“Jurassic Park,” released on June 11, 1993, was based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, it revolutionized special effects, and it spawned two sequels filled with random people getting eating by dinosaurs as punishment for not respecting chaos theory. It’s back in theaters this weekend in 3D, and it’s still a great movie. The idea of an “event movie” has been watered down in the last two decades, in part because more event movies are being made, so maybe it’s pure sentimentalism to say this, but: They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
In honor of the 20th (well, almost) anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, here are 20 random observations about “Jurassic Park”:
1. Some presumably younger theater-goers at my 3D screening giggled when Lex said “Wow, an interactive CD-ROM!” Yeah, so user-friendly computers were just starting to be a thing 20 years ago; what of it? Other reactions — such as what sounded like genuine shock when the raptors opened the door — made me think this was the first time they had seen “Jurassic Park,” which is mind-boggling to me. But they applauded at the end, so they redeemed themselves in my eyes.
2. My favorite performance comes from Bob Peck as velociraptor expert Robert Muldoon. He delivers every line flawlessly. I and my sister used to quote him all the time as kids. Probably our favorite was: “Quiet, all of you!” Then at a lower volume, with an exaggerated Aussie accent: “They’re approaching the tyrannosaur paddock.”
3. Peck’s great performance aside, there is some ridiculously bad acting in the early part of the movie when a viewer isn’t yet distracted by things like a T-rex chomping at two kids cowering behind a pane of glass. In particular, watch the guy who plays Nedry’s contact, Dotson. It’s like the actor didn’t get a chance to rehearse.
4. I assume there is a sniveling snot-nosed kid at Dr. Grant’s Montana dig site for only one reason: So Grant can provide foreshadowing with his monologue about the viciousness of raptors. It’s an absurd scene for many reasons, notably: Why should the kid need to learn a healthy respect for raptors? They are long extinct, and not in Grant’s wildest dreams would they come back to life. But mainly: Why the hell is a kid there, particularly one who hates archeology?
5. I kind of had a crush on Ariana Richards when “Jurassic Park” came out. Still kinda do. Hmm, Wikipedia says nothing about her being married …
6. I bet Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” was the first adult novel for many people now in their 30s. My sister was about 11 when she read it. I guess in my case, I read “Star Wars: Heir to the Empire” when I was 13, but “Jurassic Park” came right on its heels. I’m guessing the publishers of “Nancy Drew” and “Hardy Boys” books weren’t too pleased with Crichton in the early 1990s.
7. John Williams’ music is freakin’ gorgeous. But arguably, it doesn’t fit with the tone of the movie, which is partly a horror film (it genuinely scared me when I was 14) and partly a sci-fi cautionary tale. Yet I still get a bit teared up when those orchestral strains kick in along with the shot of the seagulls over water.
8. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm is still cool. I guess the all-black outfit, sunglasses and a job as a professional chaotician never go out of style. I mean, look at the way he blatantly flirts with Ellie when demonstrating chaos theory via a water droplet running down her hand. He even tugs on her hair. And Grant is sitting right there. What a sly dog. Later, when he’s laid up with a broken leg, he randomly has his shirt unbuttoned, as if he’s still trying to attract Ellie.
9. To this day, Dennis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight at the fattest point of his career) is the perfect parody of IT guys the world over.
10. I find it amusing to think that it was some 3D animator’s job to make the pile of triceratops poop into three dimensions.
11. Samuel L. Jackson says “Hold on to your butts” twice in the movie.
12. In both of his “Jurassic Park” novels, Crichton includes a mini side plot about dinosaurs getting onto mainland Central America. While Crichton was alive, I always held out a smidgen of hope for a third novel. Spielberg couldn’t wait: He (awkwardly) brought a T-rex to San Diego in the movie version of “The Lost World” (1997). And there was a third movie that had nothing to do with Crichton’s work: 2001’s “Jurassic Park III.” And a fourth movie is planned for 2014.
13. In movies like this, it’s not too hard to find logic faults, as this humorous video proves. However, I mostly give the characters the benefit of the doubt due to the extraordinary situation they are in. That having been said, it kinda bugs me that after the whole “I’m not gonna leave you” arc, Grant leaves Tim and Lex in the dining room. Sure, at this point he doesn’t know raptors can open doors. But he does know that a dinosaur could smash right through the wall of the visitors’ center. Unless he was stashing them in a cement bunker, they should’ve stayed together. (On the other hand, his mistake did lead to the “raptors in the kitchen” scene, so I’m torn on this one.)
14. If I read a redemption arc into the T-rex’s appearances, does that mean I’ve watched this movie too many times? But think about it: First, she tries to kill the good guys. But in the end, she saves them, killing the two raptors that were on their tail. It gives me goose bumps the way the ol’ rex totally redeems herself.
15. In 1993 and today, the best time for a bathroom break is when the camera lasciviously pans across all the “Jurassic Park” gift store merch and then Hammond starts yammering about a flea circus. In fact, if that popcorn really isn’t sitting well, you have a good 10 minutes before the next dino action scene (the gallimimus stampede).
16. I know brachiosaurs eat veggies, but what if it had accidentally eaten one of the kids? I’ve always thought they seemed awfully casual about being perched in a tree that a giant monster is pecking at, even if it isn’t a meat-eater. Not a plot hole, just a “huh” kind of moment.
17. If Hammond were to open Jurassic Park in 2013 rather than 1993, he wouldn’t have bothered to resurrect any of the violent meat-eaters. Not for any altruistic reasons, though. He would simply be wary that some visitor would sue the park for the trauma they endured watching raptors rip apart a cow or a T-rex devour a goat. Plus, he wouldn’t want PETA all over his ass.
18. When I was 14, on some level I thought humans bringing dinosaurs back to life was a real danger. Now I’m worried about actual problems in the world. That’s my main argument for wishing I could turn the clock back 20 years. As Bob Seger put it, I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.
19. In the Topps comics (rendered apocryphal by the film sequels), Drs. Grant and Sattler have further chaotic dinosaur adventures on the island. I admire the sheer audacity of telling ridiculous follow-up stories in a universe that did not at all lend itself to little side adventures like that. It goes to show that if there’s a buck to be made in Hollywood, someone will come up with a story. On the other hand, I’m kinda tempted to dig out those comics again …
20. I saw “Jurassic Park” once in the theater, with my mom, dad and sister. Four years later I was going through a movie-geek phase and saw “The Lost World” like four times during opening week. Four years after that, I was back in “once is enough” mode — to this day, I’ve only seen “JP III” once. I don’t recall the last time I saw “Jurassic Park” before this 3D release. But I still remembered every single scene and line of dialogue. The 3D is fine, but of course, just seeing it on the big screen again is the draw, as it was with “Star Wars: Episode I” and “Titanic” last year.
What are your favorite things about “Jurassic Park?” Share your thoughts below.