Last Saturday night, I must have been one of the few people not watching the Eurovision Song Contest. You know what I watched instead? Jurassic Park. And the pressure was on – it was my boyfriend’s favourite film growing up and remains in his top five favourite films of all time. And it was my first time seeing it. Would our relationship survive when the final credits roll?
Don’t worry, our relationship isn’t defined by our tastes in movies. But in the past he has pointed out things about some of my favourite films which surprisingly, and disappointingly, resulted in them quickly being knocked off my list (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bring It On – don’t worry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is safe, for now) and I already lack the correct level of fondness for his ultimate favourite film, Tongan Ninja. Long story short, it was important that I liked this film.
Fortunately, in my early film geek days, Spielberg was my first favourite director (before Cameron Crowe and Michel Gondry) and his 1993 dino-blockbuster has been on my ‘to watch’ list for years.
If you’re another person who managed to avoid seeing Jurassic Park for 20+ years, let me catch you up. It’s basically about a man who creates a real-life dinosaur theme park on an island in the middle of nowhere. They’ve managed to clone the beasts from DNA in mosquito blood and combined it with frog DNA to create a new generation of dinosaurs. So far so incredible.
Unfortunately for the park’s team, a freak storm hits the island, cutting the power and therefore rendering the electric fences useless. All hell breaks loose when the attractions start hunting down the guests – and they’re not happy!
Spielberg’s classic (a 20-year-old film can be a classic, right?) is a favourite among many a 20-something, as it has that kind of Goonies-esque air of nostalgia, with many people my age citing it as one of the first films they saw in the cinema. Hell, it was the first film the great Dawson Leery saw on the big screen, fact fans! That’s the kind of memory that stays with you forever and lends the film an extra layer of fondness.
The boyfriend is pushing 30 now but when he watches it even today, he’s still that dino-obsessed kid, clinging to the edge of his seat when the animals’ footsteps cause vibrations in the huge puddles and jumping when Jeff Goldblum is thrown from his car.
For me, watching it for the first time, there’s still a lot to be impressed by. Despite having read a lot about the film and seeing various clips on TV shows about great films, there were plenty of elements that surprised me, not least how well it stands up in such a technologically advanced age.
Spielberg is a master of suggestion rather than showing (much like Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense), as indicated with his first blockbuster Jaws 20 years earlier. What makes Jurassic Park such an effective genre hybrid (IMDB lists it as an adventure/sci-fi, but I’d be tempted to throw in a bit of horror and thriller there) is that the audience is spooked from the build-up, right up to the reveal. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that a significant portion of the film was shot using animatronics rather than CGI, which filmmakers seem all to quick to rely on today, meaning the actors had something to react to rather than the current green screen and tennis ball. The scene where Laura Dern tries to comfort a triceratops is surprisingly moving!
It’s little wonder the film won Oscars for its visual and sound effects.
On its initial release in 1993, Jurassic Park smashed box office records and, with its added merchandise opportunities, the studios were laughing all the way to the bank. Today ‘kids” films exploit their full marketing potential (the likes of Toy Story and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles re-boot are perfect examples), but few earn that classic status.
Jurassic Park really is one of those films which was a great representation of the time it was made but which also stands up against its contemporaries, evoking awe and wonder in the eyes of everyone who watches it, whether it’s for the first time or the 101st time!
What was your favourite childhood film? Does it still have the same effect today? And what happened when you and your partner shared your favourite films with each other? I’d love to know!