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Toby Young
Monday 27th July 2009

Jurassic Park


Who would have believed it? The colossus whose magnificent presence defined an entire era has been brought back to life. We never thought we’d see his like again, but state-of-the-art computer technology and a budget of $54 million have achieved the impossible: the revival of Steven Speilberg’s career.

After the huge disappointment of Hook, America’s greatest living filmmaker was thought to be more or less extinct. His breathtaking showmanship and mastery of spectacle have not been much in evidence since Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But a painstaking excavation of some fossilised relics burried deep in Hollywood’s archives have enabled the former wunderkind to clone one of his early masterpieces.

Forget the anodyne family entertainment that has become his stock-in-trade in recent years. Just when you thought Michael Medved had made it safe to go back in the cinema, Steven Speilberg has made another Jaws. Only this time the mechanical shark has been replaced by an army of prehistoric serial killers. An adventure which was 65 million years in the making, as it says on the poster, will probably make 65 million dollars in less than a week.

If you don’t know the story by now you must be as extinct as one of Speilberg’s monsters. A white-haired entrepreneur decides to create a safari park with a difference: in place of lions and tigers he clones real life donosaurs from the blood of prehistoric mosquitos preserved in aspic. Before opening it to the public he gives it a test run and assembles a cast of Speilbergian stereotypes: an Indiana Jones-like palaeontologist (Sam Neill); a feisty, independent paleobiologist (Laura Dern); a quirky, intellectual mathmetician (Jeff Goldblum); and, inevitably, two adorable little kids.

Predictably, things don’t go to plan. Before you can say “highest opening weekend ever” the animals get out of their cages—and this is no petting zoo. If you thought Harrison Ford had his work cut out in the famous pre-credit sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you should try escaping from Jurassic Park. This film has none of the camp good-humour that lightened Indiana Jones’s load—it’s a white-knuckle ride that puts Chessington to shame. At the first British screening at the Empire Leicester Square on Friday, you could feel the air lash your face as several thousand necks whipped backwards simultaneously. Jurassic Park is Aliens set in the Natural History Museum.

Let’s not get carried away: it’s no masterpiece. Between the action sequences we’re constantly reminded of that old chestnut about the dangers of playing God, brought up to date with an unwelcome dash of Chaos theory. And as the irrepressible ringmaster, Richard Attenborough is laughably bad (his Scottish accent trails off like Chaplin’s box-office receipts). But the real stars of the film do not disappoint. These computer-generated dinosaurs make the old stop-animation techniques of films like The Land That Time Forgot look prehistoric.

All the Hollywood studios are rolling out their biggest guns this Summer, but with a living, breathing Tyrannosauras Rex in the cast, who needs Arnold Schwarzenegger? Jurassic Park has enough breathtaking set pieces to guarantee a monster hit. It may not be suitable for children, but this particular reviewer intends to see it at least ten times.

The Sunday Times, July 11, 1993

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