(I wrote this late last year but, while looking over old pieces to repost over here, I realized this would make a good Scene Dissection. With Martha’s blessing, I’m reposting it here.)
Jurassic Park has many great and tense scenes but my favorite is the scene where the t-rex attacks the cars. It’s a wonderfully creepy scene, thanks to director Steven Spielberg and the visual effects crew.
The build-up to the scene is brilliant. There’s a torrential downpour outside and the power is out, leaving Alan, Ian, Lex, Tim, and Gennaro stranded in their cars in front of the t-rex fence. The goat, which the t-rex was supposed to eat, is still bleating and chained up. Everyone is terribly bored. And then the rumbles start.
Everyone’s on edge. Lex and Tim are starting to get scared and Gennaro makes lame excuses (“Maybe it’s the power turning back on”). It’s at this point that they notice that the goat is missing. “Where the goat?” wonders Lex. Her question is answered when the goat’s leg hits the window next to her. They all look up to see the t-rex devouring the goat… and touching the supposed to be electric fence with being hurt.
Seeing this, Gennaro freaks out and runs from the car into the nearby bathroom to hide. Alan and Ian are disgusted with his cowardice but their attention is distracted when the t-rex breaks through the fence. Alan motions for Ian to keep still, as the t-rex’s vision is based on movement. Tragically, Lex isn’t aware of this and, terrified for her life, she pulls out a huge ass flashlight and starts flashing it everywhere, getting the t-rex’s attention. The t-rex terrorizes the kids and demolishes their car, eventually flipping it over. To try and get the t-rex away from them, Alan tries to distract it with a flare. Ian distracts it further and nearly gets killed in the process. He also accidentally uncovers Gennaro’s hiding spot, which causes this to happen.
While this is going on, Alan is trying to rescue the kids from the now flipped over car. He’s able to get Lex out but Tim is stuck. While doing this, the t-rex returns and Lex lets out a terrified scream. Alan goes to cover her mouth and tells her not to move. The t-rex gets up real close to them and snorts, blowing Alan’s hat off. Not being able to see them, it starts pushing the car (with Tim still in it) off of a cliff, accidentally pushing Alan and Lex in the process. Alan is able to grab ahold of a broken fence to prevent him and Lex from falling to their deaths. The t-rex pushes the car into a tree and then lets out a magnificent, triumphant roar.
The scene is an absolutely brilliant one thanks to Spielberg’s masterful direction. Alongside Hitchcock, Spielberg is one of the best directors when it comes to tension. He best showed this in Jaws but Jurassic Park is up there in terms of ratcheting up tension. You’re on the edge of your seat from the moment the rumbles start and practically on the floor by the time it’s over.
It’s such a tense scene, most don’t even notice that there’s a huge plot hole in the scene. The same cliff that the t-rex pushes the car off of is the same area where the t-rex emerged from. This is logically impossible but, thanks to Spielberg’s direction, very few people notice this. It’s not like the plot hole of how the t-rex was able to slaughter everyone on the boat without leaving the cargo section in The Lost World: Jurassic Park where it’s obvious. I only noticed this after seeing the movie like 200 times and I sometimes forget that it’s a plot hole when I’m re-watching it. That’s the mark of a brilliant director.
Another reason for why the scene is so great is due to the amazing special effects. I personally find the effects in Jurassic Park to be better than the effects in Avatar or the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Shit, I think that the effects are better than the effects in Jurassic World. Jurassic Park, along with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is commonly cited as the start of the CGI revolution. However, most of the effects in Jurassic Park are practical, not CGI. The CGI is used to complement the practical effects, not overtake them. (Side-note: this is how I feel that CGI should be used in movies and TV shows but this isn’t the topic of this piece.) This is why the effects have aged so well. There’s a sense that something is actually there when the t-rex is menacing the kids.
There’s so much to love about this scene. The tension, the direction, the special effects, everything! Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies and the first I ever seriously loved. If it wasn’t for Jurassic Park, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be at the Avocado today.