best films: #5: JURASSIC PARK (1993)
It should come as no shock to anyone who knows me personally, that part of the reason I love all things cinematic has a lot to do with the spectacle and overarching emotional response a film elicits from me. So sits Jurassic Park, a blockbuster film that rarely sees a spot on a “best of” list, yet will always hold a hallowed position in my heart and mind as a wonderful example of the experience of moviegoing. Yes, I’ve read Michael Crichton’s original novel, and yes, I would probably agree that it has its superior elements to the film that went on to become one of the highest grossers in history. But what JP lacks in realistic plot-points and superb acting (give the kids a break, okay?) it certainly makes up in edge-of-your-seat thrills and adventure, state-of-the-art effects (I’m still impressed almost 20 years later), a ridiculously intriguing and compelling story, and the childlike wonder that the concept of dinosaurs walking among us has to instill in most everyone who watches it. It is admittedly perhaps a guilty pleasure entry on this list, but I’ll never truly understand why. I believe that Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough, for example, are giving stellar performances as actors in a film in which they really could have gotten away with phoning it in. And aside from Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings, I can’t think of a better adventure story than this ragtag bunch of nay-sayers and gawkers fighting for survival on an island that’s gone primal.
And oh, the music. For me, there never has been and never will be anything as sublimely perfect as John Williams’ masterpiece of a score. Every theme is so regal and glorious, it’s hard to tell from listening to the soundtrack alone that you’re getting a movie that’s intended for popcorn audiences. Or maybe I’m just partial to that insane trumpet line (I’ve always wanted to play this one). And the accolades just continue – beyond the great lead performances, the awesome visual effects, and the incredible score, the setting is out of control. The backdrop of this thrilling story is the lush tropical island of any art director’s dreams. It’s easy to throw hate at the big movie cash cows – it’s no change in attitude to see folks diss your Star Warses and Titanics. But before you cast the first stone at Jurassic Park, try watching it without having a great time and loving the experience. There’s something to be said for storytelling, and Spielberg is obviously a master.