See also my Encyclopedia of U.S. Popular Culture article
on Jurassic Park.
Notes: Universal /
Amblin Entertainment. 2 hours 7 minutes.
Alan Grant: Sam Neill
Ellie Satler: Laura Dern
John Hammond: Richard Attenborough
Ian Malcolm: Jeff Goldblum
Murdoch: Bob Peck
Lawyer: Martin Ferrero
Dennis Nedry: Wayne Knight
Lex: Ariana Richards
Timmy: Joseph Mazzello
Based on the Novel by: Michael Crichton
Screenplay: Michael Crichton and David Koepp
Produced: Kathleen Kennedy, Gerald R. Molen
Directed: Steven Spielberg
Live Action Dinosaurs: Stan Winston
Full Motion Dinosaurs: Dennis Muren
Special Effects: Michael Lantieri.
A worker on "Isla Nublar: 120 miles west of Costa Rica"
is chomped by an animal in a large crate. His family launches
a $20 million lawsuit and investors in the project have safety
questions, so a lawyer is sent to inspect. Two experts must sign
off, and chaotician Ian Malcolm is too trendy, so elderly John
Hammond visits paleontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie
Sadler who are digging up a velociraptor. Grant pontificates
about the dino-bird connection, and a fat brat who sounds like
Pamelyn Ferdin remarks, "That doesn't look very scary--more
like a six-foot turkey." Grant graphically describes hunting
strategies of the dinosaur, the "coordinated attack patterns"
from the sides: "He slashes at you here, or here, or maybe
across the belly, spilling your intestines. The point is you
are alive when they start to eat you. . . . Try to show a little
respect." Grant hates kids: "They're noisy, they're
messy, they're expensive, they smell." Amen, though he'll
never be off the hook for this rational '90s blasphemy.
Hammond will fund the two for three more years
if they'll endorse his park, to open next year, "and there's
no doubt our attractions will drive kids out of their minds."
Fat hacker Dennis Nedry makes an industrial
espionage deal with a Dodson who wants dino embryos--his company
will catch up on several years of research. Nedry will have a
security-free 18-minute window to steal them.
Hammond, Grant, Sadler, Malcolm, and the lawyer
fly onto the island for the weekend. They see an apatosaur and
are in awe; then they see flocks of dinosaurs and weep. Hammond
shows them a cheesy amusement park documentary film which explains
that researchers recovered DNA strands from dino blood preserved
in mosquitoes caught in amber. They used frog DNA to fill gaps.
The group sees a velociraptor hatch. They are assured all the
animals are female on the island, but Malcolm insists that "life
finds a way."
They witness the sacrifice of a steer to the
crafty "problem-solving" velociraptors, and sit down
to lunch. Malcolm is troubled by the "lack of humility before
Nature": these are "not condors. Dinosaurs had their
shot and Nature selected them for extinction." Hammond's
grandkids, Lex and Tim, arrive, and all visitors hop into the
cars for the tour. The gates are enormous, so Malcolm asks, "What
do they got in there, King Kong?"
Richard Kiley narrates the tour. A goat is
sacrificed to the T-Rex, but this dino is a no-show. Lex objects,
is tacitly accused of culinary hypocrisy, but she says that she
is vegetarian. Malcolm is full of "chaos" crap. The
Doctors see a sick dinosaur and Sadler investigates her droppings.
With a storm coming, Nedry initiates his computer trick in which
security systems go down. The other computer expert grows frustrated
with the resulting problems: "God dammit I hate this hacker
crap!" The two cars are stopped in front of the T-Rex exhibit,
and the goat is gone. A piece of corpse falls onto the car window.
The lawyer runs into an outhouse. The dinosaur terrorizes the
kids in their car, but the other men lure it away with flares.
Malcolm ends up hurt but the lawyer is snatched off the toilet
and eaten by the T-Rex. Grant and the kids are now terrorized
and their car is pushed off the road into a tall tree. Sadler
and Murdoch, a hunter, will rescue Hammond's grandchildren. Nedry
steals embryos but is eaten by a dinosaur when his car goes off
Murdoch and Sadler find Malcolm and are chased
in their Jeep by the T-Rex. Grant and the kids rest for the night
in a tree and see brachiosaurs: "They're not monsters, Lex,
they're animals. These are herbivores." The kids wonder
what paleotologists like Grant will do now that dinosaurs exist
again. "Guess we'll just have to evolve too."
We see Jurassic Park merchandise. Hammond
is eating melting ice cream and remembering his flea circus.
Sadler is pissed, but eats ice cream. In the tree, the three
wake up to the brachiosaurs: "veggie-saurus." One blows
snot on Lex. They find empty egg shells and Grant realizes that
some West African frogs spontaneously change sex: "Malcolm
was right. . . . Life found a way."
The entire Jurassic Park system must be shut
down and rebooted; circuit breakers must be switched on. While
Grant and the kids see a flock of dinosaurs and one eaten by the
T-Rex (Tim gasps, "Look how much blood!"), Sadler and
Murdoch are hunted by velociraptors on the way to the powerhouse.
Sadler turns on the electric fence, zapping Tim but alas not
fatally. Sadler is attacked; Murdoch gets eaten; Grant and the
kids get back to the center. The kids gorge until two raptors,
who have learned the art of doorknobs, stalk them in the kitchen.
they get to the computer base and Lex locks the doors. All of
them crawl through ceiling ducts, pursued by velociraptors. They
hang from a collapsing dino-skeleton display in the atrium. About
to die, the T-Rex intervenes and snatches the raptors. A banner
reading "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" flutters down
as the humans make their escape.
In the helicopter, we see a lot of smirking
about Grant protecting the kids. Some kind of flying prehistoric
things are out the window and serene in the sunset. The moment
is so deep that no one has anything to say or any perspective
to offer. . . .
I do. First, everyone who liked this film kept telling me that
it was because "the dinosaurs were so real." What in
hell does this mean?
Concession: the Jurassic Park documentary film
begins with the filmic Hammond interacting with the actual Hammond--a
nice recall of Gertie the Dinosaur (1914).
Anyway, the film makes one feel cheap. It
plays to adrenalin and smirkiness, but these pass quickly--which
I think explains on the larger scale why the film was available
at sale prices in a matter of months after its theatrical release.
What also is the significance of the fact that one always hears,
regarding this film, that it made 14 kajillion dollars? More
evidence that there is no movie here, just "effects."