Jurassic Park ★★★½

This is the same dude who made Jaws, right?

The fun thing about movie magic is that a malfunctioning mechanical shark can make for a more terrifying monster movie than a server room's worth of state-of-the-art Velociraptors. Even so, these digital dinos hold up a lot better than the CGI in most movies — especially considering this one's so crazy old, there's a scene where a nerdy kid excitedly exclaims, “It's an interactive CD-ROM!”

And while computer rendering smooths the threatening edges off the monsters, casting softens Spielberg's Ph.D.-bearing, misanthropic hero archetype: Dr. Grant is no Dr. Jones. As much as we're supposed to believe he's a grump, Sam Neil will always be the nice guy who wants to settle down in Montana and raise rabbits. So even though they're both doctors, diggers, and dapper hat wearers, compare and contrast what it looks like right before Dr. Grant sets off on his journey and what it looks like when Dr. Jones prepares for his.

So, this isn't Jaws or Raiders — those movies had drama, adventure, and danger. This one is more about amusement and surprises. Instead of dreading what lurks unseen just below the surface, most of the threats in Jurassic Park are brightly lit and showing off. (Surprised to see Dean Cundey was also the director of photography for The Thing. Less surprised by his credits for Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future I–III.)

More than the visuals, the music probably best captures the feelings of awe and wonder that Spielberg's after. I'd say the main theme is up there with John Williams' finest. Just like in Superman, the music makes the special effects look better. (Though, I probably would have believed Christopher Reeve could fly even if GWAR had composed the score.)

Other thoughts from this re-watching:

Jeff Goldblum's character is a lot dorkier than I remember.

Laura Dern in mom jeans. Ouch.

This shot has always seemed weirdly self-referential, self-conscious, or maybe just kind of pointless: Where are these DNA codes coming from?

The procreation theme is inspired, but would work better if I believed the Alan Grant character's misanthropy more.

All the theme park stuff is brilliant — from the cartoon that explains DNA sequencing to the initial disappointment of not being able to see any of the animals in their habitats, which totally reminds me of childhood visits to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Also, making a real theme park ride based on a movie based on a fake theme park is pretty fun.

Finally, the only reason I re-watched this movie in the first place is because of this awesome band's goofy name. I used to think the name was just a silly lark, but after more than 500 words, I'm thinking maybe they're onto something.