Things you notice after watching the Jurassic Park trilogy for the 61st time

Ali Gray

3rd May 2015

There's never a bad time to watch movies about dinosaurs, but with Jurassic World around six weeks away, it seemed like high time I rewatched the Jurassic Park trilogy again - it has been almost five months since the last time I watched it, after all. I think I said my piece pretty comprehensively during Jurassic Park Week in 2013, so what follows are just stray observations - the kind you really only pick up from having already watched something 60 times.

Jurassic Park (1993)

- What else can I say? It's still the daddy, really. I don't think there's a single wasted scene in it. Not an ounce of flab. My main problem with it really is that if you tried to dress how Sam Neill dresses in this movie today you'd be lynched by the fashion mafia. Faded dad denim? A straw fedora? A red neckerchief? He looks like he's should be promoting pasta sauce.

- After several viewings of Jurassic Park, you do start to sympathise with Dennis Nedry somewhat. His main gripe is that Hammond is cheap - Nedry's salary is never disclosed, but his workload must be gigantic, seeing as he's seemingly the only I.T. guy serving the park (John Arnold is mostly in charge of smoking and looming). I bet when the park re-opens for Jurassic World they have at least a dozen guys doing social media alone.

- The typo on the Tyrannosaurus pod is still really irritating. A portent of troubles to come: get the spelling wrong, the rest of the house of cards will tumble.

Spotted by the park's resident pedantosaurus.

- The T-Rex scene is still probably my favourite 'action' sequence in all of cinema - it feels like it was storyboarded to absolute perfection. Save for the infamous 'T-Rex chasm' that suddenly and inexplicably appears in the paddock, it's a masterclass in tightly-plotted action. The only thing that bothers me is the scene where the fleeing Ian Malcolm is headbutted through the toilet at the same time as Gennaro is discovered to be on the shitter. It's a pretty clumsy two-fer, in my opinion, and I distinctly remember the 12-year-old me being confused as to what happened the first two or three times I saw it. It's economy in storytelling but it doesn't quite work. Are you reading, Steven Spielberg?

- Bob Peck is Jurassic Park's trump card. Every time I rewatch it, his performance seems to get hammier: this time it was a full-on serrano. He isn't blessed with the best lines, but he delivers them like a champion thespian would Hamlet ("Quiet!... They're entering the Tyrannosaur paddock...") and then fixes his mad eyes on the middle distance like he's just spotted a barbarian murdering a member of his family. I'd like to think that with the current trend for shared universes, someone at Universal has already pitched a 'young Muldoon' prequel. Would watch.

- Despite having watched Jurassic Park approximately 60 times, I always, always forget that Lex and Tim are in the movie - until they appear. I'm not sure what that says about Jurassic Park - that the first 30 minutes are so good you forget about the most annoying characters, or that it feels like it could work just as well without them. Saying that, they're still not all that annoying. I always smile at Joseph Mazzello's face when Tim is in the tree and says "I threw up", like it's the worst thing he could have ever done, even though he just survived a dinosaur attack and almost certainly shat himself in the process. Kids!

- It's a pretty neat marketing gimmick, but the T-Rex's quake-making footsteps are nonsense. Some scenes you can hear it from half a mile away. Others it sneaks up on Grant and friends like a giant lizard ninja. I mean, you can understand it from a screenwriting point of view in that holding back that surprise ending is a great ace up the sleeve, but it still doesn't make sense (yes I am aware that this is a movie about dinosaurs). Really, if you think about it, the gaps between the iconic thumps are such that the Rex must be walking one foot at a time, really, really slowly for some reason. I hate having a brain. Can't I enjoy anything?

- This movie is never a fucking PG in a million years.

- As always, I think John Williams deserves just as many plaudits for Jurassic Park than Steven Spielberg or Stan Winston or Dennis Muren or any of those guys. You think of Jurassic Park, you can hear that music. This is a lofty claim that I'm not prepared to back up, but I reckon it's probably the last truly great iconic blockbuster theme score. If you can name me a better one from a major motion picture in the last 20 years I'll buy you a red neckerchief.

The Lost World (1997)

- The Lost World was hurried into production, and you really notice. There are loads of contrivances. Isn't it convenient, for example, that chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm is seeing the world's leading palaeontologist? Isn't it convenient that the satellite phone doesn't work when it's most needed? I did so many 'Hmm' faces watching this that I have started to question everything and now I believe that 9/11 was an inside job.

- I like Hammond's complete 180, from capitalist to environmentalist. It's not really touched on much in discussion of this movie. It adds colour to his heartbreaking little scene at the end of the first movie, where he gazes onto his island of ruin before stepping onto the chopper a broken man. I think this opinion is probably informed by the sad recent loss of Richard Attenborough, but I wonder if Spielberg's intention was to have Hammond repenting on his sins due to an unseen illness - hence his visiting relatives and the fact he's bed-bound. It explains the sudden dissolution of his moral turpitude.

- Both Jurassic Park sequels are actually quite astute in realising how unlikely it would be to have protagonists from the first movie returning to another dinosaur-filled island. In The Lost World, Malcolm refuses outright and only does so to collect his girlfriend and leave immediately. In Jurassic Park III, Grant is essentially tricked onto the island (more on that later). It's a courtesy that sequels really offer - the gift of not taking an audience's scepticism for granted. I'm already wondering how the writers of Jurassic World are planning on their own sequel. As with the Terminator franchise, it really feels like diminishing returns are the only things to be gained with each new movie that's added to the universe. STOP LETTING DINOSAURS/TERMINATORS ESCAPE, YOU GUYS.

- Julianne Moore's palaeontologist character is a straight dope dipshit. She comes on all holier than thou, professing an interest for leaving nature to its own devices ("If we so much as bend a blade of grass...") mere minutes after molesting a Stegosaurus and shortly before she kidnaps a Tyrannosaurus cub and sticks Vince Vaughn's chewing gum on its leg. Then she gets that T-Rex's blood on her jacket and hangs it up in her fucking tent to dry instead of balling it up into a rocket and blasting it into the sun. That should be the first thing you learn in paleo class you colossal idiot.


- The scene with the 'parallel bars' is so astonishingly shit I can't believe a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg ever signed off on this, let alone conceived it in the first place. It supposes that in a random desolate building on Isla Sorna, there exists two rusty pipes that are perfectly placed apart so as to support the weight and acrobatics of a teenage gymnast. Worse, Malcolm's daughter starts her routine when the raptor is still on ground level - it's only within kicking reach when it jumps up a level, after she starts her twirling. I'm not over-thinking it, you're over-thinking it. Shut up.

- Vince Vaughn's photographer/hippy Nick claims he's going to win the Pulitzer prize for photography, but if you look closely, he's filming dinosaurs with a shit handycam from about 500 metres away. You'd be lucky to get even an animated gif out of that footage. I bet he was shooting in portrait mode, too.

- The plot hole on the boat is another unbelievable oversight. I'm still baffled that major motion pictures are considered 'finished' with these huge gaps in logic still intact. How did the boat's crew die, given the T-Rex was in the boat's hold? If you're going to have a massive action scene, like where the boat smashes into the harbour, you should really have to explain yourself first. That should be a condition of being a director. Otherwise you can just crash a plane into any scene you're shooting or have some Transformers start breakdance fighting out of nowhere.

- Ian Malcolm doesn't cackle nearly as much as I would like in this movie, but I am still a big fan of his delivery of the line: "Ooh, ahh, that's how it all starts. But then later there's running... and screaming." If you got him, William Shatner and Christopher Walken in a room and asked them to take turns reading the ingredients off the back of a cereal packet with their own unique cadence you would have a hit show on your hands.

Jurassic Park III (2001)

- Make no bones about it, Jurassic Park III is certainly still the weakest of the three movies by some distance. Weirdly, on paper, it should be a winner: it has the most varied action sequences - a T-Rex beater, a dino-on-dino fight, a plane crash, a raptor chase, a river sequence and some proper pterodactyl action - but it still feels hollow.

- This is because there's barely anything holding these scenes together. Once Alan Grant lands on Isla Sorna, there's no effort to characterise the cast. They literally encounter the biggest dinosaur on the island around 30 seconds after touching down. There's no effort put into the set-ups; Grant and friends wander into velociraptor territory twice, first in a lab, then just by walking into an open space that they happened to be inhabiting. That's so lazy it pains me to realise it.

- This is the second Jurassic Park movie in which a secondary character claims to have a "lucky pack". First it was Sarah Harding in The Lost World; in Jurassic Park III it's Billy the idiot paragliding egg thief. I don't think it's a homage so much as it is oblivious screenwriting, a bit like if Joe Johnston accidentally called an ancillary character 'Malcolm Ian'.

- I wish I could pull off the kind of hat that you can put over your face to sleep. Hats don't fit my head because it's a weird shape and it looks like I'm trying to hide some hideous protrusion or that I'm attempting to shoplift a watermelon.

- Alan Grant is revealed in this movie to be totally motivated by money. In Jurassic Park, he's lured onto the island on the promise of funding his dig. Several years and terrifying encounters with dinosaurs later, he falls for the same trick - it's a blank cheque that gets him on board that plane, even if it is under duplicitous circumstances. Even when that plane crash-lands and he admits it's unlikely that they'll survive, he has the gall to complain about money: "We're in the worst place in the world and we're not even getting paid!" John Hammond could learn a few things from him.

"And my travel insurance won't cover any injuries caused by dinosaurs"

- The most noticeable flaw in Jurassic Park III is that there is no thematic continuation between the first two movies and this one. Jurassic Park III only exists because The Lost World ends with an island that's still full of dinosaurs and Universal didn't need to ask twice to fling some more humans onto it. Jurassic Park has a lengthy scene in which the morality of genetics is discussed; The Lost World has an 'us versus them' mentality when it comes to nature vs nurture and the corporate machine. Jurassic Park III has a dinosaur that shits a telephone.

- Even Grant's appearance on the island is clumsy. It's established he's led to Isla Sorna on false pretences, which is fair enough, but William H Macy's character apparently picked him because he thought he'd been to the island before, but he was on Isla Nublar. It's a mistake on behalf of the character, granted, but it's never mentioned again - it has you considering the machinations of casting and whether Sam Neill was second choice after Jeff Goldblum. Bad screenwriting will tend to take you out of the moment like that.

- It's hilarious how little anyone cares about Tea Leoni's new husband, who perishes on the island. Leoni literally gets tangled up with his half-chewed skeleton but about sixteen seconds later admits she doesn't care he's dead. He's never mentioned by anyone again, not even the kid who effectively got him killed. Then he suffers the posthumous embarrassment of having his wife get back with her ex-husband, famed player of screen losers William H Macy. Sorry, Ben, or whatever your name is.

- I found it odd that there are no visual clues that Jurassic Park III is set on the same island as The Lost World. There are no identical sets, no recurring props, even the dinosaurs feel different. It could easily be Site C. It probably has something to do with the fact most of it was shot on a set and not on location in Hawaii like the first two movies, but you'd think even the odd reminder that we've been here before could have been snuck in (I'm presuming I haven't missed anything). It only feels odd because these days studios jump at the change to forge connections between movies and simple, visual easter eggs gain big traction online. Maybe we could have seen Tea Leoni swinging on those parallel bars.

- The Pterodactyl scene is the best in the movie and probably the closest thing Jurassic Park III has to a saving grace (apart from Alan's hat). The scene where the winged beast emerges from the fog on the walkway is the only one that feels like it's from a genuine monster movie.

- Jurassic Park gets all the attention in this regard, but the Spinosaurus animatronic is really quite spectacular. You see it more often than you do the CG version and it makes all the difference. I also like that it accidentally spears Tea Leoni in the underwater scene, because you can't have a massive fucking robot dinosaur without tearing a few blouses. Note to self: write movie about giant malfunctioning robot dinosaur.

Follow us on Twitter @The_Shiznit for more fun features, film reviews and occasional commentary on what the best type of crisps are.
We are using Patreon to cover our hosting fees. So please consider chucking a few digital pennies our way by clicking on this link. Thanks!

Share This