Time heals all wounds, they say. The distance of years from film school has allowed me to enjoy films again. For years, I have spoken of my distain for JURASSIC PARK for its lopping off subplots and featuring a Deus ex Machina ending (i.e. the heroes in peril are saved by the cavalry arriving just in time). I still think the ending is weak -- the third installment in this franchise has a better ending in my opinion. However, after this viewing, I was able to get wrapped up in the awe of the film like the very first time I saw it in the theaters.
The film drips with the style and themes of director Steven Spielberg’s best work. The film’s science is well thought out and detailed. The emotional center of the film surrounds children. The plot is perfectly paced and flawlessly executed. Sam Neill (THE PAINO) as Dr. Alan Grant is the focal point of all the action. We can see in his character the true awe of seeing the living dinosaurs, a topic he has dedicated his whole life to. The park brings out the childlike side in him, which allows him to bond with park’s creator John Hammond's grandchildren Tim (Joseph Mazzello, SIMON BIRCH) and Lex (Ariana Richards, ANGUS) when the trio are stranded in the park with the dinosaurs.
Unlike any other time I’ve seen this film, I was stuck at how fleshed out some of the supporting characters are. Richard Attenborough’s (ELIZABETH) performance as Hammond is wonderful. He balances the character between an overly ambitious sideshow owner and a man desperate to leave a valuable impression on the Earth before he dies. Samuel Jackson (JUNGLE FEVER) plays Ray Arnold, a chain-smoking technician who really cares about his work and is dedicated to Hammond. In the past, I complained about where Wayne Knight’s (SEINFELD) Dennis Nedry’s character ended up. However, I find it more suitable in the context of the overall film’s presentation of the chaos theory, which is the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can set off a chain of events that creates a hurricane in Florida. Nedry’s actions in the film start the ball rolling on the chaos that takes place in the rest of the film.
Despite having seen this film several times the tension created still kept me on the edge of my seat. An especially fine moment is where the story cuts between Grant and the two kids climbing over an electric fence and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, BLUE VELVET) turning the electric back on in the park. Sadly, I feel that Sattler is the most underdeveloped character, but at least she has her own agenda outside of the plot, which is based on her character’s feelings.
My current appreciation of the film may also come from watching so many bad thriller/action movies that when you see a slightly flawed one that still has intelligence and wonderful tension at its core you forgive a lot of your more pretentious quibbles.