Movie Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Title: Jurassic Park
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Production Company: Amblin Entertainment

Well, I can scratch another movie off the list of movies that everyone has seen except me.  Decades ago, I picked up Michael Crichton’s novel and read it it one day despite the fact that I found it EXTREMELY stupid.  Thus I had no interest in seeing the movie adaptation.  But I saw it was available for a limited time on the new Peacock streaming app, so I finally decided to give it a chance.

As you must already know, Jurassic Park is the story of a dinosaurs brought back to life from DNA found in mosquitoes preserved in amber.  John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, in one of the best developed roles in the movie, managing to make an arrogant tycoon sympathetic) gathers the live dinos in the titular park on an island off Costa Rica.  In order to get assurances to his investors, he invites paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and mathematician Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) to preview the park and give it their endorsement. Hammond also sends his grandchildren Lex (Ariana Richards ) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello) as Tim Murphy on the trip.

Things, as you’d expect, go wrong.  Despite the important guests attending the demonstration, almost all the staff of Jurassic Park leave on a ship that very day for some unexplained reason, including the large security staff we see at the beginning of the film.  And, an intense (but brief) tropical storm strikes the island. And, computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight, in a cringe-worthy performance of a slovenly villain who actually constantly cackles) steals dinosaur embryos and sabotages the park’s computer system.  For some reason that makes no sense he also makes his escape by driving through the dinosaur enclosures and promptly gets eaten.  The hubris of cloning the dinosaurs should have been enough to have things go wrong without the layering of stupidity and coincidences that pepper this film’s plot.

I like Steven Spielberg, and this movie definitely reflects one of his strengths: realistic special effects that bring fantastical worlds to life.  I give points to the movie for doing that so well.  But Spielberg’s genius is usually found in the humanity of his film’s characters and their relationships.  Jaws is full of great, scary shark moments but it succeeds because Brody, Quint, and Hooper are such fully-realized characters and their camaraderie is the heart of the movie.

Jurassic Park doesn’t do this well at all. There are too many characters for one thing, and many of them are hastily sketched or pigeon-holed to serve one function. The relationship that grows among Alan, Tim, and Lex is one of the movies strengths, but even that is colored by the heavy-handed messaging that “Alan must learn to like children!” There were a lot of moments of forced “comic relief” that go over with a thud. Overall, I see a lot of missed opportunities for good character moments which is more disappointing than if they didn’t try at all.

I also thought that a couple incidents of the dinosaurs being shown to be sick was going to play a part in the resolution of the plot.  And what happened to the stolen embryos? Oh, and I recall that the dinosaurs reproducing was more significant to the plot of the book, whereas it really had no bearing on the plot of the movie. Maybe these threads are covered in the sequels, but I’m not exactly eager to rush out and watch them now, because this movie was not worth the wait.

Rating: **1/2