Jurassic Park: 9 Things That Still Hold Up Today
Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking dinosaur-infested '90s blockbuster Jurassic Park remains just as thrilling and mind-blowing to this day.
Apparently discontented with having only broken the record for highest-grossing movie ever made twice (with 1975’s Jaws and 1982’s E.T.), Steven Spielberg went and did it a third time with 1993’s Jurassic Park, one of the greatest and most influential blockbusters in Hollywood history.
Almost three decades later, Jurassic Park remains a timeless gem. Its re-releases still draw huge crowds looking to see the dinosaur-infested masterpiece on the big screen. From John Williams’ score to trailblazing CGI effects, the dinosaur movie doesn't get old.
9 - Jeff Goldblum’s Irresistible Dr. Ian Malcolm
Sam Neill and Laura Dern anchor the cast of Jurassic Park as Drs. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler, but they have strong support from Jeff Goldblum as the irresistibly charismatic Dr. Ian Malcolm.
Goldblum steals every scene he’s in as the eccentric, wisecracking mathematician, delivering some of the movie’s most memorable lines, from “Life, uh, uh... finds a way,” to “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
8 - The Groundbreaking CGI Effects
A lot of the CGI effects from the 1990s – and from the 2000s, for that matter – have aged horribly, because the technology is always advancing and the early stuff is primitive and clunky by comparison. But the groundbreaking effects in Jurassic Park still hold up today.
Spielberg pioneered CGI technologies to bring the film’s dinosaurs to life, but used it sparingly (as all blockbuster filmmakers should). Most closeups of the dinosaurs use state-of-the-art animatronics which, unlike most CGI, are timeless.
7 - The Thrill Of The T. Rex’s Escape
The first big action set piece in Jurassic Park arrives somewhere around the halfway point. Disgruntled employee Dennis Nedry shuts off the tour vehicles going around the park right next to the T. rex’s enclosure. Spielberg masterfully builds up to the T. rex’s escape with moments like water dripping in the cup.
The appearance of the monster doesn’t disappoint because of this tense build-up, and because Spielberg frames its gargantuan size from the perspective of the puny humans it’s targeting.
6 - Laura Dern’s Empowering Turn As Dr. Ellie Sattler
Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler is one of the great feminist icons of ‘90s cinema. When Dr. Malcolm says, “God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, man destroys God, man creates dinosaurs,” she adds a couple more steps: “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the Earth.”
When the power goes out in the park, Ellie takes matters into her own hands – and before doing so, she points out John Hammond’s outdated view of gender roles and “sexism in survival situations.”
5 - John Williams’ Sweeping Score
John Williams has composed a lot of Steven Spielberg’s most memorable scores, from Jaws to E.T. to the Indiana Jones movies. His score for Jurassic Park is one of his most understated works, but also one of his greatest.
The main theme in particular – one of Williams’ most hummable themes – captures the grandiose ambition of the story and the loftiness of the thought-provoking subtext.
4 - The PG-13 Sensibility
A faithful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel would’ve been ultraviolent hard-R fare, but Spielberg aimed for a PG-13 rating and the resulting movie is much more accessible than its source material.
While a blood-soaked version of Jurassic Park would certainly be fun, it would have a narrower appeal. Spielberg’s movie is a crowd-pleasing blockbuster that’s fun for the whole family.
3 - Dr. Alan Grant’s Character Arc
A lot of contemporary reviews of Jurassic Park criticized it for favoring special effects over story and character development, but Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant has a real arc.
At the beginning of the movie, it’s made clear that he hates kids. So, when he’s lumbered with Hammond’s grandkids at the park, he thinks it’ll be a nightmare. Then, he’s suddenly thrust into a survival situation where the kids’ lives are in his hands. Under these extreme circumstances, he becomes endeared to Lex and Tim and has a change of heart.
2 - The Tension Of The Kitchen Sequence
Jurassic Park’s climactic set piece, in which the raptors attack the T. rex – essentially showing nature course-correcting itself and life finding a way – is certainly a glorious finale. But the most thrilling set piece in the third act is when the raptors stalk Lex and Tim in the kitchen. This scene is a masterwork of Hitchcockian suspense.
From tight framing to using shiny metal doors as mirrors, Spielberg uses all kinds of cinematic techniques to wring as much tension out of this sequence as possible.
1 - The Cautionary Message About Playing God
As the story of a egocentric genius playing God and facing the consequences, Jurassic Park is a classic Frankenstein story. John Hammond is a modern-day Victor Frankenstein: the embodiment of corporate hubris.
Ian Malcolm sums up the story’s themes perfectly when he says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”