The Kids Aren’t Alright

Jurassic Park is paced like a theme park ride; the medium-level scare at the beginning lets you know this movie won’t be fucking around, then Spielberg backs off and lets the audience relax with scenes of gentle grazing herbivores and cartoon DNA strands. But it’s not long before the roller coaster car starts climbing – along with your heart rate – when the group, joined by Hamnmond’s grandkids Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello), drives through the massive wooden gates and into the park.

The next few scenes are pretty much filler, because we need something to carry the story through until night falls and everything is 900% scarier. It turns out that a tropical storm is about to hit the island, and everyone needs to evacuate immediately even though this could have been predicted days ago, but whatever, everything is 956% scarier when it’s dark AND raining. Nedry scrambles the island’s security and electrical systems in pursuit of his embryonic prize; the tour groups stupidly exit their vans to meet a triceratops; and Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson, impressively subtle) tells us to hold on to our butts.

You’d do well to heed his advice. The thrills, chills, carnage, natural fluids and mayhem that make up “Jurassic Park’s” midsection are no less masterful 25 years later, even when you know certain characters will survive. It’s easy to forget what’s going to leap out of the darkness, and how moronically Nedry meets his fate.

Some more hot takes:

  • Fun fact: One of the movie’s best special effects is super low-budget trick. To create the illusion that a stomping T. Rex was causing ripples in a water glass, crew members threaded a guitar string under the car’s dashboard and plucked just the right note.
  • If this was such an impressive tropical storm, why did the rain last for, like, 45 minutes and then completely clear up?
  • In hindsight, sweaty Jeff Goldblum with an open shirt may have caused some initial stirrings for dark, swarthy men deep within my preteen bosom.
  • I’d forgotten about the scene where Dr. Sattler has to go to the electrical shed to reboot the power and encounters both a velociraptor and Sam Jackson’s severed arm. It’s brief, but nasty.
  • The shot where Grant and Hammond discuss the latter’s foibles over an entire freezer’s worth of ice cream is beautifully lit; Hammond, somehow still in pristine whites, is bathed in light and sees himself an infallible figure, even in the face of so much destruction.

Just when you think our protagonists are safe comes the scene I’ve always found the scariest: Kids versus velociraptors in the kitchen. Lex’s jiggling green Jello mirrors the water glass vibration of doom, and the siblings make a mad dash for an enclosed space with only one door, because raptors can’t open doors, right? WRONG.

The kitchen’s stainless steel surfaces provide a stark contrast to the lush jungle scenes while underscoring the nasty truth: Even in a human environment, there’s nowhere to hide from the raw power of nature. Fortunately, the raw power of nature is confused by walk-in coolers and reflective surfaces, so the kids make their umpteenth miraculous escape and I finally exhale.

The Whimper After the Bang

Rumor has it that Spielberg added Jurassic Park’s final battle, in which the T. Rex “saves” the screaming group of humans from becoming a raptor snack, at the last minute. This is supposed to be the last hill of the roller coaster, the big drop into the briar patch on Splash Mountain. To be honest, it’s pretty meh compared to watching a guy get chomped off a toilet. All the humans do is scream and run out of the room to safety, with enough wits about them to drop a few snarky one-liners.

It’s quite a letdown after the hour of thrills we’ve just been through. I can imagine that upon first viewing, the serene sight of pelicans gliding over water and bloodied children falling asleep would feel like a necessary moment for audiences to catch their breath. But for an old pro, the moment falls flat.

But it’s nice to know that, overall, Jurassic Park holds up, just not entirely in the ways I’d expected. It’s an old friend worth revisiting, a technology time capsule that sucks you in like so much blood from a fossilized mosquito’s tiny corpse. In this case, your nostalgia is correct. 

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