Michael Crichton Wrote ItRemember that Jurassic Park is actually an adaptation of a novel – a very good science fiction novel by a writer in his heyday. None of the other films bear that distinction, including The Lost World (the novel version of which is significantly different from the film).
By following fairly closely with the events in the original book and developing the dinosaurs right along with the relationships of the different characters, Jurassic Park brought Crichton’s storytelling sensibility to the big screen with few changes. The author also holds a writing credit on the film and was heavily involved in the making of it. Basically: the original film is a good adaptation of a book that was designed to read like a movie.
Steven Spielberg Directed ItNo offense to any of the future directors (including Colin Trevvorow of Jurassic World), but you cannot come close to Steven Spielberg at the height of his career. Even Spielberg himself couldn’t do it with The Lost World.
With Jurassic Park, he was on a roll, bringing together CGI with practical effects, drawing out great performances from his cast and knitting everything together in a sharp, well-paced thriller that never goes over the top in the violence but never relents either. Spielberg is at his best doing films like Jurassic Park, and this one stands with Jaws as one of his all-time finest blockbusters.
This Cast That Starred In ItI could make each character into their own little page, but that would go on for too long. Instead, let us consider the all-around great cast of Jurassic Park.
There’s Sam Neill, who gives a steadily heroic performance as Dr. Grant, the sort of hero you don’t quite expect to be a hero. There’s Laura Dern as Dr. Satler, equally steady and equally heroic, proving that you don’t have to sport ripped clothing and a push-up bra to be a badass woman. There’s Jeff Goldblum, whose Ian Malcolm has spawned memes well into the 00s. Even the two kids, who to my knowledge have not done much else, manage to avoid the usual pitfalls of being too cute, too helpless, or too annoying.
Those actors aside, the entire secondary cast is a brilliant set of character actors, too, including Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight. Top it all off with Richard Attenborough as the likable and probably insane billionaire John Hammond, and we have a cast with no weak links. Despite some pretty stellar performers in the sequels, none of the casts mesh the way this one did.
The DialogueIan Malcolm gets the bulk of the great one-liners here, but there are quite few awesome lines peppered throughout the script, everything from actual philosophical and scientific debates to humorous and quotable asides. There’s also my favorite exchange:
Dr. Ian Malcolm: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.
Dr. Ellie Sattler: Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.
You just don’t get that type of dialogue in The Lost World.
The First Real Look At The DinosaursMuch can be said about the special effects in Jurassic Park…like the fact that they still hold up twenty years later. But there is still something so moving, so iconic about the initial glimpse of the dinosaurs. Perhaps it’s that we’re seeing the scene through the eyes of Dr. Grant, a paleontologist whose life has been wrapped up in imagining what these creatures might have looked like. Perhaps it’s simply the grandeur of the cinematography, and the impressive special effects. Whatever it is, as the camera sweeps up to encompass herds of dinosaurs for the first time in millions of years roaming free, we’re provided with a sense of peace and beauty in the midst of a film about nature run amok.
While the rest of the film will largely focus on the carnage caused by these creatures, our first impression is one of the sheer awesomeness of what Jurassic Park – the film and the park within the film - accomplishes.
The RaptorsAre there better villains than Jurassic Park’s raptors? While we can argue that the T-Rex is just doing what T-Rexs do (being big and hungry), the raptors are truly venal antagonists who seem enjoy terrorizing small children. Brilliant hunters, they move quickly and stealthily and always seem to be thinking two steps ahead – which is quite an accomplishment for villains who never speak or have any motivation beyond getting a meal. They even look evil as they hunt their prey through that awesome sequence in the kitchen.
What’s more – and lest we forget – all of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are female and so our clever, scary villains are actually femme fatales. Clever girls indeed.
When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth EndingThe ending of the original Jurassic Park has no equal in the franchise, and you can take that to the bank. It might be cheesy, and there’s a deus ex machina that surprises, but it works because the entire film has led up to that moment. It allows us to laugh, and even to cheer for the hulking T-Rex who already provided us with some iconic moments of terror. It also further reinforces the fact that the dinosaurs, for the most part, are not good or evil: they’re just animals, far removed from a time where they ruled the earth.
Everyone who is supposed to survive survives, the central romantic couple seems to be on the right track, and the dinosaurs are left with their very own island. All, in other words, is as it should be.
Its Iconic MomentsYes, many sequels to great films can be iconic: just look at The Empire Strikes Back, which is arguably more iconic than its predecessor. That’s not true of the Jurassic Park franchise, however.
I could not name a single iconic moment in any of the sequels, much less one that is up to the standards of the original film. The soundtrack, the opening sequence, the introduction of the dinosaurs, the set pieces, including the T-Rex chase, the kitchen battle with the Raptors, that brilliant shot of a cup of water that still sends chills down your spine…the sequels might play with those iconic moments, but they never establish any of their own.
Because It's Jurassic ParkThe ultimate reason why Jurassic Park should have been a standalone film is because it was the first Jurassic Park. It didn’t demand a sequel. It set up an excellent sequence of events, with excellent (and very new) horrors, a good cast, a great director, and a tight, fast-paced script based on an excellent thriller. Plus, it still holds up today, both in special effects and, more importantly, as a taut and enjoyable blockbuster.
The further adventures of the dinosaurs and the people who loved them could never measure up to the coolness of the original Jurassic Park, and that's why the first film should have just been left alone.