Had family over tonight, and Ray and Lex wanted to watch Jurassic Park, so watch it we did. It was interesting watching the PG-13 movie (one that earned its rating) with an 8-year-old. He was OK for the first half, but spent much of the second half sitting on dad’s lap, occasionally covering his eyes.
It’s hard to remember, twenty years down the road, how miraculous Jurassic Park looked when it came out. They looked like real dinosaurs! There were set pieces that stuck in the mind, most notably when the velociraptors teamed up to hunt down the little kids in the kitchen. The velociraptors themselves were the stars of the movie.
Now? Well, the dinosaurs still look real, and the velociraptors are still frightening. But the film is lesser Spielberg. That’s not as big a dis as it sounds … I like Steven Spielberg, I had Close Encounters of the Third Kind at #25 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list and have given four of his movies my highest 10/10 rating. I used to have Jurassic Park at 8/10, but that’s stretching it a bit. In his best movies (Close Encounters and E.T.), he gives us recognizable human beings, in his best action movies (Jaws, the first two Indiana Jones pictures), he gives us iconic heroes. In Jurassic Park, he gives us dinosaurs. That they are great dinosaurs means Jurassic Park is a good movie. But Sam Neill isn’t Harrison Ford, the two grandkids aren’t Drew Barrymore, Laura Dern isn’t Melinda Dillon. (Sam Neill and Laura Dern are fine actors, but they are saddled with shallow characters here.)
I imagine some think I’m complaining too much. We’re talking about an entertaining movie with memorable moments. Why ask for more? I could ask that Spielberg take his “let’s sell the same lunch boxes in real life that were sold in the movie” irony to a more meaningful level. I could ask for something less formulaic in the plot. And I could ask for more interesting human characters. But it’s true, you can go a long way with good dinosaurs.