Rated PG-13, 127 min. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough.
Rivaling the marketing hype surrounding the first Batman film, Jurassic Park is the one film of the summer that will be seen by nearly everyone, regardless of its merit or consistency of vision. C'mon, it's the biggest, grandest dinosaur movie ever, and I'll wager every coprolite in my possession that only the most cynical among us can resist the primal, childhood lure of those most personable of monsters. As expected, though, the dinosaurs rule the show -- without them on screen, Jurassic Park tends to bog down in occasionally unnecessary explanations; i.e., Sam Neill's bird/dinosaur preaching and Richard Attenborough's whining about how his wonderful park is falling in around his ears. For the one guy out there who hasn't already heard the plot of the film, it involves an eccentric billionaire (Attenborough) who finances the cloning of ancient dinosaurs on an island off Costa Rica. Hoping to turn the beasts into the greatest amusement park in the world, he invites a team of dino experts (Neill and Dern) to check out his as-yet-unfinished theme park and give him an all-clear, safety-wise. Also along for the ride is a mathematician (Goldblum) specializing in the developing field of chaos theory, the science of unpredictability. From the moment Goldblum's character first lays eyes on the reborn monsters, he becomes the film's most prescient doom-sayer. It can't work, he says, and, of course, he's completely right. Before you can say “a Tyrannosaur ate my lawyer,” the beasts are loose in the park and people start turning into steak tartare. Need I say more? Of course not. To be fair, the dinosaurs really are brilliant -- a chase between our heroes and a rampaging T-Rex is one of the most spectacular scenes I've ever seen and the wily (and only recently discovered) Velociraptors are cunning pack-hunters worthy of their malefic-sounding name. This is, however, a Very Spielberg Movie. I continually found myself longing for the sheer intensity of the director's past glories, like Jaws, or even Duel. Spielberg seems to be trying so very hard for that elusive “Gosh, Wow, Sense of Wonder!” that it all looks strained in spots. Of all people, he should know that dinosaurs literally embody that spirit -- you don't need much of anything else to prop them up, but the director gamely tries, over-employing his trademark sunset lighting and spectacular crane and tracking shots. This is academic, though. Every kid in America, and nearly every adult, too, will see this picture and may go see it again, if only for the dinosaurs.
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