This week on Movies Worth Rewatching we’re continuing our Steven Spielberg month by talking about the visual effects masterpiece Jurassic Park (1993, Universal Studios).
As a textbook “child of the 80s,” I was obsessed with dinosaurs while I was growing up. Although I couldn’t be bothered to focus on my school work, I could easily spout off difficult to pronounce dinosaur species names and cutting-edge scientific facts regarding the daily lives and eventual demise of dinosaurs. In the summer of 1993 I was only 10 years old and when I saw the trailer for Jurassic Park I literally geeked out for the first time in my life. Up until then I’d seen amazing things happen in movies but never something that had completely suspended my disbelief. As far as I was concerned, Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park had brought dinosaurs back to life and I absolutely had to see it.
In the weeks leading up to the release of Jurassic Park, I became totally obsessed with the film. Life would stop when the TV spot would air during a commercial break. I would spend hours at Walden Books looking at every book or little piece of marketing Universal Studios put out. For the first time in my life I was completely swept away by the marketing of a film. I begged and pleaded with my parents to take me to the theater to see Jurassic Park but a PG-13 rating and a younger brother stood between me and my cinematic bliss. I remember my juvenile agony just like it was yesterday, “Mom and Dad, why can’t I go see the movie with people getting eaten by dinosaurs?” When all hope seemed like it was lost, my Mom asked me if I’d like to go see a movie with her, just the two of us. On the way to the theater my Mom kept me in suspense up until we finally arrived at the ticket booth and my hope was fulfilled, we were seeing Jurassic Park during it’s opening weekend in a packed theater!
Jurassic Park completely blew me away! Up until then, I’d never experienced anticipation for seeing a film for the first time and, thankfully, Jurassic Park was everything I hoped for and more. The effects were breathtaking, and just like John Hammond’s fictional attractions, they literally drove me out of my mind. The story was mesmerizing and surprisingly grounded. I was watching as children my age ran in terror while creatures I’d only ever seen in books chased them around the screen. The music, the adventure, the dinosaurs, I was absolutely in love with Jurassic Park and the power that stories and movies possessed.
So… how does it hold up today 19 years later?
I STILL absolutely love this movie. Jurassic Park may be a tentpole memory from my childhood but it’s completely relevant and entertaining today. The special effects are just as breathtaking today as they were in 1993, not just because of the quality of work that went into creating them but because of how they’re used. There is so much power in that first full-body dinosaur effect shot that resonates through to this day. The audience is told, through beautiful composition, that what they’re seeing is spectacular and awe inspiring and those effects, despite modern advancements in computer animation, still move me like few other special effects have.
The immensely talented cast of Jurassic Park do their part as well, by delivering fantastic performances that make you feel the “real” presence of these creatures; not to mention the numerous and touching character moments found throughout this film where their performances really shine. Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) pushing Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) out of his comfort zone by discussing matters of the heart, or Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) challenging John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) ideology. My favorite character moment, however, is the tree top nap of Dr. Grant and the children while trying to survive a night in Jurassic Park. During that scene, we simultaneously see Dr. Grant grow as a father figure and protecter as well as his acceptance of his new “extinct” place in the scientific community. Absolutely fantastic!
Jurassic Park happens to mean so much more to me than just entertainment and nostalgia. There are moments in our lives that we can look back on years later and say “that’s it, that’s when I knew what I was going to do with my life” and Jurassic Park is definitely one of those moments for me. This film conjured a love for storytelling in me that has affected nearly every single day of my life since. After seeing it, I was hungry for more of the immersion I felt while watching Jurassic Park resulting in me consuming stories and entertainment with a new found gusto. Eventually I would become discontent with just consuming new stories and start writing my own, forever trying to recreate that power I first felt while watching Jurassic Park. I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet as a storyteller, and perhaps I never will, but I’m certainly trying. I’m reaching for that level of storytelling mastery where I can affect people’s lives, where I can make them completely forget that what they’re seeing or reading isn’t real. Jurassic Park was my first contact with that power, and because of that it will always be very special to me. Part of that impact was because my own life and interest led me to want to believe in something like Jurassic Park, but mostly, I think the credit is due to the incredibly talented people involved in the making of this film (and my Mom, of course, for taking me to go see it).
Jurassic Park is available on Blu-ray and DVD and is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time. I highly recommend you take your own journey to Isla Nublar and experience all the wonder and excitement that Jurassic Park has to offer. I’ll see you there.
by Mel Dale