I was almost five years old when ‘Jurassic Park’ roared into theatres. As a kid who loved dinosaurs (I still do to be honest) this film really did tick all the boxes for a child my age. But I never saw it at the cinema; I was given it as a gift for Christmas on VHS. Despite watching it on a screen a fraction of the size of those found in your nearest multiplex, the film still captivated, enthralled and terrified me in equal measure. That gift is one of the best I have ever received.
During my young years my love for cinema grew and I found a sense of accomplishment in watching historic masterpieces like ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy at the cinema. But I had a long, burning regret that I never saw Spielberg’s film on the big screen. In 2011, Universal re-released ‘Jurassic Park’ for a limited time (if memory serves me right, it was only in cinemas a fortnight). After hearing this news I knew I had to go and see this movie in an environment it was designed for; a pitch black screen, booming sound system and crystal clear images. Going in I was a little concerned. Excited, but concerned. I was worried how the nearly twenty year old special effects would hold up under the scrutiny of an enlarged image. I had seen this film so many times over the years, I was worried I had exhausted all pleasure from it after so many viewings. I needn’t have worried.
I’m sure you are all aware of the story but for those that are uninitiated I shall briefly detail the plot. The story centres on Dr Grant (Sam Neill) who is asked, along with a colleague and possible love interest played by Laura Dern, to see a new theme park built and financed by John Hammond, a wealthy businessman. The park is like a zoo; except instead of animals we have dinosaurs. Soon, as you may expect, things start to go awry when the prehistoric animals escape.
After the opening (which is still as intense as ever) our heroes board that familiar helicopter and head towards the island. As soon as Attenborough’s character John Hammond said “there it is”, and John Williams iconic score pulsated through the speakers, a wave of nostalgia overcame me. My skin was riddled with goosebumps and I was taken back to a time 20 years in the making. I was transported back to my childhood; and I could not stop smiling.
The performances are great throughout, especially the kids who carry a particularly tense sequence on their tiny shoulders towards the climax of the film, and Jeff Goldblum is still the king of cool with his leather jacket and rock star attitude. But it’s the animatronic dinosaurs that steal the show.
The reason why ‘Jurassic Park’ holds up today is the perfect balance of beautiful CGI and realistic animatronic creatures. Having seen the trailer for ‘Jurassic World’, I have concerns about its over-reliance on CGI. Even if the film is great, in ten years the film will look dated. Spielberg’s film hold up now because the dinosaurs look realistic, except for a couple of CGI shots that look a little bit wobbly. The T-Rex in the film’s most famous sequence is as terrifying today as it was in ’93; it’s probably more frightening than it was 65 million years ago when it actually walked the earth. Many critics have lauded the film over the years, but have unfairly dismissed it from being truly great, saying it’s merely a rollercoaster ride. I think this is an unfair assessment on what is one of Spielberg’s finest works; it is certainly up there with the likes of ‘Jaws’.
Dr Grant’s character is, from the outset, afraid of children. As the film goes on and the kids become more and more dependent on his guidance for their own survival, it is clear that he is battling his own inner demons; his fear of parenthood. The dinosaurs represent Dr Grant’s fear of being a poor father, afraid that he won’t be able to protect them from the dangers of the world. Parenthood is a theme consistently explored in Spielberg’s films; ‘E.T.’ and ‘A.I: Artificial Intelligence’ spring to mind. To dismiss the films as merely a thrill ride does a disservice to a storyteller so great, he manages to balance blockbuster entertainment with art house themes. Only Christopher Nolan can do that in modern cinema.
‘Jurassic Park’ is one of the finest films ever made; a triumph of action, drama and emotion. It is a rare cinematic experience; they simply don’t make films like this anymore. They may try with another installment, but without Spielberg’s vision, it is unlikely to succeed the way the original did.
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG
STARRING: SAM NEILL, LAURA DERN, JEFF GOLDBLUM, RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH