Review of Jurassic Park 3D, Directed by Steven Spielberg
The year is 1993, and fictional bajillionaire (and genetic engineering tycoon) John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has finally done the un-doable: he has brought the dinosaurs back to life. Using DNA recovered from prehistoric mosquitoes preserved for millions of years in amber (and supplemented with frog DNA, to fill in any ‘gaps’), Hammond and company have successfully cloned a whole bunch of freaking awesome dinosaurs, from the gentle Brachiosaurus to the clever Velociraptor to the vicious T. Rex (all of whom are carefully engineered females, so as to avoid any awkward and unplanned baby dinosaurs). Hammond’s goal is not the achievement of some kind of dinosaur-led world domination (though that too would make a great movie), but rather the completion of a sort dinosaur theme park/zoo on his own private island, where millions upon millions of delighted boys and girls can come face to face with the creatures that have fascinated young and old alike for generations. Hammond is well aware that he could charge patrons pretty much any number of limbs and other non-essential body parts for admission to his Jurassic Park, but he’s determined to make the park affordable, so all the kiddos can get their dino fix.
The only hiccup is that, the Velociraptors having rather inconveniently eaten one of the workmen, Hammond now needs a couple of respected outside experts to sign off on the project before the investors and lame-o lawyer-types will let him have his fun. Enter grizzled paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), leggy paleobotanist Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), and smarmy mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who specializes in chaos theory, because hey, why not? The three experts are joined by one of the aforementioned lawyer types, as well as Hammond’s grandkids, Lex and Tim. However, their tour of the facilities is troubled by the one-two punch of a tropical storm and a traitorous employee (Wayne Knight) who plans to sabotage Jurassic Park so he can engage in a little lucrative corporate espionage. Teeth-chomping, claw ripping, lung-busting shenanigans ensue.
Man, I forgot how much fun this movie is.
I don’t think I ever actually saw it in theatres. Twenty years ago (yes, it really has been 20 years), I was … ok, not that young, but still young enough that I think my folks may have had misgivings about letting me see a dude get ate up by a T. Rex on the big screen. Sure, I saw re-runs on cable, but there’s no doubt that Jurassic Park is one of those precious few films that really deserve to be seen on a 50+ foot screen. I am supremely grateful to Universal Pictures for giving the chance to rectify this tragically missed opportunity.
If you haven’t yet seen Jurassic Park on the big screen, go see it. Now.
If you have seen Jurassic Park on the big screen, go see it now anyway. It’s been 20 years, and you probably forgot how awesome it is. You may think you remember, but you don’t. Besides, this time it’s in 3D, and if you thought the dinosaurs were scary before … well, you’re in for a treat. I almost kicked the guy in front of me, is what I’m saying. Thank goodness I didn’t have popcorn in my lap, or I would have been wearing it.
What surprised me most is how well the effects have held up over time. In a post-Lord of the Rings world, it’s easy to think that early 90s visual effects would elicit little more than titters of amusement. But I swear, those dinosaurs look more real than at least 85% of the CGI monsters than grace our screens today—and with a budget of $63 million? (If you’re wondering: the investment paid off with a worldwide gross box office of $914 million, plus whatever the 3D version rakes in.) Look to the past and learn, Hollywood. There is much wisdom here.
And the effects aren’t the only draw here. This is not one of your modern effects-fests where there’s a bunch of cool CGI and not much else. The cast is excellent—a chain-smoking Samuel L. Jackson! Newman! And crazy, ranting Jeff Goldblum!—and the storyline is both simple and effective: try to survive the night without being eaten by the newly-freed prehistoric monsters roaming the island. (Needless to say, some characters are more effective than others in this regard.)
But enough of my fangirl SQUEEEEing. (Seriously, though, it is so good. Please see it.) On to the substance of the film.
Fortunately, what substance there is is smack dab in the wide open, courtesy of beloved crackpot Jeff Goldblum: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. In the case of John Hammond, the ‘can’ part applies to the whole ‘bringing dinosaurs back to life’ thing. The ‘should’ aspect relates to, well, whether it’s a good idea in the first place, given the questionable ability of humans to manage and control the giant lizards of yesteryear, the rather catastrophic results when humans and dinosaurs co-exist, and the hubristic (and mistaken) belief that we can bend Nature to our will.
This ‘can vs. should’ debate is quite familiar to Christians. We use the ‘shoulds’ of Scripture to limit the ‘cans.’ If the Bible calls an action sin, then we are not to do it. Period. Granted, I don’t recall any verse decrying as wicked the breeding of long-extinct monsters, but whether or not it’s wicked, it certainly doesn’t seem very wise, and the Bible definitely has a lot to say about wisdom. (See generally Proverbs) And Paul admonishes us that just because something is permissible does not mean it is beneficial. (I Corinthians 6:12) The call to holiness forces us to go beyond the possible, beyond even the not-explicitly-forbidden. We are to strive for what is helpful, what is constructive. (I Corinthians 10:23) Which, okay, in hindsight the whole Jurassic Park idea was not all that beneficial, but surely Hammond thought he was doing something good, something constructive. He was educating children, after all. That’s got to be a worthwhile goal.
Which leads to the second lesson of Jurassic Park: Pride is bad. We know from Scripture that pride—the belief that we hold our own destiny in our hands and are, in fact, as gods over our domain—tends to lead to unpleasant consequences. (Genesis 3; Genesis 11:1-9) Pride goeth before a fall, after all (Proverbs 16:18)—or, sometimes, before death by T. Rex. And/or Velociraptors.
In the world of Jurassic Park, the guilty pride is the belief that humans could ever control Nature, control Life. As the always delightful Jeff Goldblum rather crazily intones: ‘Life, uh, finds a way.’ For Goldblum, Nature is the ultimate variable, and any attempt to control it is doomed from the start. Unfortunately for many of the denizens of Jurassic Park, he is proved right: Hammond and his team of scientists, computer technicians, big game hunters, and so on, despite their belief to the contrary, ‘never had control; that’s the illusion!’
I’ve never tried to clone a dinosaur, but I sure as Shinola buy into the lie that I am in control of my life. I believe that if I can just come up with the right plan, cross all my i’s, dot all my t’s, think and ponder and puzzle it all out, and try really, really hard, then I can avoid the bad things in my life, take hold of the good, rid myself of unwanted habits, and embrace a new, better me. What a load of baloney.
I should know better. After all, Christ Himself warned that worrying doesn’t accomplish a blessed thing. (Matthew 6:27) Godly wisdom and planning has its place, but I’m kidding myself if I think I’m in charge of the circumstances of my life. (Matthew 5:36) I am emphatically not the boss of my life, and I do not control what goes on around me, and none of my planning and scheming and self-delusion will ever change that. (Luke 12:16-20; James 4:13-16) God alone is sovereign, and He will have His way, whatever I may say to the contrary. (Jonah 1)
All of which sounds at first like terrible news … until you stop and realize that you are not in charge. God is in charge, and He is so much better at it that you or I could ever be. And just as I cannot impose my will on God, so too are others limited in their ability to impose their will on me. (Genesis 50:20; Exodus 5-14) The same God who thwarts my attempts at self-rule is also exercising His sovereignty over the whole world—and using everything everywhere for His glory, and for the good of His people.
So trust God, because He’s in charge and you’re not. And maybe don’t try to clone ancient monsters that could swallow you whole.