Next year, incredibly, marks the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's game-changing blockbuster Jurassic Park. Before those festivities commence, however, there's the small matter of this year's Jurassic World Dominion, the sixth film in the franchise, and the third of the modern trilogy begun (and now concluded) by Colin Trevorrow. While we don't yet know what the future holds, it's never a bad time to revisit the Jurassic past and present. Here's our pick of the series' most unforgettable moments to date.
The first twenty minutes of Jurassic Park are all about building anticipation, and even when we're in the park itself, Spielberg ekes out that moment of first reveal for as long as possible. Sam Neill and Laura Dern drop their jaws in wonder at something we're not being shown, until finally... There they are. Neill's dumbfounded “Ummm… it’s a dinosaur!” is really all there is to say.
We've been on safari with the gentler end of the dino-spectrum, but here's where the action starts, an hour in. There's a feeling of dread. Something is coming… Something big. Again, it’s all about the build-up and reveal, but rather than amazed faces this one starts with "do you feel that?" and ripples in a water glass. A goat, which had been tied up nearby and has since disappeared, suddenly returns in bloody pieces. Then we get glimpses: a claw, head coming into focus, wire fence breaking until, full reveal, the one you’ve been waiting for. It's a Tyrannosaurus! Rampaging ensues; in a thunder-and-lightning storm, just in case you’d missed the point that this is a Universal horror movie.
When You've Gotta Go...
Part of the same sequence, the craven Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) abandons the kids to save himself. It goes less than well for him, as he hides in an outhouse and is then exposed (and disposed of) on the toilet as his shelter disappears, giving us a grim laugh amid the tension. The point-of-view shifts between the kids ("He left us!"), Gennaro, and the observing Grant and Malcolm. "Well," says Goldblum, "when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go."
Jurassic Park isn't just about the spectacle of big monsters. The smaller creatures are menacing too. the film can roar, but it also creeps; Spielberg uses a bludgeon and a scalpel. Still in that same amazing middle sequence, we also cut to Wayne Knight's Dennis Nedry, up to no good but foiled by a Dilophosaurus. "That’s nice," he laughs nervously. "Thought you were one of your big brothers. You’re not so bad." He's wrong about that. Again, this is a PG-rated family adventure, but the visual grammar is absolutely that of the horror film: a man screaming, with black goo on his face, thinks he’s reached safety but the thing is in the car with him. Mercifully his death is obscured, but the sounds and the shaking jeep are visceral enough.
Are Those Meat-eating Meatasauruses?
"Just like a flock of birds evading a predator. Er… They’re flocking this way!" Yet another example of Spielberg's mastery of flipping tone in seconds, as the T-Rex shows up for some lunch. Wonder giving way to suspense: the film’s modus operandi in microcosm.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the original Jurassic Park was its positioning of the Velociraptors as the principal dino-villains, rather than making an obvious Big Bad of the Tyrannosaurus. The shock of their insidious sneakiness is brought home in this sequence, in which proficient hunter Robert Muldoon is outsmarted. "Clever girl," he marvels, as he realises, too late, that the raptors can plan and cooperate.
There's A Raptor In Me Kitchen
There's a slight Gremlins vibe to Nedry's death, and given that Spielberg was a prominent producer on that Joe Dante classic, it's no coincidence. We're reminded of that again here, with perhaps an echo of Gremlins' own kitchen sequence, as the kids are stalked round the pots and pans by the devious Raptors. The camera stalks too, particularly in that slow pan around the counter. evoking the prowling cameras in the likes of Halloweenand The Shining.
T-Rex Vs Raptors
And it turns out the T-Rex is the hero, as well as the MVP! In a genius moment of switcheroo, the most fearsome creature in the park actually saves the day. It's like the Terminator turning out to be a good guy, except not so much in an on-our-side way as an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend way.
THE LOST WORLD:
Reflecting the darker tone and slightly nastier humour of the first sequel, this one starts with a young girl getting attacked by cute little Compys. Yup, the first thing wholesome family-friendly Spielberg does in The Lost World is have dinos savage (though not kill) a little girl. As her mother’s scream conveys the appalling site she’s just seen, we cut from that to Jeff Goldblum yawning. Is that just a release-of-tension laugh, or a clue to Spielberg’s feelings about coming back?
Mommy’s very angry! Deliberately upping the stakes from the first film, this T-Rex sequence starts the same way with the threat of something large on the way and a first reveal of a head through a window. But then there’s another one on the other side – there are two of them! A Tyrannosaur couple have come to claim their injured offspring. They’re not hunting, they’re searching…
Ahh, hubris. A well-armed mercenary regiment gets taken out by unimpressed, silent enemies who know the lush jungle terrain better. This almost feels like a ‘Nam-movie joke.
T-Rex On Holiday
Again, the tremors, the ripples in water (in this case a fish tank)… The T-Rex's rampage through San Diego is cool and everything, but this little moment stands out: a bit of wide-eyed Spielberg kid wonder amid the carnage. By the time this film happened, Roland Emmerich’sGodzilla had already been announced, and The Lost World’s entire final sequence feels like a pre-emptive slapdown. T-Rex in the city! No pressure, Emmerich.
Jurassic Park III:
What this film lacks in Spielberg's presence behind the camera, it gains in a dream sequence of a talking raptor yelling Alan Grant's name on a plane.
Tyrannosaurus Vs Spinosaurus
Running from the T-Rex, our heroes bump into a bigger problem… And it came to pass that the giant Spinosaurus did fight a T-Rex. And the T-Rex fought… And prevailed not. Amping up the threat of your new super-monster by having it kill the previous one is a bit old hat, but there’s undeniable pleasure in the battle between awesome and awesomer. The jungle clearing also evokes the Ape vs Dinosaur fight in the original King Kong. Here though, the wrong guy loses...
It's A Trap!
Raptors being devious again. They can stalk, they can hunt, they can communicate and cooperate and plan… And they can use Michael Jeter’s twitching corpse as bait.
"It’s A Birdcage…"
We’d seen them flying high above, but the third movie was the first Jurassic Park to get us up close and personal with a pterodactyl. It doesn’t even arrive on the wing, but looms out of the mist as a strange, folded-up shape. And just for that extra level of threat, it’s a pterodactyl on a precarious and collapsing bridge.
Fetching The Ball
Behind you! There’s that shot of a giant eyeball through glass again, but also a great moment where you’re practically (or perhaps literally, we don’t know you) yelling at the characters on screen to turn around. Not that it’d help them. Much like in the original, the big dino-spectacular sequence kicks off around the hour mark, with some Indominus vs Stego action as well as the rollerball safari and chase.
If Jurassic World has anything, it has spectacle. The traditional mid-movie action extravaganza sees Irrfan Khan and his team take to the skies in a helicopter to hunt the Indominus, only to be crashed into the aviary by a Pterosaur attack. The only thing that would make the above shot cooler would be if the Indo was walking away from the explosion without acknowledging it.
Hello, Old Friend
Not the buck that got loose in San Diego. Not the feeb that got killed in III. This battle-scarred old friend is the original Rex from 1993. Bryce Dallas Howard lets her out of storage to go do her thing, and once again, she's instrumental in saving the day. A punching-the-air hero moment if ever there was one.
Indominus Vs Tyrannosaurus Vs Raptor Vs Mosasaurus!
The knock-down-drag-out battle between the Indominus and the T-Rex destroys the retail area of the theme park and eventually involves Blue, the chippy little raptor that Chris Pratt has been training. But gloriously, climactically, in a moment foreshadowed in the aquarium scene right at the beginning ... Here’s Moz!
Mosasaurus Vs Helicopter
And here's Moz again! In the opening moments of Fallen Kingdom, we find that Jurassic World has been closed down and a team has been sent in to collect tissue samples. It is not a simple process, even if they do make it out alive. Collateral damage: there's now a Mosasaurus loose in the open ocean.
Baryonyx Lava Attack
As if being in a room filling with lava wasn’t already stressful enough.
A really heart-wrenching moment as our guys escape the cataclysm on Isla Nublar and a Brachiosaurus on the shore keens after them before being engulfed in fire and ash. Ray Harryhausen always said his stop-motion creations weren’t monsters; they were creatures, with individual characters. That’s a lesson learned by, and one of the great achievements of all the Jurassic Park films. As with the return of the T-Rex in the last film, we realise we’re emotionally invested in these creatures. They aren’t just there to tear shit up.
Give You A Hand? (Sorry)
It is, frankly, always a pleasure to see Ted Levine. His death takes place inside a cage where the threat (in this case the Indoraptor) is supposed to be contained. The scene would feel like a nod to The Silence Of The Lambs anyway (specifically the bit when Lecter demonstrates he's no less dangerous in a box), but having Buffalo Bill in there underscores the point. It's a grisly kill, but not without humour, much of which comes from the schadenfreude of seeing the odious Ken Wheatley get his blubbering comeuppance.
Spielberg's original Jurassic Park is all-encompassingly good. It covers all the angles and tricks and opportunities and possibilities of its premise so thoroughly that it leaves the sequels with a problem: there's nothing fresh to really do except go bigger. Unless... you take it indoors and make it a haunted house movie. JA Bayona's film doesn't necessarily pull that bonkers concept off, but you have to give it points for trying. Here, the Indoraptor reaches towards Maisie’s bed like a giant, scaly Nosferatu. What else would you do but pull the sheet up?
JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION
Forget car chases – in the new instalment of the franchise, it's all about raptor chases. Never one to shy away from an action moment, the new film sees Chris Pratt's Owen Grady racing through the streets of Malta on a motorbike, in a frenetic, high-energy sequence, pursued by two Atrociraptors. Don't sound super friendly, do they?
In one of the most atmospheric sequences from the entire Jurassic franchise (and that's really saying something), Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing stealthily hides from the giant claws of a Therizinosaurus, by creeping through the jungle and slowly submerging herself in a lush green swamp – all in one long take. Goosebumps.
On Thin Ice
After a tense plane crash, Owen and new pilot pal Kayla (DeWanda Wise) find themselves face to face with a (finally!) feathered foe, the Pyroraptor. As they sprint to get away, the ground beneath them inevitably cracks, submerging us in a nail-biting scene that also lets the Pyroraptor show off its swimming skills.
Jurassic World Dominion is in cinemas now.