Critical Essay on Steven Spielberg's 'Jurassic Park'

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Steven Spielberg's 1993 action, adventure-filled, science-fiction thriller follows Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler. John Hammond discovers a mosquito frozen in tree sap from millions of years ago and gets the blood that the mosquito took from animals. He discovers that the mosquito had been carrying dinosaur DNA, so he then uses the DNA to create living dinosaurs. This film is celebrated for its amazing CGI effects and amazing visuals filled with beautiful shots of scenery.

In the opening shot of ‘Jurassic Park’, the film’s first establishing shots set the action in Isla Nublar at night, with only trees blowing as if something dangerous could happen at any given moment. Richard Muldoon, dinosaur experts, and other workers, including gatekeeper Jophery Brown, are attempting to transfer a Velociraptor to its holding cell. The workers then attempt to put the holding cell in place and the gatekeeper, Jophery, climbs up on top of the container to raise the gate to allow the raptor to get into the holding cell, but it goes wrong when the raptor charges, pushing the container away from the entrance to the pen. Jophery falls, but his legs remain caught in the raptor’s cell. The raptor begins to attack Jophery, mauling him to death. While Peck tries to hold onto him, the cameras get a close-up of Jophery’s hand slipping, while the other workers shoot and electrocute the raptor. Muldoon repeatedly shouts “Shoot her!”. The death of Jophery is what led to investors believing the park was unsafe, and thus a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician, and a lawyer tour the park in hopes of endorsing it.

The light and color in the film help to create a thrilling tension. In several scenes the light is placed behind the animal or person, creating a shadow, giving the audience a strange feeling that something is about to happen, as the audience gets a glimpse of what is there or the audience can hear footsteps, bushes, and trees rustling or the background music starts to become more conscious to the viewer. Spielberg uses more dark-earthy colors, such as browns and greens, to create a more realistic scheme of things, and also because the setting mostly takes place outside in the jungle. The colors are natural but saturated, so the film does not look lifeless and creates an uneasy feeling to the viewers unless Spielberg wants the audience to focus on a specific moment, or he wants the viewer to direct their attention to something using brighter colors or for scenes he will make the good moments feel rare for the viewer and the rare moments. For example, the green Jurassic Park tour cars become a focal point and stand out from the field because of the use of bright colors when the hurricane hit Jurassic Park and the tour cars have been stranded in the Tyrannosaurus Rex area. The color of the tour cars is green, which contrasts with the field of dirt and tracks used to keep the cars in line, making the cars more noticeable. Green is one of the colors he uses the most because it is associated with nature. Spielberg also uses red details throughout the film to symbolize danger. For example, the red scarf Ellie was wearing in the car gave subtle hints that something bad would happen in that sequence to the viewers.

The types of shots and angles Spielberg uses to create suspense in the film are track-in shots, which consist of the camera moving in on the subject from a medium close-up to a tighter close-up with the background slightly blurred to focus the viewers on an important part. The shots and angles are usually associated with the setting of a scene. For example, when Muldoon is hunting the raptor, the camera is angled as if the audience is looking through the raptor’s eyes. The effects, colors, lights, and sounds are tiny details to a person simply viewing the film and they would not pick up from the first time they watch the film. The angles of the camera also help to build the rising action and guide the viewer’s mood and create a feeling of being uneasy and anxious knowing that something could happen, for example, when they show the dinosaurs for the first time. Spielberg uses a long shot to size up the dinosaur so that in a viewer’s mind they are intimidated. Spielberg uses a wide shot most of the time when the different dinosaurs are revealed to the audience during the film to reinforce how much bigger these extraterrestrial beings are compared to a person, positioning the characters close to the dinosaur, stating the size difference between them. The close-up shots and extreme close-up shots used in ‘Jurassic Park’ are to show details about the dinosaurs, such as their eyes, legs, and mouths, to make the audience fearful. The closeup shots also use dynamics to create comparisons and illusions in the viewer’s mind, for example, the camera zooms into the enormous footprint of the Tyrannosaurus that turned into a puddle of water, and in the reflection was Dr. Grant comparing the size of his hand to the size of the dinosaur. Low angles are used when shooting a dinosaur to make the dinosaur appear bigger creating a fearful and scary mood. Spielberg also uses POV shots many times throughout the film, more so when it comes to the kids, which makes the audience feel smaller and open to harm when they encounter a dangerous scene by themselves or with Ellie or Alan, orchestrating a feeling of fear and anxiety. The over-the-shoulder shots are used to make the audience aware and feel as if they are there and a part of the film. Steven Spielberg is known for letting suspense and mystery build-up, for example, at the beginning of the film, Jophery, the gatekeeper, gets attacked, but he never reveals what is the attack to the audience, they just know it's happening. Later on in the film, just before the dinosaurs are revealed, the main characters are in a car and Dr. Grant looks over and sees the Tyrannosaurus Rex first and has a shocked facial expression, but Ellie nor the viewers have seen it yet. Alan gently turns Ellie’s head so she can see what he is seeing. The camera focuses on the shocked faces but does not reveal what they have seen to the viewer to continue and build up suspense. Then finally, after building up mystery and curiosity, the camera reveals to the viewers the cause of the surprise.

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Another strong aspect of ‘Jurassic Park’ is that movie is plot-driven more than character-driven. The characters are predominantly just job titles except for feeling fearful of Hammond’s grandchildren and themselves, but besides the normal human nature to be afraid of being eaten alive, the characters are extremely bland and the viewers do learn details about the characters, but it is more so that the actors do such a good job of playing their role that the viewer feels as if the character is opening up to them when the viewers are actually seeing a natural reaction to fear. Even smaller roles are associated with great actors, such as Samuel L. Jackson as a computer genius and Wayne Knight as the antagonist.

‘Jurassic Park’ is mostly composed of diegetic synchronous sound, as Spielberg incorporates happy classical music for the background and carefully plans certain instrumental music for every footstep thud, water shaking, and tree rustling moment in this film mostly for nostalgic purposes.

The production design of ‘Jurassic Park' by Rick Carter was stunning. He incorporated lots of geometric shaping of locations to project that dinosaurs currently reside in the area and represent how large these prehistoric creatures are. Carter one hundred percent matched the characters with the tone of ‘Jurassic Park’ and remained visually authentic while adding to ‘Jurassic Park’ as a film and not distracting the viewer with too much scenery.

The last important aspect of ‘Jurassic Park’ is all the themes that are incorporated in 127 minutes. ‘Jurassic Park’ tackles different issues humans face, such as science versus nature, greed, and how technology always fails when needed the most. Although there are a ton of themes that are incorporated into ‘Jurassic Park’, these are the main most important themes that teach the biggest listen to these characters, and also leave them with more insight into their field of research or regarding John Hammond’s grandchildren that even the things that seem useless always comes in handy at some point like, for example, Hammond's granddaughter has to reboot all of the security systems while two raptors are trying to attack Alan and Ellie and successfully reboots the security system due to the fact that she happened to pay attention in school when rebooting systems was taught.

‘Jurassic Park’ consists of many great elements, using diegesis, a great plot, CGI special effects, and actors to create an adventurous suspenseful thriller that remained consistent in its content and reliable in its character portrayal to push this amazing film past the finish line. This is a film that can only compel a viewer by watching and not reading an analysis.

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Critical Essay on Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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