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‘Jurassic Park’ (PG-13)By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 11, 1993
Hollywood no longer needs to worry whether aging stars can sell movies. The old folks in "Cocoon" reaped huge success. But it's the over-the-hill gang in "Jurassic Park" (which will pull in $150 million before you can say "velociraptor") that'll put all fear to rest. These guys are millions of years old.
They're dinosaurs and, thanks to the visual mastery of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic and special-effects dino-meisters Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Michael Lantieri, they're extraordinarily beautiful, believable and downright intimidating. In the year's most-awaited movie (not counting "Weekend at Bernie's II"), they are the MVPs, the box-office draw, the oomph of this picture. Yes, that's including human principals Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Sir Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum.
Thanks to another industrial source of make-believe -- Steven Spielberg -- the dinosaurs will scare you to debt, as you shell out ticket money for kids, relatives and second visits. Spielberg has found his monsters again. This is "Jaws" with huge, scaly ridges. At times, it's more frightening. Among the extinct big guys (actually they're mostly gals), the tyrannosaurus rex is the meanest in the valley.
In all fairness, the humans -- and what they're doing in this movie -- should probably be talked about. Paleontologist Neill and paleobotanist Dern are invited by unnerving entrepreneur Attenborough to critique his latest venture, an enormous island preserve-cum-theme park (near Costa Rica) full of the genetically re-created animals.
There are the dangerous velociraptors, which slash and attack in packs; the towering t-rexes, who would be considered aggressive and loud in any neighborhood; the peaceful, foliage-chewing brachiosauri; the hooting, poison-spitting dilophosauri, and many other prehistoric earthshakers.
By obtaining dinosaur blood from equally ancient mosquitoes (which got trapped and preserved in tree sap for eons), Attenborough's people have isolated dino-DNA and cranked out a prehistoric McDonald's farm full of monsters.
In the company of eccentric mathematician Goldblum, Attenborough's lawyer Martin Ferrero, Jurassic Park computer technician engineer Samuel L. Jackson, Humpty Dumpty-shaped systems genius Wayne Knight and game warden Bob Peck, Neill and Dern observe this world with open-mouthed wonder.
But all hell breaks loose when Neill, Dern, Ferrero and Attenborough's grandchildren Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello take a guided tour of the park. When industrial turncoat Knight turns the power off, the animals, separated from onlookers by electrified fences, are suddenly free to roam.
The suspense and technical wizardry are the only reason to watch "Jurassic Park." In a summer movie, that's more than enough, of course. But screenwriter Michael Crichton, adapting his popular novel with David Koepp, slashes almost everything that made the book an entertaining read.
In the movie, Neill and Dern (who get a romantic relationship the book never gave them) get the prime parts -- but only relatively. Goldblum, well cast as the madhatter-mathematician with an amusing chaos theory, has his moments. But he could have been used far more. Jackson, Peck, Ferrero and genetics engineer B. D. Wong (all significant players in the novel) might as well not be here, for the microscopic character space they must share.
Night glasses sported by young Mazzello, a significant suspense component in the book, are introduced and then forgotten. Crichton and Spielberg also ignore the book's terrifying birds of prey; the whole alarming world of cutthroat genetics engineering and ecosystem abuse; the velociraptors' harrowingly intelligent method of attack . . . . The list is endless. But, just as the real dinosaurs died so evolution could continue its unsympathetic, progressive course, so apparently must these elements bite the big one in the name of PG-13, summertime entertainment.
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