This set-up takes nearly an hour, as Spielberg patiently sets up his audience for the scares to come. And come they do, after Hammond's slovenly computer expert Nedry (Wayne Knight) sabotages the security system and the more carniverous dinos escape the electrified barriers. From that point, the movie becomes a breakneck chase, punctuated with some nail-biting set pieces.
Seeing "Jurassic Park" again, years after my first encounter, what struck me wasn't the gee-whiz dinosaur effects, though the combination of animatronics, stop-motion and computer animation holds up amazing well. What's fascinating is how Spielberg never loses the human story amid the hardware.
The most fascinating performance in "Jurassic Park" is Attenborough's. He's delightfully playful as Hammond, introduced as a spritely showman happy to show off his newest shiny attraction, and remaining optimistic nearly to the end as he explains how even Disneyland had opening-day glitches. (This prompts one of Goldblum's best deadpan rejoinders: "Yes, but when the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists.")
"Jurassic Park" marks a turning point in Spielberg's career evolution the end of his eye-candy epoch that gave us "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." While the dinosaur post-production work on "Jurassic Park" was being completed, Spielberg went to Poland to film his masterpiece: The Holocaust tale "Schindler's List."
After that, Spielberg could never really go back to straight popcorn films. He tried with a sequel, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and a fourth "Indiana Jones" flick but his science-fiction movies ("A.I. Artificial Intelligence," "Minority Report," "War of the Worlds") turned darker and more allegorical. He also made such serious films as "Saving Private Ryan," "Amistad," "Munich," "War Horse" and "Lincoln."
"Jurassic Park" was the last time Spielberg wanted nothing more than to make an audience hold onto their butts (to borrow a phrase from Samuel L. Jackson's chain-smoking technician). And it's an exciting reminder that no director has ever done it better.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 dinosaur chase remains the pinnacle of armrest-gripping movie entertainment.
Where • Theaters everywhere
When • Opens Friday, April 5.
Rating • PG-13 for intense science fiction terror.
Running time • 127 minutes.