1001 Films to see before you die… Jurassic Park

Because this truly was something so astounding that it captured the attention of the world.

Jurassic Park is one of the most underrated movies ever. Despite being the fourth highest grossing movie ever, it has never been regarded as artistically superior. A great injustice, for Jurassic Park contains all of SpielbergÂ’s magical strokes of genius, from fantastic art direction and wonderful camera techniques, to astounding technical quality. However, as always, it is the audience response that best typifies his movies, dealing with this manifestation of the Other and becoming entranced by the explosion of the Unknown into the familiar. Visually, Spielberg renders his audience awestruck and childlike by accentuating the sheer scale of his dramatically lit compositions: gigantic creatures and vast landscapes dwarf the human characters allowing us to identify with them sentimentally. Similarly, as with most of his films, Jurassic Park is a continuous visual feast of dynamic scenes alternated with moments of repose, allowing the audience to take in and marvel the spectacle just seen. Which is, I might add, highly necessary for a film of such immense scale.

Spielberg’s camera usage ranges from foreshadowing the appearance of dinosaurs with extreme up-angles to exquisitely composed scenes of the dinosaurs’ “interaction” with the characters. The film emerged at a time when CGI and Bluescreen were becoming far more advanced, with the dinosaurs able to move in real-time amongst the set and props; a Brachiasaurus takes a bite from a branch as technicians “shook” the leaves in order to create a more natural interaction between the virtual and the reality. It is, indeed, as if the prehistoric monsters are truly walking amongst the characters.

The minor flaws of a theme park are masterfully embedded into the script, with comparisons to the hopelessly flawed Disneyland of 1956, when nothing worked. “But John” Dr. Ian Malcolm points out “If the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists!” Of course, the acting is truly superb, with stunning performances from the entire cast, including Sam Neill and the twinkly Sir Richard Attenborough.

Aside from technical quality, Jurassic Park bears powerful social messages of human intrusion and destruction of natural environment and the self-revering nature of man. “What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores… the rape of the natural world.” And there we have the deeper meaning the critics missed.

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