1. Jurassic Park

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Looking to the future, we see a delayed sequel on the horizon, the fourth film in the series to follow the third, fourteen years later. That kind of gap speaks volumes to the third film (as is the subject in principle of the infrequently addressed “Past Expiry” episodes), which has been mentioned here on this Top 100 Countdown. But any attempt at recapturing what Jurassic Park truly is would be more about sparking a sense of earthly magic, about appreciation for something known only in modern mythology — these creatures that seem impossible, brought to life and screen, with all the wonder and danger both.

I struggled forever to really pin down a rationalization for why I should like this movie, or rather, love it more than any other, as someone invested in the study of film. When I was younger, I rarely if ever said that Jurassic Park was my favorite movie; it would be one of those movies I liked but were also highly critically acclaimed, like Once Upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, and once I even said Seven Samurai which was totally far afield, and only because I’d seen it recently.

The Battle Beyond Planet X process/preoccupation may have come from this movie in a roundabout way, that niggling theory that there had to be something more. Back then, it was because I, of all people, could never appreciate some dolt of a movie (this list proves that I’ve become more truthful with age), so a little bit of investigation sparked the final realization.

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The gallimimus scene is what the movie’s all about. It’s no coincidence that it’s a father figure giving two kids, boy and girl, this [involuntary] tour of a dinosaur landscape. It’s an educational journey, and we see that dinosaurs can be scary like the velociraptor, but that they can also be beautiful and peaceful like the brachiosaurus. The gallimimus are so fascinating from a distance, but close-up, they’re really dangerous. Nature demands respect, and so the villain of the story is not a human, but a human quality — greed, and as expressed here in corporate ambition, is expanded upon in the Spielberg-involved sequel. InGen becomes Weyland-Yutani, but this is only a more deliberate repeat of what was said here.

It is a perfect movie to show to kids, and obviously as a young adult I wasn’t really cognizant or appreciative of that. It didn’t imprint upon me a lasting inspiration to become like Dr. Alan Grant, or anything crazy, but I like to think that it left me a love for things like vistas and great looming creatures, both when peace is attained, and when things are going wrong. The going wrong reinforced why the peace is so important, but also made for fun adventure.

Jurassic Park is a park, it’s a playground for live scientific experiments and this grand adventure, two pieces that are integral to each other. So often do we get one or the other, the science or the fiction. Beyond whatever silly flags I raise under which this site operates, phrases like ‘sociopolitical themes,’ science-fiction first began as a natural extension of scientific theory. This movie is paleontology’s ambassador, and so brings that to a young audience, in conjunction with biology and even paleobotany, for a brief instance.

To compare it to a movie like Carnosaur, the film like Reptilian or Deepstar Six/Leviathan — the grubbier movies rushed to theatres before the big blockbuster — whose series takes more cues from Aliens than Jurassic Park, what we have is a movie about a guy shooting at dinosaurs. These dinosaurs, rubber animatronics, might as well be subbed out for any genre of movie monster. It’s an old approach, and I wouldn’t say it’s a tired one, but Jurassic Park manages to encompass this movie in taking a different one.

Jurassic Park features a guy shooting at dinosaurs, but when that happens, it’s not a dip into the horror genre for the sake of throwing ideas at the wall, it’s about mood — the Carnosaur element is when the story is reaching that dangerous place, and we can employ the more pulp edge. But again, it’s not for the sake of the thing. This is where the cautionary message comes from, as the climax of previous confrontations, each increasing in proximity between man and nature.

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That ‘adaptation’ is a principle of science-fiction, if the genre is taken as a tradition in itself. Stories iterate on each other, and when some stories are born of new motives, like ticket sales or franchising potential, sometimes we get unexpected things. The aesthetic of Carnosaur wasn’t born in 1993, it was appreciated much earlier, and so its adaptation to Jurassic Park carries with it that look and feel, as well as that genre mood. But Carnosaur offers nothing else, where Jurassic Park is a more holistic experience.

This is also the Carnosaur-bashing review.

It’s nothing more than that Carnosaur indulges in a genre-ritual, and Jurassic Park does something more with it. Unfortunately, this much-vaunted formula would be lost on sequels, which became genre-ritual themselves, though adventure, and not horror. Jurassic Park III is a very one-dimensional, very pure experience. People encounter dinosaurs, people run away. Woman inherits the Earth.

Once upon a time, dinosaur adventure could mean something more, even if both theme and drama were underplayed. Well, the ideas got through loud and clear given Dr. Ian Exposition over here, but critics never responded to the character arc. And while it’s not particularly compelling, it works in support of the total Jurassic Park experience.

Here’s a movie about dinosaurs. You will be thrilled, delighted, and enlightened. For all the talk-talky I ignored as a kid (fast-forwarded through in strenuous VHS whirring), there was plenty that lives under the scaly surface. Those lessons may not become articulable until later years, upon hard retrospect. On this Top 100 I’ve included movies like Deep Blue Sea, Doom, Johnny Mnemonic, and the two Jurassic Park sequels, and each offer little conscious value. It has to be extrapolated.

Often times, nostalgia is the overriding factor, and I’m glad to say that finally, it isn’t for Jurassic Park. Not that I even need the movie to be ‘important,’ or ‘intelligent,’ it’s more about what it means for it to actually say something, and for that thing to be of such impact. Again, this is a great kids movie. It was the point at which I became the Harrison Chute of science-fiction and exploratory wonder, rather than the Harrison Chute of fantasy and wizardly vicarious self-insertion.

When dinosaurs are brought back to life and turned loose, things happen. It’s not at all magical that those things interfaced so well with my interests at the time, because I had none. This was formative, the origin point for such interests. So I’m thankful then, thankful that the movie isn’t some throwaway monster movie. Thankful also that it doesn’t completely throw away those monster movie roots.

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