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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In the summer of 1993, Jurassic Park was the biggest movie I had ever seen in theaters. It was a total event, and it was everywhere. Dinosaurs suddenly became the big in thing for me (replacing Ninja Turtles, probably – who can remember?) and Jurassic Park was the single greatest summer event film that could ever be. In a way, I still feel that’s partially true. Jurassic Park is one of the best summer blockbusters ever made, second perhaps only to Jaws, another Spielberg summer monster movie. Though the years have been somewhat unkind to the franchise (disappointing sequels tend to do that – See: The Matrix Trilogy), the original Jurassic Park film is still held in extremely high regard. Watching it again on a giant screen theater in 3D, it is totally easy to see why. This is just an insanely great summer movie.
Everyone knows the plot to Jurassic Park (is there anyone out there who actually hasn’t seen this movie?). When InGen CEO John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invites Dr.’s Malcolm, Grant, and Sattler (Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern) out to personally witness his amazing new theme park (and make an assessment for an insurance company in a plot point I never cared about as a kid), all hell breaks loose due to the devious machinations of a greedy employee (Wayne Knight, aka Newman from Seinfeld) and a fierce tropical storm. Dinosaurs are now free to run amok on the island, terrorizing our heroes, who must band together to restore power to the park and escape to the mainland. Of course it wouldn’t be a Spielberg film without children in danger, so Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richardson) are along for the ride as well. Yes, this is an incredibly light plot, but there’s just enough weighty science within to keep me interested throughout, and let’s be honest – this is an awesome popcorn flick so who cares about the nitty gritty of the plot?
One of the things that stuck out to me immediately about seeing Jurassic Park 3D was just how great the special effects are. They have really aged incredibly well, like a fine wine or the great Helen Mirren. The CG shots of the walking brachiosaurs are the only shots in the film that stand out as being particularly old-looking, and even they still look passable. Literally everything else, including the T-Rex and the velociraptors of course, still looks phenomenal. It helps that Spielberg and his creative team (which included legendary special effects men Stan Winston and Phil Tippett) used a blend of CG animation and practical effects in the film – always a good idea. The 3D in the film, obviously post-converted, looks pretty great as well. There aren’t a ton of cheap “popping out at you” effects here, and when there are they are used well. Jurassic Park is exactly the kind of film that lends itself well to 3D. I totally didn’t mind paying the premium price for this, despite it being twenty years old.
The film is still an incredibly suspenseful roller coaster ride as well. I can’t believe how frightening some of the scenes still are, including the initial T-Rex scenes and the raptors’ assault on the kitchen (made more frightening by the fact that they are chasing children). Watching the T-Rex break through the electric fence, devastate a Ford Explorer, and nearly bite Jeff Goldblum to death is still quite terrifying as well, and pretty awesome to behold. The raptors are especially a highlight, and I still love the tense scenes with Muldoon (the late Bob Peck), the ill-fated game warden of Jurassic Park, hunting the alpha raptor. Simply put, this is some grade-A blockbuster filmmaking courtesy of Spielberg and company.
There was a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth. That time was 1993. Thing is, this film has held up incredibly well. Had it been released in the summer of 2012, I’d honestly have rather gone to see it than something like The Avengers. There is a timeless quality to Jurassic Park, and the years have been incredibly kind to the film. This is a landmark summer release, perhaps the second best popcorn flick of all time, and just a special movie altogether. Spielberg and his effects team were at the top of their game, and arguably haven’t matched the feats of Jurassic Park in a summer movie since. I haven’t mentioned him much, but special attention should be paid to Jeff Goldblum here as well, as his portrayal of Ian Malcolm is quite awesome. It’s a shame about the sequels, but then again it’d be pretty hard to imitate the greatness of this movie.