Movies to See Before You Die: ‘Jurassic Park’
Jurassic Park is back in theaters, just in time for the 20th anniversary of its release in 1993, albeit converted to 3D. If you somehow haven’t seen one of the greatest pure popcorn movies of all time, then you should to see Jurassic Park 3D, because Jurassic Park is absolutely a Movie to See Before You Die.
“Hold on to your butts.”
In June of 1993, I was 14 years old, and the perfect age to witness Jurassic Park for the first time, especially on the big screen. Every important beat became indelibly seared into my memory: from the wonder at watching a brachiosaurus raise up on its hind legs to pluck a leaf from the top of a massive tree, to the pulse-pounding flight of Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) from a darkened bunker where she’s just come face-to-face with a vicious velociraptor.
Being of the right age, I panicked (delightedly so) right along with Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello) during two key sequences: the roadside assault by a tyrannosaurus rex, and being stalked through the kitchen by a pair of deadly velociraptors.
Jurassic Park was a ride, and it was one I took often after that initial viewing. There were many films I watched too many times in my teens, but Jurassic Park was easily one of the best of them.
“We’ve made living biological attractions so astounding that they’ll capture the imagination of the entire planet.”
The greatest achievement of Jurassic Park is the way director Steven Spielberg grips the audience with terror, but at the same time never loses the sense of wonder that everyone should feel at seeing the prehistoric creatures come to life. Jurassic Park was one of the first films to use computer-generated creatures so prominently, yet the balance was struck perfectly between Industrial Light & Magic’s CGI, and Stan Winston Studio’s amazing animatronic effects. So seamless is the use of these separate technologies that the dinosaurs still hold up 20 years later. Jurassic Park is still even more convincing than more modern movies that utilize CGI too extensively.
It’s like all the best aspects of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. wrapped into one film: You fear the T-rex or the raptors when you should, but you never fail to marvel at the triceratops or the brachiosaurus.
At the same time, it’s Spielberg storytelling at its purest. Full of fun, excitement and danger, Jurassic Park also touches on complex themes of genetic engineering (“the rape of the natural world”, as Jeff Goldblum‘s Ian Malcolm calls it), and mankind’s inability to handle what it doesn’t quite understand. In the midst of all the enormity of dinosaurs brought to life in the modern world, it’s Spielberg’s little touches that go the longest way. After all, no ten pages of dialogue could covey in such a powerful manner the ominous dread telegraphed by a rippling glass of water.
It’s all complimented by a beautiful score from the master himself, John Williams. As iconic as Williams’ career in film composition is, his score for Jurassic Park stands head and shoulders above many of his works, sitting right alongside Star Wars as one of his best.
“If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained.”
In a way, Jurassic Park is the last great pure popcorn movie from the man who invented the modern blockbuster with Jaws. 1993 itself saw the shift: With the release of both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in the same year, Steven Spielberg changed as a filmmaker, now bringing us more “important” films like Saving Private Ryan, War Horse and, most recently, Lincoln.
Certainly, Spielberg has not stopped with the blockbusters, but there’s a difference. Even Minority Report, which is an exceedingly fun film, has a bit of an air of “importance” to it. Spielberg’s heart didn’t appear to be into Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even Jurassic Park‘s own sequel, The Lost World, was lackluster in comparison.
Not coincidentally, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List are the two highest-ranked films of 1993 on Flickchart. 1993 is Spielberg in microcosm: the quintessential films of a master storyteller, separated by mere months.
“If the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
Such is my loathing for 3D as a filmmaking gimmick that I will not go to see Jurassic Park 3D this month, but by all accounts, it’s pretty great for a 3D post-conversion. Even though I’ve seen Jurassic Park at least a dozen times, my 20-year-old memories of being a kid in that darkened theater alongside my family are intact, and I wish not to sully them with a 3D technology I don’t enjoy. I cannot argue with this sentiment: If, for some reason, you have never seen Jurassic Park – or you have never seen it on the big screen – now is the time. Do yourself a favor. Go check it out. Go see Spielberg’s prehistoric monsters in all their glory…and all their size.
Marvel at one of the crowning achievements of one of cinema’s greatest living legends.