Raise your hand if you love dinosaurs. All of you? Excellent. In that case, welcome to Jurassic Park’s movie review.
Writer: Michael Crichton (novel), Michael Chrichton (screenplay), David Koepp (screenplay)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Runtime: 2h, 7m
We begin on Isla Nublar, 120 miles West of Costa Rica. An unnamed creature, in a cage, is being delivered at night to an undescribed facility. The work crew at the facility is on edge, with taser on full charge pointed toward the creature in its cage. A machine sets the cage next to where the creature will be kept at the facility. One worker’s job is to open the cage’s gate to let the monster out so that it will then go into the large open space where it is slated to be kept. As the worker opens the gate of the cage, the dangerous beast inside pushes back on its cage, giving itself an opening for its claws to pull the worker inside its cage. The efforts of the other workers to electrocute it fails. The scene ends with the unnamed man in charge yelling “shoot her.”
In the next scene, a lawyer arrives to tell a man that Hammond is being sued by the worker’s family for twenty million dollars. The lawyer is outraged that Hammond does not even bother to show up at this meeting to discuss the matter personally. He then goes on to explain to this worker that the insurance underwriters have serious safety questions regarding Hammond’s park. This lawyer has promised to conduct a thorough onsite investigation. The man he is talking to tells him that Hammond hates investigations. The lawyer has been told by the insurance company to get two experts to sign off on the safety of the park. He says he has already gotten an agreement from Ian Malcolm to visit the facility. However, he also wants Dr. Alan Grant to visit and sign off on the park’s safety. The unnamed worker the lawyer is talking to tells him that he will never get Grant because Grant is a digger. He delivers that line while holding up what appears to be fossilized amber. Inside the fossilized amber, the camera zooms in and shows us a well preserved mosquito.
In the next scene, we meet Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) along with Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) while they are excavating the fossils of a well-preserved velociraptor. Grant is an advocate for what was then the controversial position that dinosaurs were closely related to birds. A young kid at the dig site interrupts Grant to tell him that the raptor does not look scary. It apparently looks to him like a six foot turkey. Grant then proceeds to tell him exactly how dangerous velociraptors really are. He describes them as intelligent pack hunters with vision superior to the T-Rex. Dr. Grant concludes his speech to the little kid, about the velociraptor, by telling him that “you are alive when they stop to eat you.”
After, Dr. Sattler sums up the talk with the kid.
Dr. S: Hey Alan, if you wanted to scare the kid, you could have just pulled a gun on him.
Dr. Grant does not like children. He tells Dr. Sattler, who appears to be his love interest, that “they smell.”
Just then, a helicopter lands right next to their dig site. The two doctors stop their discussion on smelly kids and yell at the rest of their team to cover up the dig site to protect it from the dust and wind stirred up by the propellers. Grant and Sattler run into their trailer and find Dr. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) inside. He apparently funds their dig site so they are forced to silence their complaints about his manner of arrival. Hammond does not seem to notice that they were upset in the first place. He tells both of them vaguely that he will fund their work for the next three years if they leave their dig site and join him to look at one of his other projects which he describes as an ecological preserve. He tells Dr. Grant that it will be right up his alley.
In the next scene, we are at an outdoor dining establishment in Costa Rica. Nedry (Wayne Knight) is eating and waiting to meet Dodgson – who is trying hard to attend this meeting incognito and getting no assistance from Nedry. Dodgson and Nedry are working on a scheme wherein Nedry smuggles “viable embryos” in exchange for a lot of money. Dodgson gives Nedry a storage device for smuggling out embryos which is designed to look like a shaving cream cannister. Nedry is slated to meet with someone for the dropoff the following night. He tells Dodgson that he has an 18 minute window wherein he can beat security.
We next see Hammond, Grant, Sattler, the lawyer from earlier, and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) on a helicopter in route to their destination. Hammond describes Malcolm as a mathematician but Malcolm corrects Hammond and describes himself as a chaotician. He works primarily in mathematics chaos theory.
The group take a tour of the island and its facilities. The visitors are not aware that Hammond has created dinosaurs until they are astonished to see a brachiosaurus while riding across the island in a pair of Jeeps.
In our first sign that safety on the island might not be what it should be, Grant and Sattler get out of their Jeep and approach the dinosaur – with no protective fencing to be seen anywhere. Grant and Sattler are almost brought to tears of joy. Malcolm – though clearly awed and impressed – calls Hammond crazy. The lawyer who represents the investors states that they will make a fortune with the place. Hammond continues to blow the minds of the dino bone diggers by telling them they also have a T-Rex. Grant is so overcome that he has to sit down.
Hammond: Dr. Grant, my dear doctor, welcome to Jurassic Park.
Lest we be too worried, though, we subsequently learn about the safety equipment that is in place for the more dangerous dinosaurs. We also learn how Hammond’s team was able to create dinosaurs using a combination of dinosaur DNA found inside fossilized mosquitoes which were themselves trapped in amber, along with frog DNA to fill in gaps in the DNA sequencing. Dr. Wu (BD Wong) is one of the scientists in the facility and he explains to the group that all of the dinosaurs are engineered to be females in order to avoid unwanted breeding. Dr. Malcolm has significant doubts about whether this will work.
Dr. Malcolm: Life, uh, finds a way.
While this tour is occurring, the group witnesses the hatching of some dinosaur eggs. Grant is horrified to learn through this hatching process that Hammond has developed velociraptors. After, the group witnesses a raptor feeding session. A giant crane lowers down a large and very alive cow into the raptor’s cage. We hear what sounds like a hungry raptor swarm. Just then, Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) arrives to tell the group that all of the raptors, in his opinion, should be destroyed. He tells the very interested Grant that the Raptors run with cheetah speed, fifty to sixty miles per hour, and that they are astonishing jumpers. Hammond tries to quell concerns by mentioning the precautions they are taking. Grant and Muldoon go on, though, with Muldoon explaining that the raptors – particularly their pride leader – display extreme intelligence. When he concludes, we hear the crane returning up with no sign of the cow that went down on it.
Hammond: Ha! Well, who’s hungry?
At dinner, Hammond tells them that they will take a tour shortly. It will mirror the official tour that park-goers will take when it officially opens. He reiterates that he has spared no expense for the park. Gennaro, the lawyer, is excited for how much they could potentially charge – knowing that people would pay almost anything they charged. Malcolm is gravely concerned about Hammond’s lack of humility.
Malcolm: Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Sattler and Grant take Malcolm’s side against Hammond in expressing concern.
Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Tim, join the group on a tour of the park. Malcolm rides with Sattler while Grant is told he will ride with the two children. Tim is about nine or ten years old and has a lot of dinosaur-related questions for Grant. Lex, who is about twelve, tells Grant that Sattler said she should ride with Grant because it would be good for him. Grant, however, trades with Gennaro, and rides with Malcolm and Sattler, instead.
Hammond stays behind in the control room to monitor the tour remotely and he learns that a tropical storm is forming close by. He is in the control room with Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) and Dennis Nedry. The tour drives past dinosaur exhibits without seeing them. Inside the control room, Hammond and Dennis get into an argument about his pay. Hammond wants him to debug issues with the tour. The cars headlights, on the current tour, are not coming on. He promises to debug the tour when the the group returns.
Abruptly, Grant jumps out of the Jeep. Sattler follows. From inside the control room, Hammond tells Arnold to stop the program and Muldoon complains that they need locking mechanisms for the vehicle doors. We see Grant, Sattler, Gennaro, and the two children walking through the exhibit until they come upon a triceratops lying sick on the ground. A worker from the park is also there with the dinosaur and decides to talk to them about how the dinosaur gets sick on a six weeks cycle instead of ordering them to return immediately to their car. By now, Malcolm has also joined the group inside the exhibit and Sattler wants to look at the sick dinosaur’s droppings to determine what it is eating.
In the control room, Muldoon tells Hammond that the tropical storm is not dissipating. Hammond tells Arnold to send everyone home and to cut the tour short so that everyone can evacuate the island in time to reach the safety of the mainland. Gennaro announces to the group that they must all return to the Jeeps and proceed back to the control room. Sattler plans to stay with the Park worker and return with him in his Jeep after looking longer at the sick triceratops.
Nedry speaks with someone at the loading dock bound for the mainland. The last group leaving is leaving soon. He either has to spend the night on the island, and fail to deliver his embryo, or he has to leave immediately. As a result, he picks this moment to execute a virus that shuts down the park’s security as well as the electrical fences which contain the animals. The virus also cuts off the power that would otherwise allow the electric Jeeps to return to the control room. He then takes his embryo container, designed to look like a can of shaving cream, and steals an embryo from the science lab and tries to exit the park.
The power in the park turns off and the returning Jeeps stop working right in front of the T-Rex exhibit.
In his hurry to leave the park, in the wind and rain, Nedry crashes his Jeep into a park sign. He gets out of his jeep to stand the sign back up.
Parked in front of the T-Rex exhibit, Tim finds night vision googles and begins playing with them. We hear a goat – it was earlier in the tour intended to be T-Rex food – begin to bleat. Tim and Lex begin to notice that the water in a cup, in their Jeep, is beginning to ripple of its own volition. A moment later, we begin to hear the pounding sound of incomprehensibly heavy footsteps approaching. Gennaro now hears it, too, and suggests that it is perhaps the power trying to come back online. Tim uses his night vision goggles to look for the goat and sees that it is gone.
Lex: Where’s the goat?
[goat entrails land on the top of their Jeep]
The two cars stare transfixed as the T-Rex begins pulling at the no-longer-electrified fencing. Gennaro exits the car, leaving the two children alone, and runs to hide in a nearby restroom. The T-Rex breaks through the fence.
Malcolm: I hate being right all the time.
Alone in the car, with Genarro having left the driver side door open, Lex turns on a high wattage flashlight and shines it out of the car window. Grant tells us from the car behind the two children that T-Rexes see by movement. The now moving light has alerted it to the presence of the humans. Tim tells his sister to turn the light off and he carefully closes the car door. The movement of the closing car door caught the dinosaur’s attention. With the light still on inside the car, the T-Rex can now see the children moving and screaming inside the car. It flips the car over and rips out its mechanical underbelly. It appears to not enjoy the taste.
Grant and Malcolm exit their car and attempt to distract the dinosaur with flares. They inadvertently direct the T-Rex toward the bathroom where Gennaro is hiding. The dinosaur knocks down the building leaving only Gennaro upright, sitting on a toilet. The T-Rex then eats the lawyer. Grant uses the distraction of Gennaro becoming dino dinner to rescue Lex from the Jeep. Tim is trapped inside. Grant, the two kids, and the Jeep are pushed from the road, by the T-Rex, into the T-Rex enclosure where they and their car land in the branches of a tree far below.
In the control room, Hammond sends Muldoon in a gas powered Jeep to go pick up his grandchildren.
Dennis Nendry is back in a Jeep and trying to leave the park. His glasses are wet and fogging over. He crashes his Jeep again and gets it stuck. With his vision impaired, he slips down an embankment into a dinosaur enclosure. There, while he is attempting to pull his Jeep loose, he is attacked and then killed by a venom spitting dinosaur. The shaving cream can with the dinosaur embryos inside floats away down a stream.
Grant and Lex are on the ground. Tim is still in the car, up in the tree branches. Grant leaves Lex on the ground to go retrieve Tim. He climbs up the tree and Tim is injured but not badly. Tim carefully exits the car. As they climb below the trapped car, it suddenly lurches forward. As a result, the two of them for forced to climb down as quickly as possible to avoid the car falling down on top of them. As they finally reach the ground, the car falls on top of them. The part of the Jeep where there used to be a glass room lands on them, though, and they avoid any actual injury from this.
Tim: Well, we’re back in the car again.
Muldoon and Sattler arrive to where the electric Jeeps stopped. One of the Jeeps is obviously now missing. Malcolm is nowhere to be seen. They find pieces of Gennaro on the road. Suddenly they hear Malcolm moaning on the road.
Sattler: Ian? Ian?
Malcolm: Remind me to thank John for a lovely weekend.
Sattler sees where the other car fell into the T-Rex exhibit and she sees Grant’s footprints in the mud outside of where the car went over. While Malcolm is resting in the functional gas-powered jeep, he notices vibrations on the water of a mud puddle.
Malcolm: Anybody hear that? It’s an, it’s an impact tremor, that’s what it is. I’m fairly alarmed here.
Muldoon, Sattler, and Malcolm have to flee as a T-Rex returns. It chases them. They are narrowly able to escape before reaching a speed that outruns the dinosaur.
Malcolm: You think they’ll have that on the tour?
Down below, Grant, Lex and Tim hear the roars above from the T-Rex and decide to take refuse in the trees for the night. The children sleep while Grant stays awake throughout the night. Before sleeping, though, the three – in a moment of respite from the onslaught of terror – observe a group of brachiosaurus “singing.” Grant attempts to mimic their sound and he gets their attention. Lex is terrified.
Back in the control room, Hammond talks with Sattler. He tells her about the first attraction he ever built – a flea circus. He says that he hoped, with Jurassic Park, to show people something that was not an illusion. To Sattler’s amazement, he begins planning for the next effort at building the park.
Hammond: Creation is an act of sheer will.
In the morning, after sleeping through the night in the tree, a brachiosaurus approaches the humans in the tree. They feed it, touch it, and Grant describes it as a big cow. Just as Lex is starting to warm up to the dinosaur, it sneezes on her. As the three humans leave the tree, Tim complains that this experience means his sister will never try anything new again. He says she will just sit in her room on her computer all day. Lex tells him that she is hacker. Just then, Grant finds some dinosaur eggs. When the children points out that all of the dinosaurs are supposed to be female, Grant says that some frogs spontaneously change sex in single sex environments. He guesses that the frog DNA used to construct the dinosaurs has created the same effect within the park.
Hammond and Arnold are discussing how to get the park back online. Hammond decides that they need to shut down the park’s system and start it back up. This step will undo what Dennis did before leaving. However, Arnold is hesitant to try it because the park has never done this before. There is no guarantee it will work and it will mean shutting off those few systems in the park that are not now turned off. However, upon Hammond’s insistence, Arnold resets the system.
Arnold: Hold on to your butts.
The reset works. However, before the park can come back online, the park’s circuit breakers need to be flipped. They are located in the maintenance shed at the other end of the compound.
Grant, Lex, and Tim are doing a cross-country hike across the park. On their way, they observe a T-Rex hunting other dinosaurs. Lex [the only sane person on the island] tells the other two that she wants to leave.
Arnold does not return from his trip to flip the circuit breaker. Sattler and Muldoon leave to check on him. While they are out, they discover that the power being out means that the raptors have escaped their enclosure. On their way to flip the breaker, Muldoon soon informs Sattler that they are currently being hunted by the three raptors. Abruptly, he tells her to run toward the shed. She does and she makes it inside. She calls for Mr. Arnold and gets no reply. She uses a walkie-talkie to get instructions from Hammond on where and how to flip the breaker.
Grant, Lex, and Tim reach a fence on their walk back. Grant pretends to be electrocuted by it. Lex is not amused. They hear a T-Rex in the distance behind them and begin climbing the fence. As they are climbing, Hammond and Malcolm are guiding Sattler through turning the power back on. She reaches the box as Grant, Lex, and Tim are climbing. She pushes some buttons and turns the power back on. On the fence, Grant and Lex are on the ground. The alarm is sounding next to the fence, indicating the power is about to turn back on. They implore Tim to jump. He refuses. A moment later, 10,000 watts of electricity throw him from the fence where Grant is able to catch him.
Sattler is excited to see lights come back on. A moment later, a velociraptor shoves its face between some pipes and tries to bite her. She manages to get away and close the door to another room. Leaning against a wall, she feels Arnold’s hand on her shoulder. Then she realizes that Arnold’s arm is not attached to a body. She flees the shed and closes the door behind her with the raptor inside.
We cut to Muldoon stalking through the forest with a shotgun in hand. He sets his hat on a log and moves up to a higher vantage point. His goal is to bait the raptor into attacking hit hat and then killing it from a distance. As he is lining up his sights on where his hat is below, a raptor peaks at him through leaves a couple of feet away.
Muldoon: Clever girl.
The clever girl raptor eats Muldoon.
Grant gives Tim CPR and revives him. A few moments later, he and the two children enter the Visitor’s Center. Grant leaves the two kids alone to go find the other adults. The two raptors that killed Muldoon enter the Visitor’s Center kitchen where the children are waiting. Lex sees one of the raptors.
The two children hide from the raptors in the kitchen. At one point while Tim panics and does not move when he needs to move, Lex rescues him by making noise to draw the dinosaur away. The two children escape the kitchen and find Grant and Sattler in the Visitor’s Center lobby. The four of them go to the control room to reboot the computer system so that the phones can be used. As the raptors try to break into the control room, the two adults hold the door closed while Lex, the computer hacker, gets the power back online. The doors to the control room will not lock without power. Once the four are locked inside the room, the raptors begin breaking through the glass. This flushes the four of them out into the Visitor’s Center lobby again. They are surrounded and all hope is lost.
As a raptor jumps toward the humans, a T-us Rex Machina just… appears… and catches it in midair and eats it. The other raptor jumps into the T-Rex and attacks. The humans flee the Visitor’s Center in the dinosaur tumult. Outside, Hammond’s Jeep pulls up and all four jump in and drive away as quickly as possible.
Grant: Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.
Inside the Visitor’s Center, we see the T-Rex shake the other raptor off its back, catch it with its mouth, killing it, and then fling its body across the room and into a dinosaur skeleton display. Everyone gets into a helicopter and leaves the island.
On the flight back, Sattler and Grant look at each other while the two children are sleeping on his two respective shoulders. The looks implies that Grant has changed his view about children from where it was when the movie began. Then the two of them together look out the window and see birds flying over the water.
Right before getting onto the helicopter, Hammond stared out at his park for a long couple of seconds. I was really hoping that he would suddenly grimace and say “Newman!”
This movie came out 27 years ago. And it still looks GREAT. The only visual nitpick with the look of the film is that the raptors appear to have just the hint of a sinister smile in most of their scenes. I’m sure that was done on purpose but it was not necessary.
In addition to looking great, the movie also sounds great. The incomparable John Williams put together one of his finest scores for this movie.
Let’s talk about the movie itself. If you scrape away the fantastical science trappings, and the awe and majesty of dinosaurs generally, Jurassic Park is a horror / monster movie. After the first 45 minutes sets up the drama, the latter half of the movie is nothing but brutal killings and narrow escapes for the good guys. In the end. Dr. Frankenstein Hammond is forced to realize that his great ambition was born of hubris and a lack of respect for the natural order. He learned that you pay dearly for failing to respect the natural order.
The “hero” of this movie, Grant, is also a little bit on the unhinged side. I love Sam Neill in this movie but they made him out to be something of an Indiana Jones Lite. And there is also the aforementioned craziness. He seems to genuinely enjoy being unnecessarily cruel to children. When the little boy insulted velociraptors to start the movie, Grant got this distant shell-shocked look on his face. It was as though he had already experienced the Jurassic Park weekend and bringing up the velociraptor brought back bad memories. Once at the park, Grant has no sense of danger for himself. He jumped out of a moving vehicle, on a tour of an island filled with dinosaurs, and went into a dinosaur enclosure by himself. Once the kids joined him, he basically decided that letting children around a triceratops was no big deal. At least the coward Gennaro asked aloud why he was the only one who recognized that being in the enclosure was a bad idea. If Grant doesn’t jump out of the Jeep, the entire group probably makes it back to the Visitor’s Center and nobody dies. Later, after many hardships with the kids, Grant is so overcome with his “dinosaurs are like birds” theory that he nearly gets himself and two children stampeded to death by not recognizing the danger posed by elephant-sized dinosaurs stampeding in their direction. And… why did he just leave Lex and Tim alone inside the Visitor’s Center? It didn’t occur to him that he had no idea what was loose on the island?
[It’s probably worth pointing out that the kid who compared velociraptors to turkeys was giving the actual scientific background of the real velociraptor dinosaur. The movie version of raptors is much different than the real thing.]
Sattler was a bit under-utilized in the movie. She was mostly there to under-react to the craziness around her. Her one big character moment was flipping the circuit breaker back on. There was something unsettling about the way she seemed to just shrug off the deaths of Arnold and Muldoon in that moment. She even had Arnold’s severed arm in her hands at one point and just kind of shrugged it off after a short scream. Even at the end of the movie, rather than sobbing, she seemed to have moved on. “See, Alan, kids aren’t that bad, let’s make some.” It was as though either 1) none of the trauma had happened at all or 2) she has had a lot of weekends like this one before.
Anyway. One thing about this movie that I have always found humorous is that the story has the conceit that scientists figure out how to rebuild a variety of dinosaur DNA sequences (something we have not done yet in 2020 but we are getting closer) but the park that succeeds in this type of futuristic science does not have back-up power generators, separate of its computer system, for its electric fences?
[Remember a couple years ago when scientists figured out how to give chicken embryos dinosaur teeth?]
Malcolm seemed to represent the voice of Michael Crichton. Occasionally, his sermonizing felt like it needed more supporting dialogue. For example, when he was talking with Dr. Wu (BD Wong) in the science lab, his “life finds a way” narrative did not really seem justified by anything other than the plot’s need for him to be the story’s cynic.
I guess Jeff Goldblum represented the eye candy of the movie.
If Malcolm is Crichton, then Lex is a stand-in for the audience. She is consistently frightened when any normal person would be frightened (and she is almost always alone in being normal throughout the movie.) I appreciated her place in this film a lot more, twenty-seven years after the first time I saw this movie. She even had a great couple of heroic moments herself near the end of the film, first in saving her brother from the raptors, and then turning the power back on at the park.
Tim is the stand-in for every little kid who grew up loving dinosaurs. How’d that work out for him? He was nearly eaten more than once, he was electrocuted, he was in a car that was thrown by a dinosaur off a high embankment and then landed in a tree… you know, maybe Tim will get into baseball cards once he gets home.
From a storytelling standpoint, I did not particularly enjoy that the T-Rex magically shows up and kills the raptors. HOWEVER. From the standpoint of a human who is eating popcorn and watching a movie, did I stand up, cheer, and pump my fist when that majestic T-Rex showed up? OF COURSE! That was EPIC! Bum BA, bum BA, ba da DA, DA da dum DA!
That kind of sums it up for me. The movie is still visually terrific all these years later. The score is tremendous. It’s a great popcorn flick. I recommend this movie for a re-watch if it’s been a while. Just know that it might be a little bit more of a monster movie than you remember.