Lockdown Films: Jurassic Park

Believe it or not, I managed to get to the ripe old age of twenty-three before seeing a whole bunch of movie classics. The list is extensive, and a little embarrassing, and has certainly shocked everyone around me. While not living under a rock, my family wasn't hugely into movies. I still haven’t seen a fair number of Disney basics, and as you’ll see over the next few posts, most of Spielberg’s films. With an unprecedented number of free evenings, we decided that now was the time for my film education.

So, confession number one: I have not seen any of the Jurassic Park franchise. As a lover of dinosaurs, this is a surprise to me as much as anyone else. Tim was shocked, particularly as he is actually named after the young boy in the movie. With a stellar cast, including the wonderful Richard Attenborough, Samuel L.Jackson, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum, it was clear that I’d missed a Hollywood classic. With iconic lines like: “I hate being right all the time” and “That is one big pile of shit” this movie still stands up today, for a few critical reasons:

It’s actually really scary.

Jurassic Park had me hiding behind a cushion. Not out of fear for the gory parts - although they were there - but simply the jumpy-ness of the plot. It did an awesome job of making dinos both glorious things of nature and terrifying and ruthless monsters, which I’m sure was a very difficult line to walk. The CGI is also incredible, considering it is now 27 years old. Spielberg pioneered techniques, which you can find out about in more detail here, but mainly used crafted models as bases. A hell of a lot of work went into making the dinosaurs as authentic as possible, and it's meant that the movie avoids looking dated by its technology.

It has one of the best soundtracks of all time.

John Williams really went for it with this one. Tied, it seems, almost exclusively to blockbuster film series in creating scores for Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Star Wars among many, many others, Williams really captures the adventure in his melody. It just makes an already epic film that bit more enchanting.

It’s a ‘Frankenstein’ for the 90s.

Jurassic Park is all about the dangers of science and ambition, the idea that advancement and progress are often very cool, but need to be given careful consideration. One of the best lines of the film comes from Ian Malcom, played by the magnificent Jeff Goldblum: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.” John Hammond pumps incredible amounts of money into his dream of a dino theme park, funding scientists and their biological discoveries. But, as we soon discover, safety has not necessarily been the highest priority. Just as Victor Frankenstein discovers in Shelley’s novel, experiments which are fuelled by ambition, and in this case commercialism, don’t tend to go so well…

The science isn’t too out there.

While clearly floored in its theory, extracting dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes fossilised in amber, the scientific explanation in the lab scene doesn’t leave me with a headache from excessive eye rolling. As this article points out, in order for this to work, you’d need a complete and perfect strand of DNA (which is very unlikely considering the time that has passed) and an actual dinosaur egg. But nevertheless, it’s not so far from believable, and adds some authenticity to the plot. We’re far away from Spielberg’s other theories, particularly Indiana Jones and his survival of a nuclear attack by hiding in a fridge.

Technology really hasn’t advanced that far.

The technology in Jurassic Park doesn’t seem that far fetched, but that’s because we’re in 2020. This high-tec park, all controlled by computer and showcasing self-driving cars, would have been quite a vision in 1993. But, these are still things we haven’t quite gotten, even 27 years on. Autonomous vehicles are still under contention and are nowhere near widespread, and while computer controlled systems are now the norm, the only thing that dates the Jurassic Park system is the now vintage-cool linux system, reminiscent of VR - the other technology which is still far from fully developed.

Yay! A genuine, non-pathetic female character.

I cannot overstate how much I love Laura Dern. Winning ‘Best Supporting Actress’ at the Academy Awards earlier this year for the excellent Marriage Story, she plays sassy characters with substance oh so well. Her character, Ellie Sattler, is brave, savvy and extremely intelligent, with a bucket load of personality to boot. When the power fails to come back on, Ellie ventures out to save the day, taking down the patriarchy as she goes:

John Hammond : [Ellie is going out to the maintenance shed to switch the circuit breakers, the dinosaurs are on the loose] It ought to be me really going.

Dr. Ellie Sattler : Why?

John Hammond : Well, I'm a... And you're, um, a...

Dr. Ellie Sattler : Look... We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.

She runs from velociraptors after discovering Samuel L.Jackson’s severed hand, proving herself to be just as, if not more, heroic than her male counterparts. Meanwhile, the compassion she shows for the unwell triceratops and her can-do attitude, sifting through mountains of its dung looking for answers as the squeamish men look on, is surely a wonderful role model for girls watching. She is also the only one able to get through to Dr Hammond, outlining the real situation, as he continues to eat his dinner as normal. True to Michael Crichton’s novel, Ellie is unapologetically feminist, and the following lines say it all:

Malcolm: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.

Ellie: Dinosaurs eat man…woman inherits the earth.

All round great messages.

There are some pretty great messages in Jurassic Park. We watch as both Tim and Lex grow, in confidence, understanding and bravery. We watch Alan get over his hatred of kids, and witness his joy as he interacts with the creatures which have been his life’s work. Ian is relatively unchanged, adding to the humour around his character, while Dr Hammond comes to see the importance of human empathy over ambition. At least I hope. After all, there are another four movies - I’ll keep you posted.