Jurassic Park Review
Jurassic Park Steven Spielberg John Williams nostalgia family
This movie makes me feel like a child again! A major part of this is due to this movie being released on the year of my birth, 1993, but I also have to give credit to Steven Spielberg. Somewhere in that bearded man is a kid that refused to go away, and he can capture this movie with not only spectacle but the rightful sense of wonder that children always wanted to see. Rich with cinematic vision and attention to detail, from the incredible realism of the larger-than-life attractions to the bright, solid colors of the main cast, Jurassic Park riddles itself with timeless movie qualities.
One of the most magical moments in cinema history was when Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler arrive at Jurassic Park and witness a Brachiosaurus. For a moment, even those adult characters are kids. Their mute before the fulfillment of their fantasies. Many people were. Spielberg understands how special this moment is, and lets it play out, just in one's imagination. In that moment, the Brachiosaurus, the tears of the adults, and the first appearance of a classic and inspired John Williams score left me in a sense of ultimate comfort. I truly wanted this moment to last and for the happiness to last forever. I smiled, and I continued to smile uncontrollably throughout the film as I sat in the front, center seat of the theatre.
Leading up to this moment, following a few classic Spielberg establishment shots, Alan and Ellie worked out in the open terrain of a Montana dig site. There was an amazing chemistry between the characters that comforted me even more than the magical dinosaur reveal. Alan doesn't really dig kids that much. When he's seemingly unfamiliar with the term "child", Ellie has to tell him that they're miniature adults. That's an interesting way of looking at it. Ellie, meanwhile, wants to have children. On one hand, this establishes who these characters are, the nature of their relationship, and what some of their background desires are. This might have been unnecessary for the plot, but one of the things that makes this film so endearing and different from all other dinosaur films is that the two lead characters are framed as adults. It's so subtle that many actual adults don't notice it, but children do. Children see this and this couple is seen through the lens of how they are similar to their parents. As a little boy on the playground, I used to brag about how cool my father was. He went out and did cool things. I idolized him for being a grown up. My mother, meanwhile, loved me so much, and I loved her so much in return. Together, they weren't naive Shakespearian lovers, but Mom and Dad. Even though they didn't have children yet, Ellie and Alan were already my Mom and Dad, and somewhere in my heart, I think they always will be.
These characters, after being establishes, wanted to explore Jurassic Park, and then they had the exact same reaction that I as a child wanted them to have. They needed to see more! John Hammond puts them on a little documentary ride, but the paleontologist and the paleobotanist can't stand the restrictions and stop the ride. They run through, and they must watch as an egg hatches in the laboratory.
There is a lot of exposition here, far more than a normal film could get away with. This is usually the bane of many science fiction films, but it flies with grace in Jurassic Park because people want to know how this happened. Kids are curious. They want to believe that this can happen in real life, and it's fuel for the imagination. After this film, it became a common dream of popular science to try out these new technologies. I became fascinated with science because of the things that could be done with it, and when watching this film, I wanted to learn so much about dinosaurs, because dinosaurs were cool. Spielberg doesn't make anything about the ancient beasts a mystery. To a kid, this is almost as fascinating as the chase scenes and the action. So long as it has to do with dinosaurs, it's pitch-perfect.
It was also perfect because of John Hammond's enthusiasm. When I was younger, I thought he was played by John Williams, which would have been awesome, but the resemblance is enough on its own. He's convincingly the lovable old man. He certainly makes mistakes, but he's a determined person, and it's hard to blame him. Like the other adults, he had an overwhelming enthusiasm and a love for the dinosaurs. Certainly, he played God and didn't have enough respect for the power he wielded, but I found myself wanting to agree with him so much. Jurassic Park could have been so right. That magical moment with the Brachiosaurus could have lasted forever. Most importantly of all, what he wanted more than anything was to fulfill the dreams of children. When not reminding me of John Williams, he reminded me of my benevolent, silver-haired grandpa.
Enter the grandchildren, Lex and Tim. These two kids are perfectly cast. More than that, they are the best cast child characters ever. They are adorable, impossible to dislike. There is something cute about them, something endearing, and something about their faces that captured the screen. Once I walked in on this movie, didn't recognize their faces, and thought that the feel was incredibly cool. Then a cousin revealed to me that he was watching Jurassic Park, and I suffered from recoil shock. Naturally, what most people remember the first time around is the dinosaurs, and it had been a while since I had seen it, but I remember thinking "Had the casting really been so perfect?" There's just something about them, something fundamentally childlike.
So, naturally, I felt like a child again twice over. I especially related to Tim for his fascination with dinosaurs and his boyish desire to show off his knowledge and gain the approval of his idol, Alan Grant. It reminded me of the way I vied for my father's attention. Alan, of course, dismisses the boy. Lex approaches him, and tells him that Ellie told her to sit with him. Alan's annoyance is entertaining, because it frustrates the children but they're sure he's a good guy.
There are other characters who are not good people. There's the scumbag lawyer who's interested in money and doesn't care about the children. There's the annoying Dennis Nedry, scumbag junior. Both of them have embarrassing deaths at the hands of dinosaurs. This is totally movie logic, and totally why I love this movie. In the fantasy land of children, the scumbags always get what they deserve! I like it when bad people who don't care for children get karmic deaths. That's hash in real life, but I like having that escape when I go to the movies.
By contrast, Alan shows that he's compassionate to these kids. That's not so difficult to believe. After all, they had so much more in common than they did that was different. When they passed by exhibits and looked out the window of their jeeps with excitement to spot out dinosaurs, they shared the same disappointment. I would be disappointed too if I got my golden opportunity to see the Tyrannosaurus rex snuffed so by pure chaotic chance. So when the T. rex does show, Alan is fast to save them. Not only that, but he comforts them and assures them that everything is all right.
Where is Ellie in all this? She didn't have to go through any of this because it wasn't her personal journey. She's perfect. She's Mother. Superman is actually a woman and her secret identity is Mother. That's how awesome Mom is. Even though she doesn't have the journey with the kids, every moment with her is still precious. She's one of my favorite parts of the film, more than half of all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Even though she doesn't go through any sort of character development, that's fine. She has nothing to prove, although she does have the compassion to show forgiveness to an old man, eating over a table with a souvenir shop nearby that will forever go unused. One day, I will be old like John Hammond, and I too will have to admit defeat when after a lifetime of chasing my childhood dreams I realize that it amounts to nothing. When that day comes, I pray that I will have someone like Ellie to care for me and love me as a human being, the way my mother did when I was a kid. Ellie can do that. She's my mom, and I really, truly mean that.
In 1993, minus a big belly full of yours truly, my mother looked just like Ellie Sattler. People aren't supposed have memories of being a baby, and while only a few memories stick out, I remember what my mother looked like as clear as day. It helps that near the beginning, Ellie wore jeans then went half up her waste, and her choice of clothing is such a clear reminder of the times and of the 90's when I was a toddler. What I wouldn't give to have that moment stuck in time and live there forever. Forget dinosaurs; I miss my mom.
Even though that particular thought caused me to crawl into my bed afterword, at least I still had a good number of tears of joy before that, because there was still so much that this film had to offer. The perspective left the adults after Alan brought the kids back to the main museum. The kids have that time to themselves, and for several scenes the spotlight is theirs. In a game of children versus Velociraptors, the children win with ingenuity and sheer determination. That, and simply by being kids. Nobody can beat a lovable kid. Not even Batman can win against a kid being a kid. It's just not possible, because being a kid is awesome.
The ensemble cast gets back together and faces the raptors as a nuclear family. That's another thing that not even Chuck Norris can defeat, which is the power of a loving family. Mom, Dad, Brother, and Sister combine into some sort of ultimate force that is eternally in the favor of the story gods, and for good reason. For a movie like this, I would not want it any other way. They're not out of danger yet, and they haven't time to dance in a field of flowers yet. They aren't the Incredibles, and they don't give the narrative puppy-dog eyes, but in that moment I sometimes forget that Lex and Tim aren't Ellie and Alan's children. The unit seems so complete, and I loved every minute of them trying to escape the dinosaurs. They are impossible not to root for, and I root for them harder than almost anyone I have ever rooted for in my whole life. I know my parents could be as cool in that situation and help me through it, because my parents are dependable like that.
Then, when put in an impossible situation and brought closer together than every before, Spielberg pulls off a one-of-a-kind moment that can only be called the deus rex machina. Was there ever any doubt that this family would make it out alive? The Tyrannosaurus rex triumphantly bellows as a flag falls down saying "Welcome to Jurassic Park". There's the Lion King and then there's the Tyrant Lizard King, and between the ending of this movie and the beginning of the other movie, I'm having trouble deciding which is more epic and cinematic.
John Hammond drives up and helps the family escape in reverence as Rex roars atop his thrown. They have been humbled before him and learned their lesson. They have every right to be fascinated by their beauty and their power, but under no circumstances will these majestic creatures ever be theirs. What they did escape with, however, was each other. While my heart breaks for John because of how all his dreams proved so wrong, I smile with Ellie when I see the children cuddle up against Alan. Those kids learned of the best and the worst an adult can be. Alan discovered he truly did love these kids. This makes me want to be a kid again. It makes me want to be a father so that I can rediscover childhood through kids, or find new meaning in life. If life finds a way, then maybe I am a fool, but I also want so badly to find a way to realize my impossible dreams so I can give John Hammond to smile about.
Most of all, it makes me want my mom.
Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I have decided to endorse your part.