Jurassic Park (PG-13)
AFI Catalog; Amblin; IMDb; Jurassic World; old official website; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikia; Wikipedia
Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in 1993, and I'm fairly sure I actually saw it in a theater (which would have been an extreme rarity for me). It was based on the 1990 book of the same name, by Michael Crichton (which I haven't read), though the movie rights were bought by Universal Studios and Steven Spielberg before the book was even published. When it was released, Jurassic Park became the highest-grossing movie ever (a distinction it would lose four years later, to "Titanic"). The movie's use of CGI and animatronics revolutionized filmmaking. I also want to say it had a really great score, composed by John Williams. And I would say the movie helped popularize Chaos theory, among the general public. There were two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997, and Jurassic Park III in 2001. And in 2015, a new movie, Jurassic World, was released, and is intended to be the start of a new trilogy. Of course I didn't have a chance to see that in a theater, but it seemed an apt time for me to buy the original trilogy on DVD. So that's when I'm writing my reviews of these movies, which I haven't seen in quite a few years (and I don't think I ever saw the third one until now). I'm putting my review of the first movie in the "science fiction" category, because it has some genuinely science fiction elements to it. But it could just as well be considered an "action/adventure" movie, or a "scary" movie, or a "giant monsters" movie. And it's possible I'll put my reviews of the sequels in one of those categories, instead of science fiction. We'll see. (Of course, it should be noted that even in the first movie, there's a much heavier emphasis on "fiction" than on "science," as it gets various things wrong, including the fact that most of the dinosaurs in the film are actually from the Cretaceous geologic period, not the Jurassic. Though that's more a quibble about the movie's title than about the movie itself.)
Also, the Jurassic Park franchise has had a huge impact on pop culture in general, including countless spoofs of various aspects of the movie(s). I'm sure there are far more pop culture references to these movies than I'm even aware of, and I couldn't possibly recall all the ones I have been aware of, over the years. But I do want to mention at least a few. Like, there was a commercial for the 1998 movie "Godzilla," which I haven't seen- and which has been much maligned- but whether the movie itself was good or bad, I always loved how the ad slyly mocked the Jurassic Park franchise. And in 2014, there was a viral facebook meme about Spielberg "killing" a Triceratops, using a production photo from 1993. It was originally meant as a joke, and I'm fairly sure the majority of commenters who condemned him were just playing along... but it could be hard to tell, and it's possible some of them were seriously outraged. And in 2015, about a week before I watched this DVD, I saw a funny video on CollegeHumor called "If Jurassic Park Were in Different Geological Eras." (That site has plenty of other Jurassic Park spoofs you might also want to check out.) Anyway, I really should just get on with my review of the movie itself....
So. There's this rich guy named John Hammond, who has built a theme park called Jurassic Park, on Isla Nublar. At the start of the movie, one of the people who work for him gets killed, which naturally makes his investors skittish about the whole enterprise. So they all want to get some experts to vouch for the park's safety or whatever. I guess the lawyer who works for them had gotten a chaos theorist named Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to come to the park for the weekend and check it out, but since he's considered a "trendy" scientist, the investors want someone more credible. This means a paleontologist named Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who is currently on a dig with his paleobotanist girlfriend, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). The two of them agree to come to the park, because Hammond agrees to fund their work for the next three years. The three scientists are all amazed to see real, live dinosaurs, because, you know... real live dinosaurs! But that doesn't stop them from being skeptical about whether Jurassic Park is actually a good idea. Dr. Malcolm is the most vocal opponent, though doctors Grant and Sattler are also much more hesitant than Hammond expected them to be.
The scientists all watch a presentation about the science that made the park possible. Then they go on an automated tour, accompanied by the lawyer and a couple of children: Hammond's granddaughter, Lex (Ariana Richards), who is good with computers; and grandson, Tim, who is big into dinosaurs, and had read a book Grant wrote. At one point, they encounter a sick Triceratops, and Dr. Sattler decides to stay behind with the doctor who was looking after the dinosaur, while the others resume the tour. Meanwhile, there's this guy named Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the park's computer programmer, whom we had previously seen making plans to steal some dinosaur embryos for a rival company, because he felt Hammond wasn't paying him enough. He enacts his plan, which shuts down various systems throughout the park, to allow him to steal the embryos and (try) to make his escape. But one of the systems that gets shut down is the automated tour jeeps, so Grant, Malcolm, the lawyer, and the kids are all stranded. And the electric fences are also shut down, which means dinosaurs (including a T. rex) are free to roam around attacking them. Later, the game warden, Robert Muldoon, goes out to look for them, since Hammond is understandably anxious to get his grandkids back. And Sattler goes with him. They rescue Malcolm, who had been injured and left behind. (The lawyer had been eaten.) But Grant and the kids had gone off on their own.
The next day, there's a scene I particularly remember from the first time I saw the movie. Dr. Grant discovers some dinosaur eggs, which is surprising since the dinosaurs aren't supposed to be able to breed, because the scientists had engineered them to all be female. However, we knew that there were some gaps in the DNA that had been filled with frog DNA, which explains how this happened. And I remember thinking at the time, "Of course!" like before Dr. Grant even explained it, because I suddenly thought of some biology thing I'd learned in school prior to seeing the movie. I don't remember the actual science lesson now at all, but I remember remembering it, back then. Anyway... Hammond orders his chief engineer, Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) to reboot the system, though Arnold doesn't think it's a good idea. After rebooting the system, he has to go to a shed to turn the power back on. This takes longer than it should, so Muldoon and Sattler decide to go to the shed themselves. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of Velociraptors running around, and while they're not nearly as large as the T. rex, they're much smarter and very dangerous and scary. (There's a line Muldoon has at one point, "Clever girl," which I didn't remember at all from the first time I saw this, though watching the movie this time it was familiar just because I had more recently become aware of it thanks to the internet.) And, um... you know, more stuff happens. I need to make it clear that not all the dinosaurs are scary. There are nice ones, like Brachiosaurs, and Gallimimuses. Oh, but another scary (but small) dino I remember is a Dilophosaurus (aka "Spitter"). It did something important in this movie (which I don't want to spoil), but... I could swear I had seen like a lot more than one of them, before, in more detail than in this movie, so... either I'm thinking of the second movie, or my memory is really screwed up for some reason. I dunno. (Maybe I saw them in some supplemental material that wasn't even in any movie?)
Anyway, I really don't want to say anything more about the plot. Some people die, some people survive. Dinosaurs are awesome. The movie is scary. It's probably a lot better on a large screen than it is on a laptop, and I feel like if I do watch it again on a bigger screen than I did when writing this review, I might raise my rating a bit. For now, I liked it a lot, but didn't quite love it. And um... I'm not sure what else to say. The movie came out on the edge of an era where I was still young enough (about 17) that I can feel kind of nostalgic about it now, so I kind of want to try to recall any memories I have of it from before... but, I dunno. I also kind of feel like I was too old to be nostalgic about it. And... man, I really wish I would've been at least a few years younger when I first saw it. For a number of reasons. But whatever, it's a good movie, and that's all I can say. For now.
(Although, incidentally, when watching this movie in 2015, I was struck by the name "Robert Muldoon." Because a couple years or so after this movie came out, I was involved in some online collaborative Star Trek fanfic stories called rounders, and one of the other writers had created a character by that name, the captain of the starship Lone Star. I'm fairly sure that at the time, the name was unfamiliar to me [in spite of having seen this movie], but now I'm wondering if that writer had taken the name from this movie....)