Jurassic Park (1993) Director: Steven Spielberg
“Life… finds a way”
In keeping with similar themes of skepticism toward modern science, themes which can also be found in Alien, or The Matrix, or The Terminator, Jurassic Park beautifully captures a mixture of optimism for capitalist impulses to package and sell products, with pessimism of scientific progress. It questions the inherent faith in unfettered scientific exploration and technological innovation, at the same time as it devolves into sheer terror when Darwinian evolution conquers meager human machinations and “life… finds a way.” Jurassic Park manages to combine all the right ingredients –a great story that inspires a sense of wonder, cutting edge digital and sound effects that do not detract from the movie (but rather work in the service of it), leading consultant paleontologists, a transcendent score from John Williams, and of course the leading Hollywood blockbuster director Steven Spielberg who finished this film only to immediately began work on Schindler’s List. This movie was shot in California and Hawaii.
Jurassic Park is not a high art cinema, but honestly it is just great escapist fun that hearkens back to early adventure movies like the clay-mation blockbusters The Lost World and King Kong (which is briefly mentioned in the film). I have always loved this movie.
With support from Michael Crichton in developing the script, Jurassic Park follows an eccentric billionaire who decides to play God and begins funding research to clone and reanimate long-extinct dinosaurs using DNA extracted from mosquitos preserved in amber. The newly reborn dinosaurs are kept on a remote fictional island called Isla Nubar off the coast of Costa Rica, with plans to soon open a theme park. However, one night an accident occurs and one of the park staff is eaten by the raptors. In response to nervous investors, the park’s founder John Hammond (played by the legendary Richard Attenborough) invites a select group of experts to visit the island and verify its safety. This group includes a paleontologist named Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his girlfriend and fellow paleontologist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and a leading mathematician and “chaos theory” expert named Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum, who more or less steals the show). Also a sleazy attorney tags along to merely appease the investors. As they are flown into the park and witness living dinosaurs for the first time, we feel their shock and wonder, but this feeling quickly fades into criticism (the only one who defends the idea is the attorney). Naturally, there is some terrific banter between Hammond Malcolm, here are some of his best quotes:
“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 you want to sell it now.”
“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!”
“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.“
“But John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
The group watches an instructional video intended for children at the visitor’s center about how every dinosaur at the park is female to prevent unwanted breeding, and then they depart on a mostly boring automated driving tour through certain sections of the park, joined by Hammond’s grandchildren, but the tour is cut short when a tropical storm strikes. However, right at that moment the sloppy and greedy computer programmer (played by Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame) suddenly cuts the power throughout the park. He has been bribed by a corporate rival in exchange for dinosaur embryos so he shuts down the park’s security and flees only to be killed by a loose dinosaur shortly thereafter. The key to the downfall of the park is human moral failures. Meanwhile the group of visitors is left parked outside the Tyrannosaurus exhibit, and realizing the electric fences are no longer working, it breaks free and eats the sleazy lawyer straight off the toilet, garnering more than a few chuckles from the audience.
All the characters are separated and forced to spend the night in the park, meanwhile they discover that the dinosaurs actually have been breeding because the scientists, led by Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong), have been cross-bred with a West African frog that can actually change its sex. In collaboration with “Ray” (Samuel L. Jackson) Dr. Sattler hatches a plan to jump-start the park’s power, but Ray is soon slaughtered by loose raptors. In the end, they are all reunited near the front of the park when the Tyrannosaurus triumphantly kills the attacking velociraptors. The remaining people escape in a helicopter as we end the film with a mix of relief and inspiration.