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(1993) (Sam Neill, Laura Dern) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: Scientists and others must deal with cloned dinosaurs that have escaped and are running loose on an island theme park.
Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL), a paleontologist, and his girlfriend, Dr. Ellie Sattler (LAURA DERN), a paleobotanist, are accompanied by mathematician Ian Malcolm (JEFF GOLDBLUM) as they're brought to an island theme park owned by a wealthy entrepreneur, John Hammond (RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH). They've been summoned to appease a lawyer, Donald Gennaro (MARTIN FERRERO), who represents the park's investors following an earlier accident there.

No ordinary park, this one is filled with genetically cloned dinosaurs, including the fearsome T-Rex and the speedy and dangerous "raptors." When a greedy computer programmer, Dennis Nedry (WAYNE KNIGHT), sabotages the security system so that he can steal frozen dinosaur embryos, the existing dinosaurs escape and wreak havoc. While Alan, Ellie and Ian were originally there to endorse the park, they now find themselves, along with the game warden, Robert Muldoon (BOB PECK) and chief engineer, Ray Arnold (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), trying to survive and to rescue Hammond's grandchildren, Tim (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) and Lex (ARIANA RICHARDS), all as the dinosaurs run loose.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
This is an immensely entertaining film, as long as you can overlook the many minor flaws that permeate its structure. The story, based on Michael Creighton's novel, is very similar to the movie, "Westworld" (that Creighton also wrote and directed). In that story, a "theme park" of robotic characters has a technical glitch and the attractions attack and kill the tourists. Here they've just substituted dinosaurs for robots.

While in the past the introduction of dinosaurs into movies resulted in fake looking, jerky moving creatures, that's not so here. These dinosaurs are every bit as realistic as their human counterparts and often have more character. Therein lies one of the movie's bigger problems. Director Steven Spielberg ("Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Schindler's List," and many more) creates masterful suspense scenes, including one long sequence that should be studied by every budding film school student.

Yet this film, that's also somewhat akin to "Jaws" on land, pales considerably when compared to that masterpiece. That's because "Jaws" had interesting, diverse characters that developed as they went along, something that's all but missing in this dinosaur extravaganza. It also had a more subtle suspense to it, where your imagination worked as hard as the director did in making you squirm in your seat. While that's occasionally done here, Spielberg takes more of the "hit 'em over the head" approach and thrills us without making us think.

While it has these problems, it's a visually stunning piece of work, with effects that far exceed anything seen on the screen before it. There are many problems scattered throughout the production, however, that undermine the overall quality of the film. Giving the dinosaurs, particularly the raptors, superior intelligence works dramatically, but is scientifically questionable and very doubtful. When a line about the people being safe as long as the raptors can't figure out how to open doors is followed by them doing so, it makes your eyes roll.

Spielberg easily could have had the creatures clawing at the door and accidentally hitting the handle, but to have them figure it out is preposterous. Just as bad is the fact that Alan asserts the T-Rex hunts by sensing visual movement but how does he know this? The scientists at the park would know, but Alan hasn't seen the creatures in action yet. Other problems include continuity errors, such as when a tropical storm is approaching and one side of a truck is rain covered and the other side is dry.

Another obvious problem is that the velociraptors (known by their name for being very speedy) can't catch the kids (one of which limps from an injured leg) that they chase in a kitchen. Or the fact that Lex, a teenage girl, can figure out the park's entire computer system in a manner of seconds to lock the door where a raptor is trying to come through.

Of course we're nitpicking here, but a director the caliber of Spielberg should make movies that stand up better than this. He's done it in the past, and if he had done that here, as well as develop interesting characters, he would have made a movie that would be considered a classic. As it is, it's a lot of fun to watch, but you wish it could have been that much better. We give it a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed May 7, 1997 / Posted May 9, 1997

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