A monster smash that's no dinosaur

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 July, 1993, 12:00am

JURASSIC PARK, with Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Category II. Panasia circuit. THE problem with films that receive the hype Jurassic Park has over the past few months is they almost always disappoint. Batman by no means lived up to what the promoters were promising, and Terminator 2 was a pale imitation of the original.

Jurassic Park has proved to be the exception.

No amount of previous publicity can spoil the breathtaking nature of the special effects achieved in this latest Spielberg trip beyond the imagination.

There are moments when it is virtually impossible to imagine the creatures stalking the grounds of Jurassic Park are simply a combination of prosthetic and computer animation technologies. The scene where a Tyrannosaurus Rex sets about destroying a landcruiser containing two battered children is nothing short of remarkable. The car is crushed and battered by the dinosaur's bulk and jaws in a thoroughly convincing display of might.

It is a scene designed to give most children - and some adults - nightmares for weeks.

Already the do-gooders are up in arms about the effect Jurassic Park is going to have on children. Certainly, the film is frightening and there are some pretty gory moments, but the point is children like to be frightened; that is why many are fascinatedby dinosaurs in the first place.

In Spielberg's film dinosaurs come back to life. This is violence born of fantasy, not a group of hoods carving each other up. A man being chomped by a rampaging Tyrannosaurus Rex does not have the same effect as watching one thug blow another's brains out.

Besides, what is the odd severed arm or disembowelled goat compared to the real disasters, butchery and violence one hears about in the news every day? But the film is not only about marauding carnivores. Fans of the technical aspects of Michael Crichton's excellent book will not be disappointed either. The best-selling novelist helped write the screenplay and the film dutifully reflects the messages and action of the novel.

Crichton's book is a delight to read because of the exhaustive and accurate research carried out into biotechnology and gene retrieval, and the film contains a whole section (somewhat clumsily incorporated, it has to be said) explaining how dinosaur DNA was extracted from mosquitoes caught in fossilised sap with the help of super-computers, and cloned to bring about the renaissance of the dinosaur.

Nonsense, but highly plausible nonsense, and so delightfully entertaining.

Attenborough, Dern and Neill are hardly stretched in their roles (all they have to do most of the time is look terrified) but Goldblum does get the chance to exploit his excellent sense of comic timing as an eccentric mathematician.

But then Jurassic Park is not about classic performances of high art. It is about entertainment, and it would be difficult for anyone to be anything but entertained by this movie.