Dir: Steven Spielberg
Star: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough
20 years since this came out, my main concern was how the effects – in many ways, the first full-on use of CGI to populate a scene in large numbers – would stand up. The good news is, surprisingly well: it’s genuinely difficult to tell the join between the virtual dinosaurs and Stan Winston’s “real” ones [in the sense they were physically there, as animatronic creations]. I’m pretty sure the plot doesn’t need much explication – it was the highest-grossing movie of all time when released, before Spielberg handed the crown of box-office god over to James Cameron. To me, this marks the end of Spielberg’s career as a truly “populist” film-maker: his next movie was Schindler’s List, and he’s never been the same since.
But this is certainly a Spielberg film, combining the sense of childish wonder with the “absent parent” motif – as the children of John Hammond (Attenborough) were being terrorized, nearly eaten and traumatized for life, I kept thinking, “Where the hell are their parents?” While the effects still look good, there just isn’t quite the same sense of wonder present for present-day viewers, because we now live in a world where the cinema can show us anything from MiddleEarth to giant fighting robots: dinosaurs are just another possible entry in that. We also get Goldblum being largely irritating (oh, look: he’s playing a scientist. Not seen that anywhere before) and the children aren’t much – ok, any better.
Frankly, I was cheering on the velociraptors for much of the time, and the ending is a bit of a tyrannosaurus ex machina, if you see what I mean. Still, when things are in motion, such as the first T-Rex attack, Spielberg’s ability to make the audience hold their breath is amply demonstrated, and it’s film about frickin’ dinosaurs come to life, f’heaven’s sake! If nothing else, the film also proves that my long-dormant fondness for all things saurian (which I think is true for just about any 10-year-old boy!) is far from being completely extinct…