Jurassic Park, by Albert W. Vogt III

Look at what has come to Netflix recently! Jurassic Park (1993) is one of those nostalgia films for me. Not that I have ever been into dinosaurs. When the blockbuster about prehistoric reptiles (or birds, I suppose) came out, I was mildly curious as to why everyone was raving about it. I do not recall whether or not I saw it in the theaters. Maybe. As for the movie itself, it is alright. One thing that did capture my attention was the score, another John Williams classic. I had the main theme on a cassette tape (yes, I am that old) and would play it while riding the bus to school each morning during my freshman year. I always tried to time the main swell as we went over a bridge and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. I drive over that same stretch of road quite often these days, and I am reminded of that time in my life each occasion I crest that particular rise.

But enough reminiscing about bygone days. Jurassic Park is more than just a movie about enormous scaled creatures. There are ethics and corporate espionage thrown in for good measure as well. The title theme park is the brainchild of Scottish entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who believes opening an attraction where people can see live dinosaurs is going to be a hit. There are potential roadblocks, though, aside from the obvious dangers of bringing back animals so long extinct. Along with his lawyer, Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), he enlists the help of paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler, and (for unexplained reasons) mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to come to Hammond’s island preserve and rate the safety of the installation. It is hoped that they will be overawed by the surroundings and will give an enthusiastic stamp of approval, clearing the way for the expected legions of paying visitors. Nothing goes to Hammond’s plan. While on the tour, the scientists are constantly wanting to get off their designated route in order to examine more closely what is around them. There is also Dennis Nedry’s (Wayne Knight) plot to steal dinosaur embryos and sell them to Hammond’s competitors, a design that he nearly pulls off but involves shutting down the electric fences meant to keep the deadly fauna at bay. Nedry’s (I wonder if it was purposeful that his name is almost “nerdy”) trick hatches just as everyone are in the middle of their trek through the various enclosures. Of course, everything grinds to a halt at the tyrannosaurus rex enclosure, and some of the film’s most iconic moments come in this scene (including Gennaro being snatched off a toilet). This scatters the group, and Dr. Grant ends up saving Hammond’s grandchildren. Most everyone, minus a few human dino-snacks along the way in the form of a couple of the park’s staff, end up at the main visitor’s center. Unfortunately, so does the trio of cunning velociraptors, who have somehow figured out how to open doors. Just when our party is trapped between the three hunters, the tyrannosaurus rex intervenes and there is a brief dino-fight. This is enough of a distraction for everyone to escape. As they all board Hammond’s helicopter, the park’s founder takes one last look back at his shattered dream.

One of the more interesting characters in Jurassic Park is Dr. Malcolm. He is probably the last person to praise from a Christian perspective (except, I guess, for the irrespective, slovenly, thieving Nedry). He has an oily manner to him, from his appearance to the way he attempts to win over Dr. Sattler’s affections (before he learns of her involvement with Dr. Grant). And yet his is the first voice of reason in the film. For those of you out there who like dinosaurs, admit it, you would probably relish the opportunity to see a real, living, breathing specimen of the ancient creatures. The entire Jurassic Park franchise has traded on this desire to the tune of five movies and a few (real) theme park rides all making millions of dollars off eager fans. Dr. Malcolm sees what Hammond is doing as essentially playing God in the name of his own millions. The Catholic Church is not entirely pro-cloning (particularly not of humans), which is how the dinosaurs are made in the film. Thus in their eagerness to do something remarkable, as Dr. Malcolm points out, nobody stopped to ask themselves whether or not they should do so. The Church warns of many dangers of meddling with such things, and the film’s events are a bloody reminder of what could happen.

Ethical questions aside, Jurassic Park is a fine, if not spectacular, movie that holds up pretty well through the decades since its release. This naturally refers to computer generated images (CGI), though some of the dinosaurs were some very convincing animatronics. And this is why people watch this movie. Does anyone really care that Dr. Grant learns to like and appreciate kids more through his adventures with Hammond’s grandchildren? It is a nice little character arc, but people just want to see giant lizards. If that is all you care about, then head on over to Netflix and get your fix.

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