Reader, I confess: I have failed in my trust with you. Due to a really, really busy first half of the week, I wasn’t able to rewatch Jurassic Park, this week’s subject for Hit Me with Your Best Shot at The Film Experience. Revisiting the film for my TFE column last week, I limited myself only to the scenes that had CGI dinosaurs, and though (SPOILER ALERT) I plan on reviewing the movie this weekend as my Sunday Classic, I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.
Long story short: I had to scrounge up something in my memory, and since (as a 12-year-old boy when the movie came out on VHS), I’ve seen it at least a few dozen times, the memories are pretty strong; sadly, having not seen it start-to-finish in at least seven or eight years, they’re not strong enough. So my pick for best shot necessarily has to be compromised, and I apologise.
That said, the movie’s not weak on wildly memorably imagery – it’s a Steven Spielberg joint, after all – and I suspect that I’d have had any better luck coming up with a better shot even if I had more time, particularly given my one rule: whatever I picked, there had to be a dino involved. For that reason, I almost went with the first panoramic shot of herds at the watering hole (the “Dr. Grant – my dear Dr. Sattler – welcome to Jurassic Park” shot, which despite being hokey as fuck is still a great, tingly line of dialogue), but as I learned last week, the CGI holds up there less than in pretty much every other shot. The silhouette of the velociraptor behind the glass mural in the welcome center restaurant was a strong enough contender that I had a discussion of it half-written before I decided that I dislike the kids in the movie enough that I didn’t want to include them in my shot. In the end, elegant simplicity won out, and that brings us to this:
It’s a bit obvious, sure. The primeval monster, emblazoned with the reflected light of the technology that caused it to come back and terrorise the present – and even as a 12-year-old I wondered where the hell all those ACGTs (the alphabet of the genetic code) were being projected from. But it’s certainly the best one-frame embodiment of the film’s slightly hysterical theme (though less hysterical than the novel) that mankind’s desire to tinker with science will kill us all. Also, it’s easily the most playfully-lit image in the entire movie, and one of the most abstractly beautiful images in this, the last Spielberg film shot by anyone besides Janusz Kaminski (the DP was Dean Cundey, of the gorgeous Halloween, among other things). You really need the image to be in motion to get the whole effect of light interplaying with the texture of the animatronic, but we’ve all seen Jurassic Park, right? I mean, come on.
Besides, it’s one of the tensest moments in the film, and the sudden shift to cool, dark imagery after all the feverish movement and warmer tones of the scenes leading up to this really drive that home (the sudden drop in the soundtrack does much the same thing). There’s nothing to distract us from the single motion of the predator raising its serpentine head, hunting.
Alright, so this might not be the deepest or sublimest piece of close analysis I’ve ever written, but for the High King of ’90s popcorn movies, I think that something relatively straightforward is not just allowable, but damn near compulsory.