Jurassic Park (1993): Revisiting Spielberg’s Innovative Blockbuster

Universal (Amblin Entertainment Production)

jurassic_park_3d_posterSteven Spielberg’s sci-fi adventure of 1993, his most commercially successful picture to date, is defined by state-of-the-art special effects, supervised by the ace team of Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri, conducted at his friend and collaborator George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic.

The thriller’s story is second-rate and the characters are secondary in importance to the technological magic, the kind of which has never before seen in Hollywood movies.

The tale centers on two dinosaur experts, Dr. Alan Grant (the appealing Aussie actor Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), who are invited by the eccentric millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, better known as director, of “Gandhi,” “”Ä Chorus Line” and others) to preview his new amusement park on an island off Costa Rica.

jurassic_park_3d_4By cloning DNA harvested from pre-historical insects, Hammond claims that he’s able to create living dinosaurs for his new Jurassic Park, an immense animal preserve, housing real brachiosaurs, dilophosaurs, triceratops, velociraptors, and Tyrannosaur Rex.

The team is accompanied by a cynical named scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is obsessed with chaos theory, a character that adds much color to the proceedings.

Like most of Spielberg’s movies (Ë.T.,” “Poltergeist,” “Ëmpire of the Sun”), “Jurassic Park” unfolds as a multi-generational family fare. The movie includes several youngsters in major roles, Hammond’s two grandchildren (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello), who are sent on a tour through Hammond’s new resort in computer-controlled cars.

Things change, when a tropical storm hits the island, knocking out the power supply, and a greedy and corrupt employee (Wayne Knight) sabotages the system so that he can smuggle dinosaur embryos out of the park. As a result, the dinosaurs start to rage out of control.

Grant’s mission is to bring Hammond’s grandchildren back to safety, as the group is pursued by the gigantic beasts, an action that takes all of the film’s last reel.

“Jurassic Park” is considered to be the first Hollywood picture to benefit from a brilliantly planned global marketing and publicity campaigns.

Amblin’s marketing consultant Marvin Levy, along with marketing v.p. Brad Globe said about the campaign and release pattern: “From day one, it was envisioned on a global basis for obvious reasons. The film has a built-in hook since dinosaurs are already an international phenomenon. Said Levy: “You’re not dealing with a myth indigenous to just America, but with a worldwide cultural mythology.”

“Jurassic Park”” grossed over $900 million worldwide, surpassing the previous champion, Spielberg own film, “E.T.” (1982), to become the highest-grossing film up to that time. In 1997, it was surpassed by James Cameron’s Oscar-winning “Titanic.” It currently ranks as the 25th highest-grossing film.

Detailed Plot

John Hammond, the founder and chair of the bioengineering company InGen, is proud of the theme park, Jurassic Park, he created on Isla Nublar, a tropical island in Central America, with cloned dinosaurs.  When a park worker is killed by a Velociraptor, the park’s investors, represented by lawyer Donald Gennaro, demand that experts certify the park’s safety. Gennaro invites the mathematician Ian Malcolm, while Hammond asks palaeontologist Dr. Alan Grant and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler.

The group learns that the cloning was accomplished by extracting the DNA of dinosaurs from mosquitoes preserved in amber. Since the DNA strands were incomplete, DNA from frogs was used, and the dinosaurs were cloned genetically as females to prevent breeding.

Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Tim Murphy, join the tour, while he oversees the trip from the control room. The tour does not go as planned–the dinosaurs fail to appear and a Triceratops gets ill. A tropical storm cut the tour short, the employees depart for the mainland and the visitors return to cars.  Ellie stays with the veterinarian to study the Triceratops.

During the storm, Jurassic Park’s computer programmer Dennis Nedry, who has been bribed by a corporate rival to steal dinosaur embryos, deactivates the security system to gain access. The power goes out, and the tour vehicles stall. The park’s fences are deactivated, and the Tyrannosaurus rex attack the group. Grant, Lex, and Tim escape while the Tyrannosaurus devours Gennaro and injures Malcolm.  While delivering the embryos to the island’s docks, gets lost in the wilderness, crashes his Jeep, and is killed by a Dilophosaurus.

Sattler assists Muldoon in search for survivors, and they only find Malcolm before the Tyrannosaurus rex returns.  Unable to decipher Nedry’s code of the security system, Hammond and park’s chief engineer Ray Arnold reboot the entire park’s system. The group retreats to an emergency bunker, while Arnold tries to complete the rebooting process. When he doesn’t return, Sattler and Muldoon discover the shutdown has deactivated the remaining fences and released the Velociraptors; Muldoon distracts the raptors while Sattler turns the power back on, but the raptors kill Muldoon.

Grant, Tim, and Lex discover the broken shells of dinosaur eggs, realizing that the dinosaurs have been breeding.  Back at the visitor center, the trio encounter a herd of Gallimimus, when the Tyrannosaurus emerges and kills one. Grant, Tim and Lex reach the visitor center, and Grant goes searching for the others.

Grant and Sattler head back to the visitor center, where the children battle two Velociraptors. Lex restores power, and the group calls for help.  Trying to leave, they are cornered by the raptors, but escape when the Tyrannosaurus kills both raptors.  The group flees in a helicopter, and Grant decides not to endorse the park.

Oscar Context

“Jurassic Park” won three Academy Awards: for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects.


MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 126 Minutes.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by David Koepp, Michael Crichton
Released: June 11, 1993
DVD: October 10, 2000