33. Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazello

Through the years of my life, I have had many obsessions. I don’t know what my very first one might have been, but I can say with certitude that the first obsession I remember having was dinosaurs. I had the toys, the books, even the videotapes. There was something truly fascinating about this species which so prominently walked the Earth as it was, and then met its collective end long before we humans were much more than bacteria in a pond. But, fascinated though I was, I understood even as a child that the dinosaurs were a thing of the past and all that is meant to remain of them is what they’ve left behind and the creatures they’ve evolved into over the course of 65 million years.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) doesn’t see it this way. Here is a man who has wanted for years to say he created an attraction that the people who came out to see it could almost reach out and touch. Knowing dinosaurs to be a worldwide phenomenon, his goal was to find a way to clone them and create a sort of dinosaur zoo. But, because of an incident involving a Velociraptor that resulted in one worker’s death, he can’t spring an idea like this onto the public without first gaining the approval of a few experts in the field of paleontology. Hammond chooses to invite Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern), while the lawyer representing the park’s investors invites Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Along for the ride also are Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Tim Murphy (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazello).

Hammond explains during the tour of the park that the cloning process was achieved by using dinosaur DNA extracted from mosquitos trapped in amber, and completing any broken sequences with that of frogs. The movie’s logic regarding this process falls apart pretty fast if you think about it too hard, but “Jurassic Park” was never meant to be a scientifically accurate movie. Almost immediately, problems begin to mount. Some dinosaurs are no-shows, others turn up sick from eating things which are poisonous to them. But the real trouble starts as one disgruntled worker’s greed leads to the park’s systems shutting down and all hell breaks loose. When I say “all hell,” I mean all the really dangerous dinosaurs, including the Velociraptors, a Dilophosaurus, and a Tyrannosaurus.

“Jurassic Park” is based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel of the same name. Had the book’s version of events been filmed, there’s a strong possibility the resulting movie would have gained an NC-17 rating for violence. “Jurassic Park,” co-scripted by Crichton, is PG-13, and there are still several moments of genuine tension. I’ll never forget, when seeing this theatrically in 1993, there was a big muscular man wearing a football jersey sitting in the row directly ahead of me. There’s a moment when a Velociraptor lunges for Lex’s leg. It’s one of the best “jump scares” the movie has to offer and it caught this man so off guard that, after jumping in his seat, he sat in the same fixed position with his hand on his right temple for the remainder of the movie.

Steven Spielberg seems to always be at his very best when directing moments of awe and wonder, and the same is true with “Jurassic Park.” The one scene that I watch this movie for more than any other comes when we first arrive at the remote island housing the park. Everyone steps off the helicopter and get into a jeep that takes them through two large doors which Dr. Malcolm quite appropriately associates with “King Kong,” and the first thing that Dr. Grant sees is a gigantic Brachiosaurus. His reaction, as mine would be, is to get out of the car and drop to the ground needing to take a moment to breathe.

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