Flashback: Jurassic Park (1993)

This is the film that made me a science fiction and fantasy lover. Not only that, but a lover of cinema.

I must have been about 5 or 6 years old when I first saw this, and in the full swing of my compulsory childhood dinosaur phase. It completely changed my life, and opened my eyes to the future of filmmaking.

And not just my awe-inspired self, apparently. On its release in 1993, it managed to gross over $914 million, making it the most financially successful film to date, even surpassing Spielberg’s other considered masterpiece, E.T., and winning three Academy Awards – two for effects and one for sound. Even now it remains in the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time – a sure sign of its stability.

The film is an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1990 bestselling novel, Jurassic Park, and the use of advanced technology to extract dinosaur DNA from inside amber-imprisoned mosquitoes and clone them, bringing them back to life. The vision of wealthy entrepreneur and dinosaur enthusiast John Hammond is brought to life on the fictional Costa Rican island of Isla Nublar, where a prehistoric safari ride is built. The ensemble cast are brought together by Hammond to review the park before it is opened to the general public, including a sceptic paleontologist  Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his partner Ellie Satler (Laura Dern); neurotic chaotician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards).  When an employee of a rival organisation shuts down the security and steals an embryo the residents run free, and the visitors are faced with a hungry, razor-toothed, alien terror.

Jurassic Park was a pioneer of CGI (computer generated imagery), and coupled with above-par animatronics from Stan Winston Studios, the dinosaur special effects are incredible, standing the test of time well, perhaps unlike many of its peers. The artists and animators worked closely with paleontologists to make the animals as convincing as possible, and it shows. Completely believable, suitably terrifying and sympathetic in equal amounts, when placed in the lush island habitat it is no wonder the film captured the hearts and imaginations of a generation across the world.

The actors live up to their roles well, and while there are not exactly any Academy-winning performances here, it fits well with the overall effect of the film, feeling neither over-acted nor wooden. While the grandchildren may irritate on occasion, they nevertheless give solid performances, supporting the more experienced adults well. Richard Attenborough seems ideal in the role of deluded billionaire John Hammond, and both Neill and Goldblum are delightful in their contrasting roles. While there could have been more done with character progression, the script is sharp and fast, and John Williams’ score is now one of the most recognised film theme tunes to date, on a par with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Back to the Future.  However, it is Spielberg’s direction that really cements him up there as the godfather of modern film, and this film as one of the front members of the Hollywood boom in the 80s and early 90s.

Spawning two sequels and an international franchise worth nearly $2 billion, it has inspired countless works of fiction in all types of media, so here’s to hoping that it remains a prime example of storytelling for many years to come.

Tom

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