Jurassic Park is the first film that I can recall seeing at the movies. To understand why this is significant and to give perspective, Jurassic Park came out in 1993. I was born in 1990. Don’t worry – I wasn’t the three-year-old in the audience who wouldn’t shut up and stop crying or otherwise refrain from making noise. Rather, I was completely caught up in the experience. Who’d have thought that mankind would get the privilege of seeing dinosaurs walk the Earth once more?
And that’s what legendary director Steven Spielberg achieved with Jurassic Park, a spellbinding adventure based on the novel by Michael Crichton. The story goes that John Hammond (a grandfatherly Richard Attenborough) has created a special theme park on an island near Costa Rica. Why is it so special? Hammond and his skilled team of scientists have genetically engineered living, breathing dinosaurs. Unfortunately, a fatal accident requires him to get a group of experts to inspect the park and certify that it’s safe.
Enter Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill), a paleontologist or ‘dinosaur expert’. It’s at this point that I feel obliged to mention that I spent the majority of my early years pretending to dig up old dinosaur bones and wanting to be an archaeologist. I credit Dr Grant with both (even though it would make more sense for Indiana Jones to have been the inspiration for the latter). Alas, Dr Grant is ‘invited’ to the park along with paleobotanist and friend Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). They, along with eccentric chaotician Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), are flown via helicopter to Hammond’s mysterious park.
What happens next is best summed up by a line from Jurassic Park’s sequel, The Lost World: “Ooh, aah, that’s how it always starts. But then there’s running and screaming.” Indeed, it all starts off so magical and wondrous, but a bumbling Newman from Seinfeld and an act of nature later undo all of Hammond’s attempts to wield the power of god. He loses control of his facility and the dinosaurs run amok. All of a sudden Jurassic Park transforms itself into a contemporary monster movie – with at least two all-time classic sequences that still put their contenders to shame.
Boasting a magical score by maestro John Williams, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park are brought to life by a combination of masterful animatronics and puppetry, as well as CGI that looks so good that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the movie was made this year. Suffice to say that the effects have certainly stood the test of time. From the awe-inspiring first dino reveal to the final curtain, Spielberg and his team will make you believe that you’re actually seeing the animals as they would have been all those millions of years ago.
It’s not without faults though – despite the quality of the production, the T. rex encounter is simply so good that no thrills after it can match it. You might say the movie peaks early. That’s not to say the rest is bad, it’s just that it’s merely ‘awesome’ from that point on instead of ‘freaking amazing’. As for the 3D, it’s a bit superfluous really. It’s well done, and one scene featuring Jeff Goldblum’s glorious head surrounded by a halo of light was pretty damn impressive, but other than that it didn’t add much to the experience for me. It lacked the depth to make an impact. Don’t let that stop you from seeing this re-release though. Jurassic Park is an all-time classic that deserves to be seen on the big screen – particularly since Jurassic Park 4 is due to hit cinemas next year!
Jurassic Park is a thrilling, thought-provoking movie that quite literally changed the playing field in terms of what was achievable through film.