“I liked the part when there were dinosaurs” just about sums up my thoughts regarding Jurassic Park. Luckily enough, the film contains enough of the currently extinct creatures to be a worthwhile experience. The human characters are largely forgotten about, as is their story and their personalities, but that’s to be expected in a special effects extravaganza movie. You’re here for the dinosaurs, the characters are here for the dinosaurs, and as long as the dinosaurs are present or could be present for most of the running time, we’re happy after watching it.
The first time they’re revealed, our main characters have recently come to an island owned by a billionaire named John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who has figured out a way to clone dinosaur DNA, fill in missing portions with frog DNA, and create living dinosaurs. We see the brachiosauruses first, and our eyes are as wide open as those of the characters. Two paleontologists, Alan and Ellie (Sam Neill and Laura Dern) have come to the island on a promise that if they sign off on its safety, the rich owner will fund their research for the next three years. They have no idea what to expect, and neither did we.
They’re accompanied by a few others — two children, a lawyer, a mathematician — and they’re about to take a trip around the island. It will be a theme park, Mr. Hammond tells them, and after they’re assured of its safety, it will be open to the public. Well, not right away, as there are some bugs to work out, but after it’s finished, people from all over the world will be able to visit the dinosaurs. That’s the plan, anyway, and all that needs to happen is one successful tour.
If you guessed that the tour won’t be a success, you’re correct. The person managing the security system has gone rogue, and while attempting to sneak out some research samples, with the addition of a tropical storm, all of the security systems go offline. These people all end up trapped inside the park, without power, and with dinosaurs on the prowl. Oh, and of course, that storm can cause problems on its own, with strong winds and pounding rain not making anything easy.
There are points in Jurassic Park when it seems like the filmmakers are trying to make us scared. It plays out like a horror film at points, and it’s effective at doing so. I know my pulse was higher than resting level during some of these scenes. However, I couldn’t help almost wanting the dinosaurs to appear to chase the characters or maybe even eat them. They’re such marvels to look at and admire that I found myself hoping that they’d show up more frequently so that I could see more of them.
And they do look amazing. While there’s a little bit of dodgy CGI here and there — this was 1993, after all — it’s hard to deny how spectacular all of the dinosaurs look. Director Steven Spielberg and his team have managed to bring dinosaurs to life through CGI, animatronics and puppetry, and it’s the dinosaurs that sell the film. If it were just an amusement park with dangerous animals, it wouldn’t even be worth seeing. But with the fantastic dinosaurs, it becomes something that is absolutely worth your time.
Unfortunately, this means that the humans become secondary. It’s hard to care or even root for them when so much focus is being placed on the dinosaurs. None of the humans are fully realized characters, getting about half-way there but not coming close enough to be real people. They’re all caricatures, and many of them are actually annoying, leading me to a desire to see them eaten by the dinos. Actually, the velociraptors get more character depth than some of the people in Jurassic Park, and that’s just sad.
With that said, the dinosaurs look so good that it’s hard to care all that much about how the humans are secondary. By about the midway point, I was only watching for the cloned creatures anyway, so having underdeveloped humans didn’t bother me all that much. I just wanted to see what the dinosaurs would do next that the humans could just stand there and I would probably have been okay with it, as long as the dinosaurs were still doing cool dinosaur things.
Surprisingly, the whole moral quandary about whether or not cloning dinosaurs and using them as an amusement park attraction is right never really comes up. When it does, it’s quickly pushed aside, presumably because the audience doesn’t want to hear about it when dinosaurs are the only thing keeping the film together. If you’re watching for the dinosaurs, do you really want to listen to people talk about how using them for entertainment purposes is morally wrong? Of course not. So the film skips over that so that we can just watch the awesome dinosaurs do whatever it is the filmmakers envision them doing.
Jurassic Park is a must-watch film even if, apart from the amazingly rendered dinosaurs, it’s nothing special. But because of the dinos, you have to watch this film. The human characters aren’t particularly important, nor is anything else surrounding them. You’re here to see the dinosaurs, and so are the characters. You want dinosaurs, and that’s exactly what you get with Jurassic Park, which is thrilling and exciting, but only when the prehistoric creatures are shown.