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Theme Park Terror

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Mark Kermode | 11:00 UK time, Wednesday, 21 September 2011

This Friday Jurassic Park is re-released in cinemas. This classic tale of rampaging dinosaurs comes from the prolific pen of Michael Crichton, who 20 years earlier wrote and directed the excellent Westworld - another story of a theme park where the rides start to eat the guests...

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  • Comment number 1.

    I saw Jurassic Park on television when I was about 6 and was probably the first Spielberg film I saw. Anyway it was a good film with some good shocks. Personally I like The Lost World and Jurassic Park III and still wonder if they will ever get round to making the fourth.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yul Brynner is/was the spitting image of my father (with hair). Perhaps that's an extra reason why I have such a fondness for his movies, not just the Christmas day specials, but some of the less well known ones too.

    As for Westworld, I've seen it a few times in recent years and it still gives me the heebie jeebies. How would we call them today - androids? Just creeps me out, a bit like clowns, in that respect...

  • Comment number 3.

    A theme park ride gone wrong? Sounds like a description of the Pirates franchise.

  • Comment number 4.

    I absolutely agree that it was done better in West World. I happen to have a soft spot for that film. But Jurassic Park for me was about the special effects. If Spielberg was to have done the film to day it would be in 3D (enough said). Could a better comparison for West World and it's Robots be iRobot though it's not based on this story? What you think?

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes, all very valid and astute, but why are you crouched in some long grass overlooked by some sort of industrial estate?

  • Comment number 6.

    irobot (very) loosely based on the isaac asimov books, i'm suprised that there arn't any more films based on his books, which are really good. i am also rather suprised that terry pratchett hasn't got the hollywood treatment yet?

    are there any more authers out there that deserve a film adaptaion?

  • Comment number 7.

    Westworld is still one of my favourite films ever since I saw it as a kid, I much sorta like the historical but not very good sequel Futureworld, it was the first film ever to feature CGI.

  • Comment number 8.

    I remember Westworld as being pretty scary in it's day and more so when one it's main characters is killed early on in the film

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh my word - Dr. K is sooooooo wrong in his diagnosis:

    1. I'm sorry but Jurassic Park's effects were not only brilliant (save for a few clunky movements of the model scale T-Rex) but they still stand up today!

    2. The reason JP and Jaws stood up was not about the effects but the fact that the filmmakers did just enough to allow us to suspend our imagination and accept that they are:


    We know Jaws is not a shark. We know the T-Rex is not a dinosaur - what allows us to accept them warts and all and be scared by them is the same suspension of disbelief that allowed us to be afraid of frankenstein, The Mummy and other movie monsters.

    Spielberg knew this - he understands this (nothing to do with Michael Crichton) - that why he knows exactly what he's able to get away with:

    The oxygen tank in Jaws' mouth

    The T-Rex entering like a ninja to take out the Raptors and saving the day thus becoming a hero

    Rubbery E.T lifting bikes across the Moon!

    Forget Schindler's List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan and the Color Purple!

    Spielberg is at his best when he's sneaking a plastic monster in front of his lens to scare his audience!

    Nobody does it better - Jackson tried and did well but his Kong cannot hold a candle to Jaws, E.T or Mr Rex and his Raptor pals!

  • Comment number 10.

    I love Michael Crichtons screen adaptions as ven with the poorer films (Congo,Timeline,Next) you still get a decent ammount of action and fun. But the two films I love the most are Coma (had to buy a region one import in the end, when will this be released with some quality extras?).
    And Rising sun I however seem to be the only person I know who likes this film with connery apparently spending years in Japan and not losing one bit of that scotty accent.

  • Comment number 11.

    LITTLE KNOWN BUT ENTIRELY TRUE FACT: Jurassic Park is better than Jaws.

    And it most certainly is better than Westworld. Here is why... apart from being scary, interesting, intelligent, (arguably) plausible and containing all those classic moments that Dr K drifted over, it is one of the most transcendental films ever made.

    CGI took a big step up with Jurassic Park and it was the PERFECT film for the technology to premiere on. That moment when Grant and Sattler see the Bronchosaurus for the first time is exquisite because the audience at the time were as thunderstruck as the characters are. At that point, that was the closest we'd ever been to seeing a real dinosaur for the entire existence of humanity! Besides an actual Jurassic Park being made this was the closest we'd ever get to it.

    And by the way Dr K, I don't feel the CGI has declined in hindsight much at all. In fact, I know someone who works in the CGI industry for the Motion Picture Company and we both often comment on how Jurassic Park has better special effects than many contemporary films because they took their time and the artists weren't rushed to come up with the goods.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Dr. K is completely wrong in regards to the special effects. In fact I often hold them up as the template when discussing special effects films, "Jurassic Park still looks convincing and it was done nearly 20 years ago, why can't they get it right today". Speilberg's effects were ground breaking back then and are still groundbreaking today.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes it's true - the reason you can put that film back into the cinemas - remember it's a film that has never needed any kind of re-mastering etc (no thank you George Lucas)

    Is because it's as good today as it was back then.

    I hope the kids of 10-13 go and see it today BEFORE watching it on TV because the experience I got at that age on it's first release has yet to be surpassed.

    Jurassic Park was my generation's Jaws - and DR sadly left out that JP is actually more inclined with Hitchcock's The Birds (nature and technology killing us)

    Surprising considering Spielberg spends almost the entire film likening Dinosaurs to Birds rather than reptiles!

  • Comment number 14.

    I remember going to see Jurassic Park with my parents when I was 9. I was absolutely amazed by the dinosaurs and how real they looked. It's a credit to everyone at ILM that the Velociraptors, the T-Rex, etc are still just as realistic (and scary) today, despite the advances that technology has made since.

    The scene where Grant and co. first see the Brachiosaurus quite accurately reflects the awe and wonder I felt as a child sitting in my seat at the cinema. "It's... it's a dinosaur!" For two hours, it was very easy to suspend my knowledge that they're extinct and think that someone really had brought them back to life.

    I will definitely be going to watch the re-release.

  • Comment number 15.

    armadilloslim the reason Pratchet, and while he was alive, Asimov, have not been on the big screen is they refuse to allow Hollywood to butcher their stories, and Hollywood seems to lose interest after that point gets driven home.

    Terry Pratchet even tells of a wonderful tale of one production company asking him if he could lose Death (the character) from Eric the novel. While calling the book high concept fantasy. His reply was have you even read the book?

    Of course that deal fell through.

  • Comment number 16.

    Actually, I think the special effects have aged rather well...
    I finde the "Jurassic Park"-Dinosaurs for example much more convincing than the "King Kong"-Dinosaurs and I don't think it has only to do with the fact, that the dinosaurs in "King Kong" do stuff, that you wouldn't expect from a dinosaure.

  • Comment number 17.

    I couldn't agree more. Westworld had the terror, the suspence and quite frankly a much more interesting concept. I'm going to see Jurassic Park on Friday, first saw it when it was released all them years ago. And the question I'm going to ask; is the experience going to be tarnished because of the nostalgia trip, or is it going to be tarnished because Westworld did it cheaper and so very much better

  • Comment number 18.

    One too many go-wrongs, Mark. You're always doing this. You come up with something that's quite chucklesome then you let it outstay its welcome. It was the same with your camera head-bashing when you were talking about Transformers and it's the same with your impressions. As someone who makes his money judging other people's creative work you need to edit yourself. Less is more.

  • Comment number 19.

    Let's not forget Crichton's story The Andromeda Strain, brilliantly filmed by Robert Wise. Not quite a theme park in the entertainment sense, but certainly a self-contained, meant-to-be perfect world, where science and technology reign and nothing can go wrogn. I rate that film even higher than Westworld.

  • Comment number 20.

    Westworld is definitely a superior film to Jurassic Park, however I think there is untapped potential in the original novel. I'm aware that it is impossible to adapt a novel in it's entirety on to the big screen, but Jurassic Park the film bares so little resemblance to the book that you would almost think they were different stories altogether. It's clear that Spielberg sanitised a lot of what was in the novel in the quest for a PG rating but, more than that, he lost most of the book's core message about man's abuse of the world and reckless disregard for the consequences of scientific advancement, themes which got barely a passing mention in the film. I would like to a see a remake of Jurassic Park, helmed by someone like Peter Jackson who has proved that he's got the chops for both adapting novels to the big screen (LOTR) and remaking classic films for a new generation (King Kong).

  • Comment number 21.

    West World is a great little film, unlike it's 1976 sequel Future World which is utter rubbish. Wisely Crichton stayed well clear of that one.

    Incidentally, Future World was co-written by one Mayo Simon... hmm, that sounds kind of familiar no?

  • Comment number 22.

    On Jurassic Park being a Michael Crichton film, at the time people who had read the novel disliked the film because it departed so much from the novel, personally it felt like it was compromised to accommodate a mass audience (unlke Jaws).

    Westworld is the superior film, the opening scene of rich Americans boasting how they've spent the last two weeks killing people in Westworld or living out sexual fantasies in Roman world is consumerism taken it's ultimate end.The film also inspired Itchy and Scratchy in The Simpsons,
    "no one ruins my family vacation, except me"

  • Comment number 23.

    I still think Jurassic Park is the benchmark for special effects work. It combined CGI and Stan Winston's craft to create something really memorable, I was 13 when I saw Jurassic Park and the Showcase in Walsall and being completely floored by it, I haven't experienced anything like that in a cinema since. The number of big budget effects films nowadays that hold no magic because they rely entirely on computer generated pixels is a real shame.
    I'd also like to thank Jurassic Park for introducing me to Laura Dern which then put me on the path to David Lynch.
    Thumbs up all round.

  • Comment number 24.

    'Jurassic Park' is actually a misnomer; the story features dinosaurs that didn't exist in the Jurassic Period, such as the later Cretaceous Period's T-Rex and Triceratops.

    Mesozoic Park would've been more accurate, the Mesozoic Era made up of the three dinosaur-populated periods, starting with the Triassic. Loved the movie, nevertheless. When that banner falls around the triumphant T-Rex... DAMN!

  • Comment number 25.

    The reason the SFX still stacks up today is because of Spielberg's direction. The characters believe the dinosaurs are real so YOU believe the dinosaurs are real. And it's not just big scary monsters that people are running away from. The actors all seem to really connect with what, essentially, isn't really there.

    Jurassic Park will always be one of my favourite movies and I really hope it gets re-released out here in NZ too.

  • Comment number 26.

    I love Michael Crichton's work/novels. Jurassic Park was a generational leap in film making special effects (rather like the original Star Wars in 1977) which do indeed stand up to scrutiny today. I remember being terrified of the Velociraptors more than anything else in the movie, due to their absence, thereby building the suspense when they finally showed on screen. Spielberg knows how to draw you in. He is a master of suspense. A modern day Hitchcock in that respect.

    Like @10 keyser_sozes_ghost, I too loved the book and movie of Rising Sun with Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes and Harvey Keitel. A vastly under-rated movie.

  • Comment number 27.

    Jurassic Park is the perfect summer blockbuster. For starters the pacing is spot on; introducing the characters, setting the scene, building the sequence, and then rolling out thrilling set piece after thrilling set piece. On the human side Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Richard Attenborough are perfect pieces of casting, making you care for the characters before throwing them in danger.

    Then there's the actual dinosaurs themselves, and I think Dr K is completely wrong about the special effects not holding up. In fact I would say Gollum is the only CGI creation to even get close to matching the CGI in Jurassic Park. Why? Mostly because Spielberg knows how to shot computer effects sequences, i.e. in the dark and in the rain. Plus mixed with Phil Tippet's and Stan Winston's ground breaking animatronics and you've got the perfect cinema monsters.

    Then there's that score. John Williams finest work; better than E.T, better than Star Wars and dare I say it, even better than Jaws. The moment the music swells when you first see the Brachiosaurus brings a tear to my eye.

    Jurassic Park was the first film I ever saw at the cinema and it still holds a special place in my heart. Thank you Spielberg for introducing me to the magic of cinema.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yes, Westworld is probably the better film, but - as others have already said - the CGI on Jurassic Park still largely holds up today; the climactic fight in the "gift shop" is easily as good as, say, Kong vs the Dinos in Jackson's version which was made, what, nearly a decade and a half later.
    In retrospect, I think that Jurassic Park may have been the first modern 3D movie - it just didn't have the glasses. But in a lot of ways it fits that template: carefully timed showy sequences with no threat, vertiginous action sequences, in-and-out chase scene and largely human-free climactic showdown.

  • Comment number 29.


    Jurassic Park better than Jaws? It's like saying Godfather 3 is better than Godfather 1 or 2

  • Comment number 30.

    I still dont understand why so many people thought 'Jaws' was so scary. It's a great film, dont get me wrong, and there are what I like to call "jump and/or gasp" moments... but even after watching it for the very first time, I still had no problem getting straight back in the water.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Jaws is thrill ride with shocks and it plays scares to people who already have a fear of the water (something they bring to the film).

    Jurassic Park again was more of a thrill ride than a scary movie

  • Comment number 32.

    @somefellacalledlime "no one ruins my family vacation, except me"

    "...and maybe the boy!"

  • Comment number 33.

    They are all great films, it's the closeness between theme parks and movies that troubles me. Not only are they the basis of godawful films (Pirates 1 - 4, Haunted Mansion) films can inspire boring rides (Saw, Harry Potter and I'm very sure the Avatar one will be equally unenthralling).

  • Comment number 34.

    Mmm, Westworld is great but isn’t it just fashionable to prefer the more cult Crichton movie rather than the huge blockbuster success that is Jurassic Park? As much as I enjoyed Westworld Jurassic Park is pretty much superior on every level.

    But if we are talking Theme Park Terror then surely the winner is the forthcoming & sadly inevitable Avatar land! 

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 - It's fashionable to knock Avatar, too...

  • Comment number 36.

    As others have said, I'd argue that Jurassic Park is a milestone of special effects development, showing what can actually be done with CGI. Even watching it almost 20 years later the dinosaurs are still completely believable without needing any fancy, over-the-top motion blur or particle effects, which in films like King Kong or any other more recent special effects-heavy film with CGI 'actors', actually detract from the experience. I spent half of Rise of the Planet of the Apes thinking 'yeah, that's really impressive CGI' without actually believing they were real apes.

  • Comment number 37.

    The ending of this video is really scary. lol

  • Comment number 38.

    I have to admit a certain nostalgic fondness for the original Jurassic Park as it was the first film I was ever really hyped-up on seeing. I was eight years old when it was first released and seriously into dinosaurs, so the whole thing was a major event (as I'm sure many who were children at the time can attest to). To be honest I don't think I've ever been so excited about a film since. Suffice to say, I'm definitely looking forward to watching it on the big screen again this weekend; it'll be 1993 all over again, except with vastly inflated ticket prices and three weeks of ads before the film. At least they didn't retro-fit it into 3D...

  • Comment number 39.

    #9 I agree. The moment when you first meet the T-Rex is still scary. Though I think by Jurassic Park III the effects had perhaps got a bit *too* real for my taste; the scene where one poor fellow is eaten by two T-Rexs springs to mind (torn in two).

    Jurassic Park was a milestone in special effects; it's too easy today to become jaded and dismissive just because we have better SFX.

  • Comment number 40.

    Saw it yesterday after work (right before I went to see Drive, now that's a great film)

    Anyhow my friend and I couldn't stop laughing at the nostaglia of it all. Even though he liked it, I still prefered Westworld.

    On another note; At a screening of Drive last night one of the trailers that was shown was the classic trailer for Ghostbusters, which is being re-released in October. Pretty much everytime a classic and much liked film is being released on Blu-Ray, there is a theatrical re-release of said film, or at the very least the first entry of said franchise.

    I was wondering what are Dr. K's thoughts on this trend of re-releasing (or reissuing)

  • Comment number 41.

    Whilst everyone else seems to remember Jurassic Park for its special effects, it's the sound I'll never forget. It was the first film to use DTS digital sound and the T-Rex attack was, and still is to this day, the most amazing thing I've ever heard in a cinema. It was loud (but not painfully so) and really added to the terror of that scene - 20 years later I'm still trying to find something that will top it. I really want to go and see the re-release but am slightly fearful that the showing in a small screen at my local cinema won't live up to the memory of that first viewing.

  • Comment number 42.

    One of the first things I said to my wife when we left the cinema having seen 'Jurassic Park' was, 'I wish Michael Crichton had directed this and Steven Spielberg had merely produced to attract the nice budget.' I love the 'Jurassic Park' films, but I always felt they could have been better with a little less sugar.

  • Comment number 43.

    In Mark's book he used Westworld to describe the current Hollywood film industry. I think another film directed and written by Crichton is a better choice: Looker. It's about about computer-generated images these days.

  • Comment number 44.

    #5 He is actually still on the Southbank. They put a garden on one of the roofs during the summer.

  • Comment number 45.

    I remember seeing Westworld, back in the seventies and I hated it. A pointless action movie with no more depth than "the robots have gone wrong and are trying to kill us" and a 90 minute chase scene.

    Crichton was an intellectual who had the soul of a dolt. An intellectual who dealt in populist pap and was vehemently anti-intellectual. He graduated from Harvard but he was an global warming denier and a believer in clairvoyance, astral projection and such like.

    His stories are shallow, puerile and trite, a problem which is, of course, irrelevant when making blockbuster movies out of them.

    But it is an insurmountable bar to making good films out of them.

  • Comment number 46.

    Took my kids (daughter, 10 and son, 6) to see it last night. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. I have seen it plenty of times but my daughter was seeing it for the first time and was impressed. Would agree that the effects do still stand up even today, especially the first T-Rex attack on the cars. A great set piece of modern cinema.

    Also agree that there should be more "oldies" put back into the cinema on a regular basis - the digital picture and sound quality on JP was excellent. Need to look out for Ghostbusters if that's coming back as well (BTW, the effects in that do not stand up today !)

  • Comment number 47.

    Having heard the news that there is to be a Robot Theme Park in South Korea this reminded me of Westworld. A question cropped up as to why this film had not been remade given that anything half decent is given the 21st Century remake. Could it be made any better and by whom?


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