Jarrod Emerson's tribute to Richard Attenborough
Part 4: Jurassic Park – 1993
After focusing exclusively on his directorial career for over a decade, Richard Attenborough stepped back in front of the camera, when Steven Spielberg cast him in the mega-hit, Jurassic Park. Attenborough portrays billionaire industrialist, John Hammond, creator of a ground-breaking, island theme park. Hammond invites a small group to the for a sneak preview of his new attraction, hoping to gain their endorsements. Along for the ride are paleontologist "Alan Grant" (Sam Neill), his partner "Ellie Sattler" (Laura Dern), mathematician "Ian Malcolm" (Jeff Goldblum), and lawyer "Donald Gennaro" (Martin Ferrero). As this is a world famous film adapted from an equally popular novel, I doubt there are few, if any, these days who are unaware that dinosaurs inhabit the park. Needless to say, the tour doesn’t go as planned. When the electrified fences containing the genetically engineered beasts are sabotaged, the endangered guests must fend for themselves.
Steven Spielberg is usually synonymous with the word “blockbuster”, and Jurassic Park is a perfect example of that. With its vast array of groundbreaking special effects, suspenseful action sequences, and amazing set pieces, much of the film has held up well. Between the late Stan Winston’s animatronics, and Industrial Light & Magic’s computer graphics, each dinosaur has it’s own personality. Unfortunately, as dazzling as the films’ prehistoric characters are, the human characters are less than memorable. This is not a film that one combs through for Oscar clips. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of good character development scattered throughout, thanks to a decent screenplay by David Koepp.
Amongst a cast of mostly two-dimensional characters, Richard Attenborough stands out. As park creator John Hammond, Attenborough reminded me that he is just as talented in front of the camera as he is behind it. While the novel’s version of Hammond was a selfish, conniving entrepreneur whose sole motivation was profit, Attenborough’s portrayal is something arguably more interesting. Here, Hammond is a well meaning, but naïve, entertainer who wishes to captivate his audience, oblivious to the fire he is playing with. In one of the film’s few character-driven scenes, he explains his intentions to Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler after the park has failed. Hammond relates a story how his past success in amusement parks motivated him to pursue and create something “...you could touch and feel..”. However, an angry Sattler forces Hammond to think about the destruction and death his actions have caused.
Of course, I cannot bring this film up without a tip of the hat to the always fun Jeff Goldblum, who steals practically every scene he’s in as the highly eccentric comic relief, Dr. Ian Malcolm. It’s a pity the rest of the cast doesn’t shine like Attenborough and Goldblum - and of course, the dinosaurs - but at least the awe-inspiring visuals and nonstop action sequences make Jurassic Park great fun. (I wonder: did anyone else make table shake so that glasses of water vibrate like my seven-year-old self did?)
© Jarrod Emerson (12/10/16) FF2 Media