Jurassic Park was, far and away, the highest-grossing movie of 1993. It pulled in $914 million, more than doubling Mrs. Doubtfire’s total take, its nearest box office competitor. And that’s not counting what it pulled in with a line of action figures, T-shirts, lunch boxes, video games and “Dino-Sized” meals at McDonald’s. It was complete Jurassic Park mania.
None of this meant that Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were blown away by the movie. As you can see from this vintage clip, they were more than a little disappointed. “Jurassic Park has a number of peak thrills at the level of the attacks in Jaws and it has moments of real wonder,” Siskel said. “But when the animals are offscreen, the film really lags. That wasn’t true, when you think about it, with Jaws, which had three marvelous characters hunting the shark. Jurassic Park only has [Jeff] Goldblum. The rest of the crew only stands around and smiles, or schemes.”
Roger Ebert didn’t disagree. “This movie is a missed opportunity,” he said. “What he doesn’t have here, and what I really missed by Spielberg from a movie like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is the sense of awe, the sense of majesty. These creatures are back and its amazing. Right away, after an opening shot that has a little of that, the movie disintegrates, basically, into a monster movie where the dinosaurs are chasing everybody and the people are running away and there’s lots of action and lots of screaming.”
Despite all that, the duo gave Jurassic Park a very tepid thumbs up. Roger Ebert was far harsher on The Lost World: Jurassic Park four years later when he rated it with two stars and a thumbs down. Oddly enough, Ebert actually liked the widely-panned Jurassic Park III in 2001. He called it the “best blockbuster of the summer.” Sadly, Siskel and Ebert both passed away, in 1999 and 2013 respectively, and we’ll never get to hear their take on the soon-to-be-released Jurassic World.