I recently realized that I needed something to balance out the negativity of my “Films That Have Not Aged Well”. As much as I love writing those posts, they can bum me out, especially when there’s a realization that a film I enjoy is definitely problematic. So, to counteract that feeling, I’ve decided to also look at films that have endured the test of time. And, I decided to begin this series with one of my favorite films of all time (I even have a reference to this film tattooed on my wrist): 1993’s Jurassic Park.
The beautiful thing about this film is that, although the technology is dated, seeing as this film was made in the early 90s, it doesn’t feel dated. Usually, technology is the one of the first things to date a film. However, Jurassic Park has the benefit of being a science fiction film, so it is outside the realm of our reality, meaning that we accept these things more easily.
On the subject of technology, Jurassic Park heavily features the use of CGI (computer-generated imagery) and, most of the time, that is what makes a film feel old because of how far we’ve now come with the tech. But, Jurassic Park is definitely the exception to this rule. The CGI in this film still looks better than some of the films released today. I think this is largely because there is a good mix of computer imagery and practical effects and animatronics made by the Stan Winston Studio.
By seeing the animatronics in up close shots, it makes it more believable for us, the audience, to accept the CGI we are presented with. Honestly, every time I watch this film I am impressed by two things in particular. First, I’m impressed by how well the CGI blends in with the live action because that is usually the easiest way to make a film feel dated. Second, I am always impressed by the fact that there were actual people in raptor costumes.
Special effects aside, the writing in this film absolutely stands the test of time. The way that information is distributed nonchalantly, and sometimes subtly, and then later in the film, we remember what we had been told. The best example I have of this is the description of how raptors hunt being told in the beginning of the film (to a child who absolutely could not see that monitor. I don’t care what you say), and then, much later in the film, making the information completely relevant again, but only to the audience.
Quick side note: why wouldn’t Muldoon have known how these raptors hunt? He knew everything else about them.
Another example of the genius distribution of information is Nedry’s subtle comment at the end of his first scene. He says “Don’t get cheap on me, Dotson”. Then, quickly, he states “That was Hammond’s mistake.” It’s a line that I had missed many times, it’s so brief. But, it’s perfectly placed and it’s all we need to know to understand Nedry’s motivations.
Doctor Alan Grant’s story arc is another one that is well told. Alan Grant’s character arc is not about him being on the island and his experience with these dinosaurs. Alan Grant’s character arc is his acceptance of children. He begins the film talking with Ellie Sattler, who he is dating, about how he doesn’t understand her wanting to have children, and how he isn’t very fond of them at all. Then, throughout the course of the film, because he is with Lex and Tim, he grows to become fond of them and of children, in general. It’s another wonderful story arc that isn’t “in your face”.
Last, but certainly not least, I need to talk about one of the best female characters of all time, Doctor of Paleobotany, Ellie Sattler. Ellie Sattler, although in a relationship with Dr. Alan Grant, at no point talks about nothing but him. In fact, it’s Grant that clarifies that they are together when Ian Malcolm expresses interest. Ellie Sattler is career focused, but not at that expense of her personal life. She finds the balance. Ellie Sattler dresses sensibly for what she is doing during the day. Ellis Sattler calls out John Hammond on his sexist comments when she says she’s going with Muldoon to see what happened to Arnold (hold onto your butts).
She is a strong female character due to her actions and not due to, let’s say, running through the forest wearing heels (goddamn Claire Dearing. How dare you be a direct follow up to this incredible character).
Anyway, it brings me great joy that this film has aged well, considering it is one of my absolute favorites. Moral of the story, though? Don’t underpay your tech people. That was Hammond’s mistake.