1993 Steven Spielberg movie jurassic park has by far earned its title as a classic – aside from being the most accurate dinosaur film of its time and encouraging a whole generation of paleontologists, the film itself is simply superb. Nothing in the film is lost; every design choice, line and scene has a purpose. In today’s era of winding plots, jurassic park stays tight and taut, making it not only an exuberant blockbuster but also an effective survival horror.
jurassic park is a must-have for film students, as the film’s breakdown shows just how effective each shot is. There are reminders and foreshadowings, plots and characters in every image. And no scene really exemplifies this quite like the “Journey to the Island” sequence, which sets up the whole movie.
The helicopter ride to Isla Nublar is the first time audiences see the main adult protagonists together and the proper introduction for Dr. Ian Malcolm, mentioned earlier by Gennaro. In this scene, as the helicopter flies over the ocean, each character gets a chance to show off their personality and how they react to each other. Dr. Alan Grant is reserved and Gennaro is a deal breaker, but the way Ian bounces off John Hammond and Dr. Ellie Sattler not only lays the first hint that the park could be going awry with his chaos theory mentions, but also allows characterization of Ian. to catch up with the rest of the cast. He flirts shamelessly with Ellie, exhibits his work in a bombastic manner, and constantly slaps Hammond on the leg – which Hammond takes offense to. Ian establishes himself as gregarious, charming, and a bit manipulative, and in about a minute makes himself a likable character on par with the other previously established characters.
And then, as Hammond draws attention to them approaching their destination, the scene cuts to one of the franchise’s most memorable shots, the one almost everyone mentions when reminiscing about the movie: the foreground of the island itself, when the jurassic park The theme kicks off triumphantly for the first time, illustrating the wonder that awaits everyone. It’s beautiful, moving and moving, and at first glance it’s easy to miss how little the helicopter is against the backdrop of the island. The camera follows the helicopter, but it doesn’t stay close – every shot makes it look diminished and unimpressive. It is a subtle hint that the machinations of mankind are small in the face of the power of nature.
When the camera returns to the inside of the helicopter, the characters only get a moment before things go awry: wind shears, which cause the helicopter to fall quickly. Hammond is quick to override this, employing sudden shock humor. Gennaro, meanwhile, is the first to grab safety and strap in; he is also the first to flee for the illusion of safety later when the T. Rex attacks. Ian follows immediately after, but Alan is the one who has technical difficulties, as he seems to constantly encounter: he ended up with two female loops, which means he cannot attach like everyone else.
It’s this little scene with the safety loops that really sets everything in the film: out of this group, Alan finds himself in the most danger because he gets lost in the park after the safety precautions and the technology have failed. Ellie and Hammond try to help, but in the end, Alan is the one who figures out how to tie himself – by tying the two belts together. This suggests that dinosaurs will later be able to reproduce, that “life finds a way”. But at the same time, it not only shows Alan’s ingenuity, but also how the characters are able to survive – human ingenuity in the face of adversity.
The helicopter eventually lands and the characters explore the park with all its wonders and perils, but what amounts to a five-minute sequence effectively sets up the rest of the two-hour film, while adding another character to the mix. It’s nice, tight, and character-driven, and while it’s all subtle, that’s what makes the film such a memorable masterpiece.