PreCommentary: 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.

Summary: 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 the road.

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. . . .

Commentary: 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."