Steven Spielberg's 1993 "dinosaurs on the loose" action-fest is almost comparable to Star Wars in the way it opened audiences' mind to the possibilities of visual effects (particularly, the previously little-used CGI). Even by today's standards the CGI and animatronic effects still hold a candle to modern efforts, breathing vivid life and personality into the prehistoric beasts. Due to seeing this movie in the theaters at a young age, certain scenes such as the first T-rex appearance and any suspenseful sequence with the velociraptors are forever burned in my memory.
But how does the actual movie hold up once the nostalgia goggles are taken off? Well, the film's biggest asset (aside from the entertaining visuals) is by far Spielberg's self-assured direction and it's tight pacing. There is very little wasted time when it comes to establishing the plot and key exposition points before diving into the awe-inspiring action sequences. Also, the touchingly emotional score by the ever-reliable John Williams is absolutely breath taking and is as iconic as the film itself.
While never boring, this sci-fi adventure is little different from the "big dumb Hollywood spectacles" that infest modern-day summers. The characters are rather unremarkable and under-written. John Hammond, the fun-loving park manager that is played delightfully by Richard Attenborough, is the only person that goes through anything resembling an arc but even then it's nothing spectacular. The story seems mostly concerned with getting to the next action set piece as soon as possible with little breathing room for the characters to develop. Due to this, actors such as Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Martin Ferrero are given very little to work with outside of clunky and cliché exposition-laden dialogue (the "show don't tell rule" is broken quite a few times in this film). Jeff Goldblum fairs a little better as Ian Malcolm despite being mostly regulated to one-dimensional comic relief, and meanwhile Wayne Knight gives way to some pretty funny moments.
The script tries to bring up ethical questions pertaining to "science vs. nature", but it's half-baked and practically dropped by the time the second-half kicks in. It also does not help how the characters act very stupid at times (Malcolm during the T-rex's debut appearance) and some pretty blatant continuity errors (the T-rex somehow sneaking up on velociraptors despite previously making tremors wherever it went).
In the end, this influential blockbuster delivers on its still-impressive special effects and infectious thrills, but stumbles with it's straightforward-to-a-fault narrative and thin characterization. While I'll always have a soft-spot for this flick, it's just a shame that as an adult what I remember so fondly makes up only a fraction of it's actual quality.