… Jurassic Park.”
Do you remember where you were when you heard those words for the first time? I saw Jurassic Park in a theater on the Outer Banks in June of 1993. I drove by that old theater recently and it is now a Starbucks. There has to be a social commentary in there somewhere.
While it may not hold the same impact as the day that Kennedy was shot or the Moon landing, I have found that the first viewing of Jurassic Park (1993) does resonate to a surprising degree. Regardless, Jurassic Park is the gold standard in which I hold all movie special effects still to this day. In my opinion, the suspension of disbelief and the seamless blend of animatronics and CGI have never been better than this one film which is now over twenty years old. I guess that child in all of us stood in awe of seeing that Apatosaurus on screen for the first time.
Not even the other Jurassic Park films have been able to recapture the magic of the first movie. Have we grown too used to spectacle? The latest movie in the series, Jurassic World (2015), seems like it will tackle this exact subject, albeit in a summer blockbuster manner. The park is now open and visitors from around the world have flocked to see the man-made dinosaur attractions, but they are bored with the same old dinos. Instead, they want something bigger and badder. Something to top the season before… what could go wrong? In the words of one of my best friends, “What type of liability insurance company is insuring Jurassic Park at this point?” I can hardly get flood insurance; Jurassic Park has a track record of human casualties! Their premium must be incredible.
Summer blockbusters are heading the same route, always trying to outdo the movie that came before it. For every amazing cinematic feat we are given a sequel or two, each competing to outdo the original. In terms of sheer Box Office success, this often works, but in terms of quality, it does not always pan out. We need look no further than The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) to see a movie that tries to outdo the original in every way. Even the book, written by Michael Crichton, brought back a character that was killed in the first novel in order to facilitate a sequel.
While The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a fairly fun film and has some excellent action pieces, I think few would argue that it has the same magic as the original. Perhaps the thrill of seeing your first Raptor is gone, or maybe it is the lack of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). Maybe it is even because this is not your first time hearing that brilliant John Williams theme! Perhaps Jurassic Park is just one of those films that comes around every decade or so that is impossible to top.
As a child, I was absolutely in love with dinosaurs, like so many boys are. I had an entire corner of my grandparents’ house that was a “paleontology” lab (i.e. a microscope and some rocks), and I would read anything I could on the subject. Even though that passion eventually faded, Jurassic Park brought it all back to the surface. It made me remember why I loved dinosaurs all over again. It made them majestic, scary and absolutely realistic.
Was Jurassic Park (or any of the sequels) remotely scientifically accurate? Not really, but it did introduce the idea to millions of people that the closest evolutionary relative to dinosaurs is the bird. That is pretty remarkable! Today we know that most dinosaurs had feathers; even T-Rex most likely had a little coat of feathers. It also made the Velociraptor one of the most popular dinosaurs of all time. Just ask Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers (2008).
I do not expect Jurassic World to teach me anything or give me a new favorite dinosaur. I do not expect the visual effects to be better than the first movie. What I do hope is that it makes me feel like that teen in a theater on the Outer Banks all those years ago. I want to feel like this experience will build a lasting memory. I want to remember where I was when I saw Jurassic World. I want that feeling so badly out of any movie I see now. I just hope Chris Pratt and his motorcycle gang of Velociraptors can provide that.
Check out all of the Jurassic Park films here at CPL and don’t forget to read the book. If you thought the movie for Jurassic Park was good, the book is even better. Get your name on the hold lists now because the book and movies will certainly be moving this summer after Jurassic World comes out on June 12th, 2015.