?” But it’s Malcolm who has a much more pragmatic thought process. His conversation with Hammond and Gennaro is as follows:
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.
Donald Gennaro: Well thank you, Dr. Malcolm, but I think things are a little bit different then you and I had feared…
Malcolm: Yeah, I know. They’re a lot worse.
Gennaro: Now, wait a second now, we haven’t even seen the park…
John Hammond: No, no, Donald, Donald, Donald… let him talk. There’s no reason… I want to hear every viewpoint, I really do.
Malcolm: Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.
Gennaro: It’s hardly appropriate to start hurling generalizations…
Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now [bangs on the table] you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…
Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…
Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.
Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.
Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?
Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.
The end of this conversation is Hammond saying to the scientists in the room that they were sent here to defend him and the only one on his side is the” blood sucking lawyer.” Now, humor aside, this is the main thinking conversation of the movie, and it raises some very valid points.
Then, Hammond is given a message that the park’s target audience has arrived; kids, his grandchildren, Lex and Tim, to be specific. The kids now join the party which splits into two jeeps for the park tour. The jeeps are electric and completely eco-friendly, which is an amazing concept considering this was filmed in 1993. They are also equipped with touchscreens, something that is now common in the cars of today.
Now, we’re introduced to Ray Arnold, who starts the tour program while tracking a tropical storm heading towards the island . Ray looks over the tour program and states that there are 151 items on today’s glitch list and he states, “We have all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo and the computer’s not even on its feet yet.”
Now we understand why Nedry feels under-appreciated. Hammond says, “Dennis, our lives are in your hands and you have butterfingers?” Nedry has complete control of the park, which is a mistake they’ll come to understand.
The tour, meanwhile, isn’t going so well. There isn’t a dinosaur to be seen through the first two paddocks, even though a goat is used as bait for the T-Rex. The dialogue in this movie is both insightful and funny. This is completely present in something that is said in the car with Malcolm, Grant and Sattler.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.
Dr. Ellie Sattler: Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.
From there, Malcolm explains chaos and Dr. Grant leaves the jeep to see a sick triceratops. Now up to this point in the movie, we’ve had a ton of plot setup, and we’ve had just one scene with real dinosaurs of any kind, and those were computer generated. That’s a long time to go in a dinosaur movie, but the plot is more complex than just, “Hey, let’s put dinosaurs on the big screen,” so it makes sense. All of the ground breaking computer-generated dinosaurs were great and lifelike to see, but the sick triceratops – a lifelike, life-size living model – was breathtaking. This movie was not the death of puppets, as it has been stated.
Dr. Sattler decides to stay with the vet and the rest go back to the jeeps to continue the tour as the tropical storm rolls in. Back in the control room, Hammond is lamenting the poor tour – “Two no shows and a sick triceratops” – while Muldoon and Ray convince him to cut the tour short because of the impending storm. At this point, Nedry puts his plan into action. He turns off security systems as well as other systems throughout the park to allow him access to the embryo storage and an escape route through the park to the boat that’s soon-to-be-departing for the mainland.
After Nedry leaves for a “snack,” Ray sees that the park’s systems are going crazy and moves over to Nedry’s workstation, which is a complete mess, to attempt to see what is going on. While trying to access the system, he is rebuked until at last, Nedry appears on another screen with “uh uh uh, you didn’t say the magic word.” The phones are out and the vehicles have stopped oustide the Tyrannosaur paddock.
One of the more memorable scenes follows. The cups of water in the Jeeps start to vibrate with the movement of something large; the Tyrannosaurus Rex is making his entrance. He eats the goat as a snack, and then takes down the powerless electric fence with ease. Gennaro leaves the jeep for the restroom, leaving the kids to fend for themselves.
The T-Rex in these scenes is not computer generated. For all the arguments that this movie hearkened the end of puppets for computers are all null and void. This movie was a brilliant combination of both. The model triceratops and the moving, living model T-Rex were believable because they were built and actually existed. At this point, it’s the dinosaurs that become the stars.
Nedry is killed, Gennaro is eaten and Malcolm is injured. The kids, Lex and Tim, are left to Dr. Grant for protection and why not? As Hammond would later say, “who better than to get the children through Jurassic Park than a dinosaur expert?” Hammond says this to Dr. Sattler in a very intriguing conversation;
You know the first attraction I ever built when I came down south from Scotland? It was a Flea Circus, Petticoat Lane. Really quite wonderful. We had a wee trapeze, and a merry-go… carousel and a seesaw. They all moved, motorized of course, but people would say they could see the fleas. “Oh, I see the fleas, mummy! Can’t you see the fleas?” Clown fleas and high wire fleas and fleas on parade… But with this place, I wanted to show them something that wasn’t an illusion. Something that was real, something that they could see and touch. An aim not devoid of merit… When we have control again…
Dr. Sattler interrupts;
You never had control, that’s the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too, I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now. The only thing that matters now are the people we love. Alan and Lex and Tim. John, they’re out there where people are dying.
This is great thinking, debating material when added to the Malcolm arguments during lunch.
Meanwhile, while trying to get back to the visitors center, Grant and the children come across eggs. Malcolm was right, life found a way. At this point, Malcolm was found by Dr. Sattler and Muldoon, and the three of them barely escape from the T-Rex in a brilliant scene. It’s here where Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum would say “must go faster, must go faster,” the first of two movies where he would say those lines, the second in his role as David Levinson in Independence Day, three years later in 1996.
Grant and the children, run into Brachiosaurus, Gallimimus and the T-Rex on their journey back to the visitors center. While, at the control room trying to get the power back on, Ray, Muldoon and Hammond have a conversation about resetting the power to undo whatever it was that Nedry had done to the system. At this time, Muldoon brings up the lysine contingency, which Hammond will hear non of. With that they turn the power off and reset the system.
When they turn the power back on, they get a cursor on one of the computer screens, but since the shut off must have tripped the circuit breakers, Ray says he can have the power back on in five minutes and heads off. It’s one of the few cliches in the movie and is the equivalent of the famous “I’ll be right back” line in a horror movie.
Ray is permanently delayed in coming back, having been killed by a raptor, and Muldoon and Sattler prepare to finish the job that Ray had set out to do. This is not without a little drama, as Hammond suggests he should go in her stead. Sattler retorts, “We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.” Once in the park, Muldoon realizes they are being hunted by the now freed raptors. Although the danger is high, Muldoon appears to be enjoying the thrill of hunting and being hunted.
Back in the bunker Hammond tells Malcolm that “All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!” Malcolm’s reply is simply, “Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
At this point the power is restored by Sattler while Muldoon meets his fate by raptor claw, and Grant leaves Lex and Tim in the visitors center to go find the others. In the visitors center, the kids are hunted by the raptors, leading to the amazing scenes with them avoiding raptor attacks in the kitchen before being reunited with Sattler and Grant.
From there they decide to get to the control room, where they’re followed by the raptors. Now it’s Lex’s time to shine. As a self-proclaimed hacker, she gets the power back on and locks the doors. But the raptors are coming through the glass and they head into the ceiling to escape.
This penultimate scene, of the raptors and Grant, Sattler and the kids in the main hall with the T-Rex skeleton, almost wasn’t in the movie. Originally, Grant killed one of the raptors, while the T-Rex skeleton would collapse on the other, to permit their escape. But this ending was called off, on account of Spielberg who, once he saw the brilliance of the computer generated dinosaurs, rewrote the ending to make the T-Rex a hero.
While jumping into the jeep to head for the helicopter, Grant tells Hammond he will not endorse the park. Hammond agrees saying that he won’t either. The camera lingers on the tail section of the helicopter to make the InGen logo prominent on screen for a moment. This helicopter and, if you look closely, the one they come to the island on, are both detailed with the InGen logo. This is the only appearance and reference to the company in the entire movie whereas it’s a tremendous focus of the book.
The story is only half the story. Yes, at it’s core, it’s the book Michael Crichton wrote and yes, it is more than just, “let’s put dinosaurs on the big screen,” although that’s what many remember. The sounds the dinosaurs make are brilliant and the score that John Williams wrote for the movie was one of his best – this from the guy who did Star Wars and Indiana Jones, to name a few.
The legacy of the film is vast. Yes, many credit Jurassic Park with killing puppets, but that’s just not true. However, it was a huge stepping stone for computer generated characters. During the lunch conversation, there is talk of merchandising and we see it in the visitors center, but it was not just part of the movie. During the years following the movie’s release, it’s merchandising reached Star Wars levels.
It spawned three sequels -Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Crichton’s follow-up book to Jurassic Park; Jurassic Park III, which was not based upon a book but written as a followup to The Lost World; and Jurassic Park 4: Jurassic World, which is slated for released in 2015.
The technology, the writing, the acting, the music, the sounds, and the puppets that created not just the dinosaurs but Jurassic Park as a whole came together, in a right place-right time scenario to create a blockbuster that still holds up to today’s standards. Yes, it’s that good. Rewatch it, you’ll be glad you did.
Three Things People Forget About Jurassic Park:
- Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of Ray Arnold is captivating.
- For it’s time, it was vastly ahead of the technological curve.
- It’s just a movie.