Finally, after 20 long years (well, actually, 19 years and ten months but a 20th anniversary release In June would have no chance against Iron-Man 3, let’s be honest) Jurassic Park is showing in theaters again! A lot has changed in the 238 months since it first opened. You no longer have to wait a whole year and a half to be able to watch the big blockbusters in the comfort of your own home on a VCR with bad tracking and a broken rewind button. Painstaking construction of animatronic, monstrous creatures requiring incredible film editing skills has been replaced by much more efficient, user friendly CGI technology. Of course, it took a while for Hollywood to get it right– the late nineties and early 20 oughts had its fair share of special effects that left audiences wishing for the more practical. Spider-Man comes to mind immediately. Jurassic Park may have also been the last time a book was made into a movie that DIDN’T leave audiences saying “the book was better” (although, the book WAS better, but the JP movie was so friggin’ entertaining and fun that it didn’t matter.) After viewing Jurassic Park again in theaters today, I have to say this movie still holds up. The dinosaurs are still terrifying, John Williams’ score is still amazing and sticks in your head for hours making you feel like simple tasks like washing dishes are an incredible adventure, and Jeff Goldblum is still awesome.
Most of the time during the movie I had to focus on tuning out the talkative teenagers sitting behind me and ignoring the woman that kept screaming everytime something surprising happened, but for the most part I was as riveted as I was the first time I saw the movie on opening day. I even thought the 3D was pretty cool. The jungle scenery and the close-ups of velociraptor faces were particularly impressive. What was a bit awkward, however, was the unusually large number of butt shots. Oh, you never noticed before? Just watch the movie again and count. Another thing that became apparant throughout the movie is Spielberg is an absolute genius when it comes to marketing. I totally lost count of the amount of times that the Jurassic Park logo appears on the screen. That logo appeared EVERYWHERE in the summer of 1993. Toy stores, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and clothes. It has become as universally recognized as the Superman symbol, the Ford logo, or even the cross!
Jurassic Park may have also been one of the best-cast movies ever. Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond seems, at first, like just a greedy billionaire looking to capitalize on a new, misunderstood science at all costs. As the movie goes on, you start to sympathize with the character as someone who really just wants to bring joy to the world but whose plans backfired causing the deaths of several and almost cost him his own grandchildren. You literally watch his dreams go up in smoke. Wayne Knight brilliantly played stereotypically creepy computer nerd Dennis Nedry. Sam Neill plays Dr. Grant, a paleontologist who hates kids because they’re so annoying, until he becomes responsible for the lives of two children while being attacked by dinosaurs. Laura Dern plays paleobotanist, Dr. Sadler. I’ll be honest here. Before Jurassic Park, I never even heard the word “paleobotanist,” but who better equipped to survive attacks by velociraptor and T-Rex clones than someone who studies extinct plants? Samuel L. Jackson plays Mr. Arnold. You can sense the tension oozing from Jackson as he struggles to deliver all of his lines WITHOUT dropping any F-bombs. What also amazes me about Jackson is that 20 years after Jurassic Park, he actually looks younger. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum. He plays Ian Malcolm, an eccentric “Chaotician.” I don’t know what a chaotician does, but I know that I am seriously considering getting some business cards made for myself with that title. In all seriousness, though, Goldblum’s character is the one who predicts the dangers the rest of the characters will face right from the beginning. He is also the character that brings up the real moral dilemma inherent in cloning extinct animals for financial gain. He also has the best one-liners, like this gold nugget of wisdom dropped when he approaches triceratops feces: “Now that is one big pile of shit.”
I can’t emphasize enough how refreshing it was to see some good old-fashioned animatronic special effects in the theater. The dinosaurs had a realism about them that you just can’t get from CGI- at least not yet. The CGI that was used even looked better than most everything else made today. Modern filmmakers can learn a thing or two from a thorough study of Jurassic Park. Sometimes rubber-covered robots and bodysuits with only occasional, quick shots of CGI where needed is much more effective than having two hours’ worth of CGI pummeling you with sensory overload. The 3D conversion of JP is also very well-done, in my opinion. It’s not forced and it’s not overdone. If anything, it brings out the detail in the scenery and does a great job of putting you in the scene (while the annoying, talkative teenagers sitting behind you try their best to take you OUT of the scene). After all these years, this movie is still a fun ride. I don’t care who you are, we ALL had a childhood obsession with dinosaurs and Jurassic Park does an amazing job bringing them to life. I wish I could pit the JP dinosaurs against all of those weird animals in Avatar so I can watch the dinosaurs kick some space alien ass. Ok, so I’m a little biased.