Jurassic Park is a film that is very close to our hearts here at The Jurassic Park Podcast, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my Top 5 moments from the film. There are many brilliant scenes in Jurassic Park that could make up this Top 5 but having thought about it properly I think the following scenes really resonate with me not only leaving a sense of wonder, but also majesty, shock and horror. Growing up the following movie moments really affected me and still do to this day every time I watch the film. So let’s start with number 5, shall we?
5. Welcome to Jurassic Park (Brachiosaurus Scene)
20 minutes into Jurassic Park we are finally on the island of Isla Nublar and get our first look at the dinosaurs that inhabit Jurassic Park. This being the Brachiosaurus which walks into frame, starts feeding on the tree and rises up on it’s hind limbs to pull some more leaves off the branches above. This all occurs whilst Alan, Ellie and Hammond walk up to the wandering Brachiosaurus whilst Gennaro and Ian Malcolm look on the from the Jurassic Park Jeep Wranglers. This is also when the John Williams score really kicks in to great affect making this scene even more amazing. The scene goes onto show the Brachiosaurus wading through a lake alongside another majestically whilst a herd of Parasaurolophus are gathered at the water bank to drink.
The disbelief of seeing living breathing dinosaurs is palpable not just from Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler and Ian Malcolm but was probably the same reaction from those who had the opportunity to see the film in the cinema the first time back in 1993. The acting from Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough in this sequence is utterly fantastic and sets the tone for what the film is going to go onto show.
I must have been at least 7/8 years old when I first saw this scene for the first time. The Brachiosaurus rising up on it’s hind legs and crashing back down to Earth is such a powerful moment that just watching it makes you feel incredibly small. It is a brilliant piece of cinematography and probably one of Spielberg’s most memorable film scenes.
4. The Velociraptor Attack on Jophery
The Velociraptor attack on Jophery is my 4th Top film moment in Jurassic Park. It is the first action set piece of the film and shows the ferocity, intelligence and cunning of one of the Velociraptors in this case the “Big One”. This scene is very different to the attack scene depicted in the original Jurassic Park novel where a construction worker having been attacked by a Velociraptor on Isla Nublar is taken by helicopter to a hospital in Costa Rica and examined. I like the scene as showcased in the film for two reasons.
1. It sets the scene on the island of dinosaurs being transported and moved to their enclosures, whilst also showcasing the dangerous nature of the Velociraptors which the audience gets introduced to, these dinosaurs get much more screen time later on becoming the main dinosaurs antagonists of the film.
2. This scene also showcases unpredictability in complex systems, which is a running theme not only throughout Jurassic Park but the other sequels as well. The unpredictability of the Velociraptor running towards the gate and knocking Jophery off and grabbing him. It shows that in the moment the Jurassic Park staff are not prepared for the situation. This is another theme that runs throughout the film with the ‘illusion of control’ and whether those who are in control of Jurassic Park actually have any control if at all. The scene is quite a shocking attack scene as well with everything happening very fast, showcasing the Velociraptors as fast and intelligent which is seen more throughout the film.
3. The Dilophosaurus Attack on Dennis Nedry
The Dilophosaurus attack on Dennis Nedry is my 3rd Top moment from Jurassic Park. As a child I found the whole attack sequence quite terrifying yet I was still incredibly invested in wanting to watch it all the way through. Nedry’s demise in the original novel is much more brutal, gory and horrifying but the way it is depicted in the film is just as scary. I think the brilliance of this scene is we don’t see the Dilophosaur much at all until the actual attack. It isn’t shown on the tour at all up until this moment, until Dennis unfortunately comes across it. It hops around the trees in a playful and inquisitive manner and at first you think it is a very cute, inquisitive dinosaur. It isn’t until it unleashes it’s frill though that you realise that the Dilophosaurus is not only dangerous but a rather deadly predator spitting venom at its prey to immobilise it before killing and eating it. The scientific inaccuracies of Crichton’s dinosaurs have been talked to death over the years, most notably his depiction of the Dilophosaurus so I am not going to get into that here.
I have to say though that I really appreciate the design of the Dilophosaur in film. It is smaller then the Raptors to make it a bit more distinguishable, it’s quick, agile and quite intelligent. I also really love the colour scheme it has and the way the frill extends outward in attack mode. The attack sequence on Nedry is one of a few in Jurassic Park where there is no music present. All you can hear is the storm, rain the lightening, the ambiance of the Isla Nublar forests and the hooting Dilophosaur. I think the Stan Winston team did a fantastic job with making you believe the Dilophosaur was real, even now when I watch the build up to the attack it is just really remarkable to watch. The uncertainty and the suspense, the surprise attack, it is all so brilliantly filmed.
2. Badlands Fieldwork (Dr. Alan Grants & Dr. Ellie Sattler’s lives)
Some people may think this is a really odd Jurassic Park film moment to have in a Top 5. However this scene resonated with me loads as a child and it still does to this day. For starters the scene shows paleontological fieldwork taking place. In the film Dr. Alan Grant and his fieldwork team are digging up the remains of a Velociraptor and use an imaging system to show the whole skeleton. I love this scene for three reasons. 1. The scene shows what paleontological fieldwork is typically like. It isn’t glamorous, it’s difficult and it shows the realities of what work is like for both Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler.
This contrasts greatly to the life that the billionaire John Hammond heralds from, who we also get introduced to in this scene a little later on. 2. It is also where Grant talks about his hypothesis of dinosaurs evolving into birds which is a running theme throughout the film of ‘life finding a way’ producing the unexpected. 3. The Badlands fieldwork sequence is also referenced multiple times throughout the film. When Alan, Ellie and Malcolm make their way up the stairs in the Jurassic Park visitor centre Alan tells Ellie that they are out of the job, with Malcolm quickly quipping back “don’t you mean extinct?” In reference to how palaeontology has now changed due to dinosaurs now being brought back to life. This is brought up again when Lex says to Grant when they are in the tree “what are you and Ellie going to do now if you don’t have to dig up dinosaur bones anymore?” Grant replies “I don’t know, I guess we just have to evolve too.”
This is again referencing how palaeontology has changed because of this scientific breakthrough in genetic engineering. The final call back to the Badlands scene is actually the final scene in the film when the group leave Isla Nublar in the helicopter and Ellie and Alan both look out the window at the flying Pelicans. It is hard to tell what Alan is thinking in this scene. Possibly never being able to look at birds the same way after the events of the Jurassic Park? An acceptance of nature’s beauty and power? An acceptance of birds being living descendants of dinosaurs? The ending is very subjective. For me though the Badlands scene is the heart of the film, without it a lot of running themes through Jurassic Park wouldn’t be as impactful.
1. The Tyrannosaurus Rex Road Attack
I think many people would agree that this particular scene is a stand out Jurassic Park movie moment. This scene brings about a whole host of emotions. The uneasiness of hearing the Tyrannosaur footsteps getting louder and closer, with the focus on the cup of water vibrating. The goat disappearing. The goats leg dropping on the Jurassic Park explorer roof. The T.Rex putting it’s arm on the fence which has no power. The T.Rex realising the fence isn’t powered anymore. All this takes place and that is just what the dinosaur is doing let alone how the human characters are reacting to the situation, the weather with the rain and lightning crashing down. This scene is very close to what can be read in the original Jurassic Park novel and is so brilliantly filmed that for me it is my number 1. Jurassic Park film moment. The T.Rex attack scene uses a blend of animatronics and CGI to create a suspenseful, tense, edge of your seat experience where you truly feel peril about the story’s characters in the situation. It’s also important to note that no music is present in this scene, the events unfold right before your eyes.
The claustrophobicness of seeing Lex and Tim under the upturned explorer sinking into mud as the T.Rex pushes down on it with it’s leg, or Lex and Alan holding onto the wire on as they climb down the other side of the moat fence are all sequences that are brilliantly acted and captured. I think the biggest achievement in this scene altogether is the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex which would often get the shakes from being covered in rain all the time. It had to be patted down with towels multiple times during filming to dry it out - yet despite the excessiveness of the rain, the animatronic continued to work perfectly. It performed magnificently in the end and is a testament to the mechanical engineering at the time by Stan Winston and his animatronic team.
Jurassic Park pioneered much of the CGI and animatronic technology we are so accustomed today and for me the Tyrannosaurus Rex road attack sequence is the perfect example of how a blend of animatronics and CGI can create one of the most breath-taking action scenes that has ever been filmed. 26 years on from it’s release this scene is still as impactful as it was back in 1993 and probably always will be. It is a film making testament which will stand the test of time and will probably be regarded as one of the best directed dinosaur attack scenes ever filmed.