Growing up there are few films I remember more fondly than Jurassic Park. I was only 4 when it came out in 1993 (just old enough to know how cool dinosaurs were) so my parents wouldn’t let me see it in theaters. But with two older brothers, rest assured we had that VHS copy as soon as it came out! Even then, there were two scenes in particular that I wasn’t allowed to watch as a child: Gennaro being eaten by the T-Rex and the scene with Samuel L. Jackson’s arm. My parents wanted to protect me. Did it work? No, of course I saw those scenes (I think I saw Evil Dead only a couple years later, I was not a sheltered child). Anyway, what’s the point of my telling you all this? So that you know how much I love Jurassic Park. I think I could quote you most of the movie. I think this is one of the most recent films that can be called a true cinematic classic and, watching it last night on the big screen in IMAX 3D, it occurred to me just how stupid Jurassic Park is.
Stupid is a generic word, what do I mean by it? What I mean is that there are a lot of scenes/sequences in Jurassic Park that make absolutely no sense. You, as the reader, may respond to this claim with: “it’s a movie about genetically created dinosaurs, it’s not supposed to be realistic”. Yes, Jurassic Park is science-fiction fantasy, but any author/director worth his/her salt would tell you: just because your characters exist in an unrealistic world does not entitle them to unrealistic action. I have no problem with the dinosaurs (horrible scientific inaccuracies included). What I take issue with is the sloppiness in several of the action sequences in the movie.
Let’s start with the Tyrannosaurus first, the largest problem in the movie (in more ways than one… sorry for that pun). The T-Rex is incredibly awesome and belongs to several of Jurassic Park‘s more iconic scenes. My issue is not with the film’s use of the actual dinosaur but rather, with this pictured below.
The impact tremor: Jurassic Park‘s iconic method to inform the audience that shit was about to go down. This occurs multiple times in the film, directly before the T-Rex’s first two appearances.
Point is, director Steven Spielberg and scriptwriters Michael Crichton and David Koepp created the Tyrannosaurus to be a creature of dread. For the first half of the movie, the T-Rex is not the surprise scare, it is the creature whose coming is foretold – and there’s nothing the hapless visitors of Jurassic Park can do to stop it. The focus on the impact tremor builds the atmosphere of the scene, allowing the audience to feel the fear and enjoy a full wealth of goosebumps before the animal appears. This effect greatly enhances the first two scenes. Now here’s this:
This ending sequence might be my favorite of any movie… but it doesn’t make any sense. As before stated, by both the film and myself, the T-Rex is a creature with presence. The audience knows where it is throughout the film as evidenced by either the iconic roar or the (even more iconic) impact tremors. Yet in this sequence the T-Rex ninjas (yes ninja is now a verb) its way inside a building without anyone, human or raptor, being aware of its presence. Does it make sense: no. Does it detract from my enjoyment of the film: nope. I’ll get back to why that matters at the end. For now, let’s keep the list going with our next item of stupidity:
Of all the failures of common sense in Jurassic Park, I think this one may grind on me the most. Here’s the skinny: the T-Rex knocks the car (with Tim inside) into a tree. Dr. Grant, being the protagonist he is, goes up into the tree to rescue Tim. This he does but not without moving the steering wheel, thus making it so the car is no longer stable. The two must then climb down the tree with the car in hot pursuit. This creates an action sequence with two characters outrunning the destruction in a race for their very lives.
The problem: there is more than one way down a tree, especially a tree as big as the one in the movie. Why, why on God’s good Earth, would anyone choose the path directly below the car? Especially since they didn’t start out there! Dr. Grant pulls Tim out of the side of the car, that puts them beside it. Meaning Dr. Grant took himself and a child into the direct path of a falling vehicle (too many days digging up dinosaurs in the hot sun I guess).
Obviously this was, again, the movie sacrificing sense for a cool action sequence. Maybe the reason it effects me more is because I don’t think this sequence is nearly as cool as the finale. For one: no dinosaurs. Two: the car falls in a completely unnatural way, which is yet another suspension of disbelief that Jurassic Park is asking me to make. So two lapses in logic for one dinosaur-free action sequence. Again I’m going to get back to why this doesn’t ruin or even really detract from the movie. Moving on.
Let’s skip ahead in the film to near the end. The “UNIX system” scene (anyone who knows computers has another reason to groan here). Lex is trying to lock the doors while a raptor is trying to force its way into the room. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler are trying to hold the door closed. In the meantime Dr. Sattler is also trying to reach the gun, that Dr. Grant dropped, with her foot but in her words: “I can’t get it unless I move!” So they’re in a pickle. If only there was one other person in the room, someone who is literally doing nothing with himself in a time of crisis. Wait… what’s Tim doing?
That’s right, Tim just stands there. This irks me too. It means that, during filming of this sequence, Steven Spielberg had to instruct Joseph Mazzello (actor who plays Tim) to stand there and look like that. How did Spielberg not realize the problem? He probably did; again it is done to enhance the tension of the scene. The problem is that all tension vanishes when you realize that, yeah Tim is a dumb-ass. Also there are a lot of big windows into that room that the raptor could jump through…
Okay, so I’ve had my fun poking holes in Jurassic Park. There’s more I could do but I think you get the point: it’s not a perfect film. I can’t stress enough how well the movie holds up though. All of these problems detracted nothing from my enjoyment. Yet Jurassic Park has two sequels and… they’re not so well remembered. For all intents and purposes, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (actual full title) and Jurassic Park III are just like the first. They’re all three stupid and contain plot holes. So why is one good and the others not?
I think the answer is not found in the script, or the scene construction (although there may be a bit in the latter) but in the players. Jurassic Park has a phenomenal cast that is just insanely fun to watch. Who can’t get behind Sam Neill as Dr. Grant (the man is like Indiana Jones with dinosaurs). Jeff Goldblum owes the entirety of his fame to his quirky portrayal of Ian Malcolm (Independence Day also deserves some credit). Laura Dern, Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards provide Jurassic Park‘s emotional core while actors Martin Ferroro and Wayne Knight give us characters we love to see get eaten. Add Samuel L. Jackson (no further explanation needed) doing his trademark performance and Richard Attenborough selling the film’s majestic wonder and there is a combination that can’t be beat. The sequels just don’t have that same killer chemistry.
This is what is needed for Jurassic Park IV (yes it is happening). Recreate that same wonder and fun that existed in the first film. Dinosaurs are awesome even when they’re not chasing or eating people. And it’s great to see a cast that look like they’re having fun rather than simply doing their jobs. I hope director Colin Trevorrow is up to the challenge of Jurassic Park IV. Seeing the original in theaters again made me wish for more Jurassic Park, with all the fun and stupidity included.
Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of shit or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.
3 thoughts on “Clever Girl: Why the Stupidity of Jurassic Park Doesn't Stop it being a Classic”
Funny, I was just mentioning the scene with Tim on another site. Like you, I love this movie, but that scene irks me to no end! You are so right about the ninja t-rex. At that point you’re just so glad that something saved the day, you don’t care what.
When I saw your title I thought you were going to mention the mistake in that scene. When Muldoon tells Ellie, ‘We’re being hunted’, his gun is at the ready. When the camera comes back to him he puts his hat on a log and…wait for it… opens his gun!! Duh, I guess you have to practice gun safety while hunting, and being hunted by, super quick, strong and ferocious creatures.
Can’t wait for JPark IV.
Beg to differ. Bob Peck rocks the shorts with those quads, especially for a man that age.