Jurassic Park (1993)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Sometimes I wonder if director Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” which released the year after I was born, was the reason for my childhood fascination with dinosaurs, or if my fascination with dinosaurs was the reason for my early love of “Jurassic Park.” Either way, nostalgia-fueled my decision to revisit it on this boring day, and I thought nostalgia would be the main reason I would love it again, years after last seeing it. But I was wrong – nostalgia was only the beginning.
Based on the novel by the late sci-fi author and screenwriter Michael Crichton, “Jurassic Park” recites the story of a scientific experiment that leads to an amusement park full of living, breathing dinosaurs. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the park’s creator and patriarch, invites paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern), attorney Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and his own two grandchildren for a sneak preview of the park, to ensure safety and quality. When a tropical storm causes an electrical outage, allowing the dinosaurs to run freely across the island, all of their lives (not to mention the future of the amusement park) is put in grave danger.
Steven Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1994…not for “Jurassic Park,” but for another little picture titled “Schindler’s List.” Composer John Williams also won an Oscar that year for Best Original Score…but that, too, was for “Schindler’s List,” and not for the iconic music of “Jurassic Park,” which defined my entire imaginative childhood. I want to be on record and say that John Williams is the best film score composer of all time. Hans Zimmer and Howard Shore are great, but nothing says blockbuster like a Spielberg/Williams movie. Spielberg, who redefined suspense in 1975 with “Jaws” and took audiences on an exciting adventure in 1981 in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” took the best from both of those experiences to craft a film that used all of the classic techniques of suspense and took us on the ride of our lives in “Jurassic Park.” Close-up shots, haunting screams, quick camera movements, and Williams’ screeching music makes “Jurassic Park” a surprising thriller. But it’s the expressive, blockbustery performances of Neill, Dern, and Goldblum that make “Jurassic Park” such an unforgettable epic. Neill and Dern, especially, give faces to the childlike wonder you feel when you see the first dinosaurs. Even on my small television screen, “Jurassic Park” towers in its enormity. And even 20+ years after its release, its mostly-animatronic dinosaurs (Oscar-winning, I might add) still look pretty realistic! The velociraptors are terrifying, and the huge herbivores are majestic marvels.
But as much as “Jurassic Park” is about dinos, it’s also about humans – not just beings afraid for their lives, but the transformations that can occur under immense stress. A paleontologist uncovers the skeleton of his own heart. Siblings grow closer than perhaps they ever would have imagined. And it also has a social and scientific conscience, too. It’s about playing God, and the evils that can follow. Goldblum shouts his worries to the heavens, just to see them all come true.
I can’t do a monstrous masterpiece like “Jurassic Park” any real justice. The only way to understand the magical wonder and excitement I’m talking about is to watch it yourself.