Want to feel old? Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park will be 30 years old in 2023.
Incredibly, it still holds up today, thanks to an amazing blend of bleeding-edge CG imagery and animatronics from Stan Winston, not to mention the high concept story from author Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s breathless direction.
However fun it may be, even 30 years on from its original release, Jurassic Park isn’t perfect. Repeated viewings do single out a few brilliantly tiny flaws you might have been too wowed to notice the first time around.
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It’s nit-picking, sure, but remember — we do it out of love.
The T-Rex ‘moat’
Here’s a goof you probably didn’t notice until at least the second or third viewing, purely because the sequence it occurs in is so intense.
When the Jeeps carrying the JP gang stop outside the Tyrannosaur paddock, the fences fail and the terrifying T-Rex makes his entrance, strolling out of his enclosure. However, a few short scenes later, the Rex pushes one of the Jeeps (carrying Tim) back into the paddock, where a 100ft drop has appeared out of nowhere, into which Alan and Lex fall.
Ardent Jurassic Park defenders will tell you the ‘T-Rex moat’ is in fact part of the park’s design, but if so it’s poorly communicated by Steven Spielberg, who – in fairness – was busy scaring the pants off of us.
The sneaky T-Rex
Reckon a Tyrannosaurus Rex could ever sneak up on you? Something tells us you’d hear and see it coming a mile off – in fact, the Rex’s booming footsteps could be felt from far away in the iconic water-ripple scene.
However, the movie’s dramatic climax sees the T-Rex become the hero of the story, swooping into shot at the last second to sink its teeth into a raptor, saving Alan, Ellie and the kids. You can just about forgive Spielberg for its inclusion because it’s a brilliant moment, but the fact is, the Rex’s return was a last-minute addition and it shows – not only does he show previously undisclosed ninja skills, but the 40ft beast gets into the Visitor’s Centre distressingly easily.
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One apologetic shot shows a gaping entrance still under construction, but it wasn’t visible in the same location earlier in the movie.
Jurassic Park’s state-of-the-art video
Just a small niggle this one, which you can write off thanks to Hollywood’s fast and loose approach to depicting computer technology back in the early 90s. When Dennis Nedry is talking to his guy at the dock before he does the embryo run, he does so via the medium of webcam – a live feed delivered straight to his desktop.
The only problem is, Jurassic Park's technology consultant didn’t notice that the ‘live’ video of Nedry’s rain-drenched chum is very clearly a pre-recorded QuickTime video – you can tell, because the time indicator moves along the bottom as if it were playing.
But in a movie where dinosaurs have been brought back from extinction, we’ll let this one slide.
Tim, the most unhelpful child in the world
Though he’s not quite in the same league as young Anakin Skywalker in the annoying movie kid stakes, little Tim (Joseph Mazzello) is still pretty useless to have around in an emergency.
Late in the movie, when the raptors are loose and the fences are down, Lex proves her worth by logging onto the park’s computer system and relocking the doors, while Alan Grant and Ellie are busting their backs trying to keep a snarling raptor out of the control room. Their gun is tantalisingly out of reach, but does Tim help by passing it to them?
No, he just stands there fretting, being a tiny minus in a situation in dire need of a plus. Tsk, kids – if you can’t count on them during a dinosaur attack, what good are they?
In an early version of the movie, Nedry makes it to the embryo room, opens the container and on display are samples from breeds of dinosaurs including ‘Tyranosaur’ and ‘Stegasaurus’. The palaeontologists — or heck, just the good spellers — among you will notice those are both misspelled: quite an error for one of the most scientifically advanced stations on the planet. It’s since been amended on digital versions of the film.
Now, you could argue this was an intentional mistake on the behalf of the movie’s props department, showing how the park staff’s poor attention to detail would end up costing them dearly. We’ll pretend it was done accidentally on purpose, just to spare their blushes. (Remember guys: Jurassic has one ‘r’ and two ‘s’s).
"That is one big pile of s***!"
An early mystery in Jurassic Park, which everyone seems to somehow get involved in, sees a poorly Triceratops struck down with a bad case of indigestion. The park’s staff can’t figure out what’s wrong with her, and Laura Dern's Ellie Sattler can’t seem to get to the bottom of the problem either, sifting through the dinosaur’s excrement to no avail.
The strange thing is, in the rush to be terrorised by the T-Rex, the movie never explains what caused the Triceratops’ ailment. The book, however, has the answers: the old girl would eat small rocks to aid her digestion, then regurgitate them, along with the poisonous lilac berries that were causing her so much grief. All that dino doo-doo examined for nothing.
Just before she discovers the far-more exciting technological marvel that is living dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, botanist Ellie Sattler geeks out upon finding a species of plant that “has been extinct since the Cretaceous period”.
Now, you’d be right in thinking dinosaurs are far more interesting than plants, but there’s a logic hole here. The resurrection of the dinosaurs is explained by animated exposition deliverer Mr DNA – something about dinosaur blood preserved in a mosquito trapped in fossilised amber – but that method doesn’t explain the existence of plant-life that has long since gone extinct.
Jurassic Park's CG effects are astonishing for 1993 — so amazing, in fact, it was easy to overlook the fact that they were only used in fits and starts.
One famous scene sees Alan, Tim and Lex being chased by a flock of Gallimimus bipeds (“They're flocking this way!”), who rush past our fleeing heroes in a tidal wave of special effects. However, there is one revealing shot in this sequence, where the camera flips behind the characters but none of the dinosaurs that have just run past them are visible in front of them.
Why, it's almost as if they weren't actually there…
Power to the people
"I was overwhelmed by the power of this place," says Ellie Sattler. "But I made a mistake, too, I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now!" That’s very true, but you weren’t the only one to make a mistake, Ellie.
When Dr Sattler enters the Visitor’s Centre cafeteria where John Hammond is sitting eating ice cream, you can very clearly see the ceiling fans twirling away overhead, running on what we assume is mains power – unless the park’s only back-up generator was being used exclusively to keep the ice cream cool.
Richard Attenborough is a bona fide national treasure, but bless him, he can’t do accents to save his life. Sir Richard starts the movie with a pronounced Scottish burr, just stopping short of adopting a Connery-esque shpin (“We shpared no expenshe!”).
As the movie continues, however, John Hammond gradually loses his Highland brogue just as sure as he loses control of his park. By the time he reprised his role for a brief cameo in The Lost World, Hammond was about as Scottish as tea and crumpets.
Jurassic Park is streaming on NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership.