Retrospective: The JURASSIC PARK trilogy | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 8 June 2015

Retrospective: The JURASSIC PARK trilogy

It was 22 years since the original JURASSIC PARK mesmerised the audiences worldwide with its realistic-looking dinosaurs stomping in the big screen, and also 14 years since JURASSIC PARK III has disappointed many fans back in the summer of 2001. Since then, Steven Spielberg has tried on and off to revive the once-lucrative franchise. After years of development hell, the long-gestating fourth entry will be finally seen the light of its day with JURASSIC WORLD coming to cinemas nationwide on June 11.

To coincide with the upcoming release of JURASSIC WORLD, let's take a look back at the retrospective of the original JURASSIC PARK trilogy:


Summer 1993 was best remembered as one of the greatest summer movie seasons ever seen in the Hollywood history. Some of the most memorable blockbusters hit during that summer were CLIFFHANGER, THE FUGITIVE, THE FIRM, IN THE LINE OF FIRE and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. However, nothing could compare with the gargantuan hit of JURASSIC PARK, which also happened to be the highest-grossing movie of 1993 with US$357 million (excluding the additional gross from the 2013 re-release) in the US box office alone. Not only that, JURASSIC PARK went on to sweep three Oscars out of three nominations including Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing.

Most of all, JURASSIC PARK was seen as a cinematic milestone and a game changer that revolutionised the use of special effects. From the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) to a pack of velociraptors (Raptors), the dinosaur creation -- courtesy of the legendary special effects guru Stan Winston, along with a trio of ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) special effects supervisors including Michael Lantieri, Phil Tippettt and Dennis Muren -- was an impeccable mix of animatronic and CGI effects. As a result, these cinematic dinosaurs were so photorealistic and lifelike that watching them on the big screen for the first time back in 1993 was truly awe-inspiring. Even by today's standard, JURASSIC PARK still managed to stand the test of time after all these decades.

As for the movie, JURASSIC PARK was akin of experiencing a two hour's worth of theme-park ride. No stranger to creating some of the most exhilarating Hollywood blockbusters of all time including JAWS (1975) and the INDIANA JONES trilogy (1981-1989), Steven Spielberg's direction was especially masterful in terms of generating edge-of-the-seat thrills and suspense. After all, who could forget the legendary rippling water-in-the-glass scene as well as the first-time encounter of the rampaging T. Rex during the rainy night near the electric fence?

Both Sam Neill and Laura Dern were equally worthwhile as two dinosaur experts, and so did Richard Attenborough as the eccentric billionaire who owned the titular park. But it was Jeff Goldblum who gave a memorable performance as the quirky mathematician, Dr. Ian Malcolm. Apart from the novelty of the premise, the story was nothing to shout about. It was a minor gripe that the plot took a backseat in favour for special effects to do most of the heavy duties here.


After the gigantic success of JURASSIC PARK in 1993, the inevitable sequel of THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK made cinematic history when it broke the four-day Memorial Day opening weekend with US$90.1 million in the US box office (a feat that managed to withstand for four years until HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE took over the box-office debut record in 2001). Although the sequel failed to surpass or even matched the final box-office tally of the first movie, it still earned its place as one of the biggest hits (US$229 million) in the summer of 1997.

And then there's the mixed reviews that plagued the sequel. Frankly, it's easy to see why: the sequel was basically a rehash of the original that brought nothing fresh to the genre. Even Jeff Goldblum, who reprised his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm, pretty much summed it up what to expect in this movie: "Yeah. "Ooh, ahh", that's how it always starts. But then later there's running and screaming." The story was also heavy on expository scenes that dragged the pace on and off throughout the 129-minute running time. The characters were especially lacklustre as well, with notable absence of Sam Neill and Laura Dern in the sequel. Unlike the first movie, Richard Attenborough was significantly reduced into a cameo role, while the new addition of Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore didn't really help matters much. Apart from Pete Postlethwaite's adequate turn as the dinosaur hunter Roland Tembo, Jeff Goldblum was once again the lifesaver for the movie's human performance.

Fortunately, it wasn't all that bad for THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK. The special effects were well done, and Steven Spielberg was a real deal when comes to elaborating action set-pieces (such as the case in a gripping scene where the two T. Rex dinosaurs attacked the trailer at the edge of the cliff). The only exception in the action department was the silly, yet exaggerated KING KONG-like finale where the T. Rex terrorised the city of San Diego.


"Been there, done that" was probably the best word to describe this ill-fated second sequel of the JURASSIC PARK franchise. In fact, JURASSIC PARK III was widely known as the weakest entry in the series. This was especially evident after Steven Spielberg, who helmed the first two movies, opted to bow out and served only as an executive producer. Instead, Spielberg hand-picked his friend Joe Johnston (THE ROCKETEER, JUMANJI) to direct the third movie. As Spielberg's protégé as well as a visual effect veteran for the original STAR WARS trilogy (1977-1983) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), Johnston proved to be an accomplished visual stylist when comes to deliver a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. The special effects were noticeably improved, while all the action set-pieces -- such as the brief but engaging dino smackdown between the terrifying 44-foot Spinosaurus and T.Rex, and the tense sequence set in the aviary that housed pterodactyls -- were downright entertaining. Finally, at 93 minutes, it was the shortest duration ever seen in the series that helped make the pace faster.

While the effects and the action were top notch, JURASSIC PARK III was particularly a huge letdown in terms of plot and characterisation. Despite enlisting highly-talented Alexander Payne (ELECTION) as one of the screenwriters, the story was drowned with the same old clichés that already felt stale by now. If anything, the only fresh idea managed to input for this movie was the super-intelligent raptors who knew how to communicate with each other to outsmart their human encounters. The characters were especially paper-thin, and the glaring absence of Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm was sorely missed. Even the return presence of Sam Neill and Laura Dern (who only played a cameo here) didn't do much to elevate the movie from mediocrity.

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