Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

****

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Is there anyone who didn't see Jurassic Park 15 years ago - other than the pre-teenagers reading the site? (If you're interested in us revisiting blockbusters past from time to time, let us know) I doubt it, so I'll just summarise the plot briefly. Billionaire industrialist John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) creates a theme park populated with dinosaurs. Thanks to a rogue computer programmer, they escape, and all the puny humans on the island are on the menu. The film is a straightforward survival adventure, with small groups of visitors (dinosaur experts and kids) and staff binding together to get through the ordeal alive.

Okay, the story has holes you can drive a bus through, the great actors are wasted portraying ill-drawn cipher characters and it takes a good while to get to the scary dinosaur scenes. But this is all forgiveable.

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Unlike so many visual-effects rich and plot-poor blockbusters of recent years (The Mummy sequels, Transformers), Jurassic Park delivers the goods. It is extraordinarily exciting and often disturbing PG-rated stuff. The dinosaurs look real and often forget we're looking at visual effects wizardry. This is ignoring the late Stan Winston's contribution to the movie, which does him a great disservice. The full-size dinosaur rigs are another work of articulate monster-making. Seeing the creatures move, breathe, screech and spit - oh and the unforgettable shot of a Tyrannosaurus Rex's eyeball dilating in a torch beam - is wonderful.

Jurassic Park was the beginning of photo-realistic computer generated imagery featuring believable animals. It boasts lifelike texturing, muscles moving under skeletal structures and believable animation rigging beneath it all. Certainly the early CGI slugfests of James Cameron's Terminator 2 and The Abyss (featuring chrome-like reflection mapped liquid metal and refractive water respectively) are milestones in visual effects history.

Jurassic Park takes this yet another step, using texturing and high-resolution polygon models along with the carefully handled animation (shots of a full-size Tyrannosaur five feet from the camera in a tussle with a velociraptor completely convince), and melding it with hand-held camerawork. You can see the computer graphics joins if you know where to look, but I'd sooner moan about the CGI Jabba the Hutt spoiling the 1997s Star Wars rerelease than this groundbreaking and dazzling, if imperfect, effort.

This being the product of Spielberg - the maestro of well crafted popcorn set-pieces - it does not surprise us to find moments of such startling terror they remain etched forever in the public consciousness. Who dares forget the unspeakably scary scene of the raptors stalking the children in the kitchen? So good, he dusted it off for War Of The Worlds. The concentric impact tremor ripples in the glasses of water? The trouser-flapping, gut-curdling Tyrannosaur bellow? (The DTS digital sound format was established for this movie, and is still going strong).

From a technical standpoint alone, these are remarkable scenes - that they work at all are minor miracles - yet Spielberg relies so completely on them they could not possibly work any other way. This show of extraordinary faith in technology, similar to Cameron's in Terminator 2, pays dividends for their resultant impact.

This is a high-quality summer movie that delivers everything it promises - and does so very well.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2008
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A trip to a dinosaur theme park turns deadly.
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Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Michael Crichton, David Koepp

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, Benedict Wong, Wayne Knight

Year: 1993

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: USA

Festivals:

EIFF 2013

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If you like this, try:

Jaws