Friday Flicks: Jurassic Park

Today, 25 years after the release of the novel and 22 years after the first film, Universal Studios releases the latest blockbuster in the the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World. While this new film is not based on a book, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the original Jurassic Park adaptation. Released in 1993 and based on the novel by author Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park was a groundbreaking summer blockbuster that shattered box office records and set a new standard for special effects in film.

By now, I think it is safe to say that almost everyone has seen Jurassic Park, or is at least familiar with the premise of the film. Like the novel, the film follows the story of an amusement park that is designed to display the fruits of a landmark scientific discovery. Through a painstaking process of collecting dinosaur DNA from petrified mosquitoes, scientists at InGen, led by John Hammond, are able to bring the extinct animals to life. Hammond's lawyers see enormous profitability, but urge him to have experts attest to the safety of the park. Hammond brings in Dr. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler, paleontologists, and mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm to tour the park and provide their expert recommendations.

When the group of scientists first set eyes on the dinosaurs of the park, they experience awe and wonder at seeing the incredible creatures. In 1993, and I'd argue still to this day, the audience shares in these feelings. The buildup is perfectly timed to the fantastic payoff of finally seeing the animals on screen. Add to this the fact that Jurassic Park marks the first time CGI was ever used to create animals on film, and you can understand the power and historical significance of this moment. But this moment is not meant to last. As the film continues, all of the failsafe, man-made systems begin to malfunction and the animals begin to overtake the island.

In the hands of director Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park is elevated from B-movie horror to a thoughtful commentary on morality in science. To be fair, the movie is pure escapist entertainment at its finest. The large set pieces are expertly crafted and the film plays as everything audiences have come to expect from a big-budget summer blockbuster. Still, on a larger level, the film questions the power of science  and dares to show both the magnificent and terrifying effects it can have. In the end, it is a lack of respect for the science that leads to the human's demise. This disregard for consequence in favor of profit and entertainment, also brings forth an interesting point. After 20 years, Jurassic Park remains the pinnacle of an effects driven movie. Spielberg manages to strike the perfect balance in the film, employing effects that truly serve the story. As we find ourselves now with every blockbuster film saturated in CGI effects, it is interesting to note that this film, which had far less access to the technology that filmmakers currently enjoy, remains far superior to many of the films that have followed it (even two sequels). It is the respect of the filmmakers for the science at their disposal that makes the story and film one of the most enjoyable blockbusters of all time.

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