What, honestly, am I supposed to say about Jurassic Park that hasn’t been said before? I spent half an hour this morning, staring at a nearly blank page, trying to come up with a review, when all I had was, “It’s Jurassic Park. Duh.” An entire generation grew up loving this motion picture, which was not the first film with dinosaurs, but it was the first film that shared the audience’s childlike sense of wonder about them, even when it was terrifying. Jurassic Park was a milestone in computer-generated imagery, a rousing monster movie about science gone awry, and it's universally accepted to be one of the great summer blockbusters. It’s coming out in 3D, I saw it again in a theater, it still plays great, and I have to talk about it now, but what could I possibly have to say?
So instead of a review, I have to decided come up with a series of reasons why you should go see Jurassic Park again this weekend, even though you own it on home video. If you're anything like me, you watched it over and over again as a kid, but only sporadically as an adult, and perhaps you forgot some of the little idiosyncracies that make Jurassic Park so special, and even just a little bit weird. I love Jurassic Park as much as you did, but these were things that really struck me when I watched it again on a big screen, with the wisdom of years, and just a little distance from my childhood nostalgia.
That Unnecessary Beefcake Shot of Jeff Golblum
Jeff Goldblum gets a plum role in Jurassic Park as Dr. Ian Malcolm, whose scientific expertise, chaos theory, is supposed to be complex, but is quickly dumbed down to “shit happens.” As such, he gets to be right about everything all the time and smug about it. That level of confidence is bound to be attractive, but did we really need that one shot of Jeff Goldblum lounging with his shirt unbuttoned looking for all the world like a Playgirl cover from 1973? If you don’t remember this shot, don’t worry… on the big screen, and in 3D especially, it’s impossible to miss.
Spielberg Shot Better 3D in 1993 Than Most Directors Do in 2013
Jurassic Park was shot beautifully, and without flashy lighting, shaky camera moves and rapid fire editing. Steven Spielberg, and his longtime director of photography Dean Cundey (working with Spielberg for the last time, sadly), let the damned story tell itself, and so Jurassic Park doesn’t get in the way of its own 3D conversion, unlike the recent G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The 3D doesn’t really “help” Jurassic Park in any way, but it’s completely unobtrusive to the experience of watching it in theaters, so the classic remains a classic even with the newfangled marketing gimmick.
That Frog DNA
Oh, Mr. DNA. You were ever so informative. In the exposition sequence where the Doctors, and the audience, find out how John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) found healthy dinosaur DNA for his cloning process, the animated “Mr. DNA” explains that scientists filled in the gaps in the genetic code with frog DNA. Why frog DNA, anyhow? None of the dinosaurs are amphibious, and doesn’t Dr. Grant say that dinosaurs actually evolved into birds? In the novel, Michael Crichton makes it clear that the scientists used all kinds of DNA to fill in those gaps, and just one of the donors happens to be from frogs, a species that can sometimes change its gender to repopulate the species. In the much shorter movie, that explanation wouldn’t have been clear enough to implicate the gender-switching frog DNA when Dr. Grant finds the clutch of dinosaur eggs, provin that "life finds a way," so the filmmakers just said “frog DNA” was the only kind used and hoped you wouldn’t think too hard about that.
And don't get us started on the "virtual reality" thing. Everyone thought virtual reality was going to be a big deal in the early 1990s.
The Cigarette Surgically Implanted on Samuel L. Jackson’s Lip
A year before Pulp Fiction turned Samuel L. Jackson into a household name, Nick Fury himself had a small supporting role in Jurassic Park as Ray Arnold, the no-nonsense computer programmer who has to fix the mess Dennis Nedry makes of the island. He also never seems to appear on camera without a cigarette in his mouth. It was the early 1990s, and nobody seemed to care at the time, and we’re not being judgmental now, but with all the money Hammond spent on Jurassic Park you’d think he could have thrown a couple bucks at an ashtray.
The Sick Triceratops Subplot That Never Gets Resolved
The only dinosaur our heroes actually see on their tour – unless you count the herds of dinosaurs they just happen to drive past on their way to the visitor’s center – is a sick Triceratops. They stop to help diagnose the beast, and Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) even stays behind to solve the mystery. Then it’s never mentioned again. What was up with that, movie? In the novel, the mystery is solved – Triceratopses swallow stones to help digest their food, but those stones (which Dr. Satler actually picks up, if you pay attention) are close enough to poison plants that they get sick – but in the film it’s completely forgotten. Now you know!
The Completely Useless Tim Murphy
Jurassic Park also stars Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards as Tim and Lex Murphy, the two kids who spend most of the film completely endangered, and teaching Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) how to be a father. But they also had to have something to actually do, so pay attention at the end of the film during the scene where Velociraptors are trying to knock down the door and eat our heroes. While Dr. Grant and Dr. Satler try to keep the door closed, Lex – a self-declared “hacker” (oh, the Nineties…) – attempts to turn the security measures back on in the facility. Okay, that’s useful, even if the interface is hopelessly dated. What’s Tim doing? He’s watching her fiddle with the computer, while Dr. Sadler desperately tries to grab an assault rifle that’s just out of reach behind him. You wanna, maybe, I dunno, give that gun a little bit of a nudge, Tim? Lex wouldn’t have to lock the doors if the dinosaurs had a bunch of bullets in them. Lex may be the whiny one, but it's actually Tim who has literally nothing to contribute to the plot of Jurassic Park, unless you count accurately naming the relatively obscure Gallimimus despite never having seen a real one before.
Dr. Alan Grant’s Unexplained Expertise in Tyrannosaur Eyes
Dr. Alan Grant assumes it’s common knowledge that the vision of a Tyrannosaurus Rex is based on movement; that is, if you don’t move, it can’t tell you apart from the scenery. But it’s not common knowledge, it never was, and it doesn’t make him sound like an expert. It makes it sound like he read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and took it too seriously. In the novel, Grant comes up with that theory when he notices during the T-Rex attack that the dinosaur doesn’t seem to attack him when he’s stationary. There’s no hard science to support this theory. Crichton based it on the vision of certain real-life reptiles, not dinosaurs, whose eyes didn’t fossilize as well as their bones did.
In the sequel novel, The Lost World (but not the sequel movie), Crichton disproves Grant’s theory, and Tyrannosaurs wind up eating folks who tried standing still in front of them. (As for why the T-Rex didn’t attack Grant in the first novel? Probably because it wasn’t hungry.)
The T-Rex Attack
Still cool, damn it.
Oh, and The T-Rex is a Ninja
The Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park is a villain for most of the movie, nearly devouring half the cast (and in the case of Jonathan Pryce, actually succeeding). But in the end, Spielberg brings him back at the last minute to save them from the far more insidious threat of the Velociraptors. The Velociraptors have our heroes surrounded and then, from out of nowhere, the T-Rex bites them in mid-air. It’s cool and all, but considering the T-Rex’s footsteps caused mini-earthquakes half a movie earlier, how the hell did it sneak up on everyone now? Because that T-Rex is a ninja, that’s how.
It’s Jurassic Park
William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, co-star of The Trailer Hitch, and the writer of The Test of Time. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.