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30 years later, “Jurassic Park” still bites

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Kaitlyn Close

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic “Jurassic Park” is in 3D and back in theaters for its 30th anniversary. Revisiting the film after three decades of pop culture references, five sequels of diminishing quality and 65 million years past the age of the dinosaurs might feel like a risk. After all, the pacing is different from a modern movie. Special effects have improved by leaps and bounds. Even the technology in the film itself is dated––what’s a CD-ROM? But in the case of “Jurassic Park,” this film’s shelf life, “uh, finds a way.”

While images of T-rexes silhouetted against nighttime rain and velociraptors bathed in computer code are the first things the words “Jurassic Park” evoke, the dinos aren’t the only lasting stars of the film. The human players of “Jurassic Park” give remarkable performances too. With creature features, it’s easy to dismiss the human sequences as malarky concocted to connect one giant monster fight to the next. For every “Godzilla” movie that comes out, there’s an allotment of audiences who praise the parts with the behemoth while bemoaning the bits with the people. Monster films, a genre which “Jurassic Park” firmly falls into, are not renowned for their human elements. However, it’s not often that the humans of a monster movie are played by names like Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough, or directed by Steven Spielberg. The respect that these artists have for their monstrous material shines off the screen.

Dern in particular is the standout 30 years later. In a movie concerned with the consequences of men playing God, Dern’s Dr. Sattler is a wonderful foil. Dern plays Sattler with a benevolent bemusement for the men of science around her. While she shares a scientific enthusiasm with Sam Neill’s Alan Grant, she’s far more mature than he is, holding him accountable with a teasing screwball attitude. More volatile than Grant, however, is Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm. Leather-jacketed, self-possessed and culturally iconic, Malcolm is out of his depth with Sattler. Dern keeps a wry handle on Goldblum’s sleaziness, and the interplay between the two creates the most entertaining exchanges of dialogue in “Jurassic Park.” Finally, rounding out the major male protagonists in “Jurassic Park” is Attenborough’s John Hammond. 

It’s a late scene between Hammond and Satler that Dern is finally given the chance for her dramatic acting chops to shine. Hammond, whose ego and ambition are responsible for the death and devastation the park has wrought, is left in the kitchen moping over melting bowls of ice cream. Sattler begins the scene chilly as the dessert before Dern thaws her with an aching appeal to Hammond’s humanity. “I didn’t have enough respect for that power, and it’s out now,” Sattler says. Thirty years out from “Jurassic Park,” Dern commands nothing but respect for the power of her performance.

Another vital component of the ice cream scene that stands out upon rewatching the film is the merchandising. “Jurassic Park” cynically and accurately portrayed a future where marketing, money and merch often come before the real heart of the art. This is reflected in the scene all too literally; the sequence begins with a slow pan over racks of “Jurassic Park” merchandise before settling onto the table where Sattler and Hammond talk. While the thematic weight of the products is clear, “Jurassic Park” has its cake and devours it, too. Most of that merchandise wound up for sale in the real world. While depressingly concerned with capital, it’s impressive how well “Jurassic Park” wove together its marketing with its moviemaking, a trend that continues in blockbusters to this day.

However, what’s aged the most gracefully in “Jurassic Park” are its dinosaurs. It cannot be understated how effective the animals in the film are. From the emotional music swell when the audience, Sattler and Grant see their first gigantic Brachiosaurus, to the terrifying realism of the nighttime T-rex attack, Spielberg accomplished something that transcends the computer-generated effects of modern moviemaking. He made dinosaurs real.

“Jurassic Park” roars into Regal Boone Cinema in 3D until Wednesday, Aug. 30.

 

Rating: 5/5 Yosefs

Kaitlyn Close
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About the Contributors
Pruett Norris
Pruett Norris, Multimedia Editor
Pruett Norris (he/him) is a senior double majoring in English with a concentration in Film Studies and Electronic Media/Broadcasting. This is his second year with The Appalachian.
Kaitlyn Close
Kaitlyn Close, Graphics Editor
Kaitlyn Close (she/her) is a senior Graphic Design major and Digital Marketing minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
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    Joe DanAug 30, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Great review on what has become a modern day classic! As usual with this movie critic, his word play is entertaining and informative. Impressed with his familiar ease in descriptions of the acting and directing craftsmanship. I think it should be emphasized though that in 3D you can really tell dat dem dinosars will bite chew!

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