One word summarises the whole experience of watching Jurassic Park: Goosebumps! There are at least two moments when your arms will feel like they have felt a chill and that welcome tingle runs down the back of your neck. The moments are perfectly teased and Steven Spielberg manages to deliver a movie that is both awe-striking and terrifically scary, often in the same scenes!
This is demonstrated best in two of the greatest scenes, both in this film and cinema history. The first is the actual opening glimpse of the dinosaurs in full. The Brontosaurus (I think?) herding and eating from trees, one standing on its hind legs and landing with a thunderous *boom.* I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times and it makes the hairs stand on end every time!
The second is the best moment in the whole movie. A moment often repeated but never bettered. The vibrations in the water! The sudden, looming doom that is teased throughout the beginning of the film and then unleashed in all its roaring glory – The Tyrannosaurs Rex. The way the T-Rex is introduced leaves you wide-eyed, wide-mouthed but then hiding behind the nearest cushion (or loved-one). It is a perfect example of how to do scary without necessarily making the audience jump halfway out of their seats.
This is just two examples but they are the culmination of a great mix of story, characters/cast and an amazing soundtrack that lifts the whole film. I’ve often heard the first element criticised, introducing the dinosaurs too late but the star attraction is perfectly teased and there is plenty of dinosaur action before the “proper” story starts. Rushing the introduction of the dinosaurs would mean we don’t get the building of some great characters; leading to excellent pay-off’s later in the movie.
These characters are a great blend. From the reluctant hero, in Sam Neill’s dinosaur expert Alan Grant, the female heroine is prehistoric botanist Ellie Satler and the slimy but strangely charming chaos expert Ian Malcolm, played by an always excellent Jeff Goldblum. It is also a Steven Spielberg movie so you need two innocent children who get the brunt of the experience, Lex and TIm – played by Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello. Add to these an extensive, experienced cast, including Samuel L Jackson and Richard Attenborough and you can’t go wrong!
Spielberg manages to draw the audience behind these characters before he throws them into the theme park. It means when the T-Rex attacks or the Raptors trap the children in the kitchen, you are much more invested and much more scared than you would be than with one-dimensional teenager we get in most horror movies.
Add to these scenes an incredible score and you have the magic feeling on numerous occasions. John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is iconic and perfectly used. The way it is used on that first moment, seeing the dinosaurs in their glory, is what makes the goosebumps happen. It also elevates the scary moments or the sweeter, calmer scenes.
The film is about the dinosaurs though and considering this film was made in 1993, you can’t see “the strings.” The CGI is in its infancy but almost seamless. The mix of animatronics and CGI is used in the perfect balance and aside from a couple of scenes and some dodgy acting alongside “nothing,” it still passes today.
Overall, Jurassic Park is Steven Spielberg’s greatest family movie. It has the perfect mix of great drama, brilliant characters and an engaging story. Add to this some genuinely scary moments that will have you hiding behind the sofa and you have a truly modern classic. John Williams’ score elevates the drama and I guarantee goosebumps at least once!
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)