I was ten when Jurassic Park came out, and I loved it. For an entire summer I was completely obsessed – I went back to the cinema over and over to watch it, and filled my bedroom with countless toys, games and assorted merchandise (much of which I still own). For the last 18 years I’ve been itching to see the film at a cinema again, so I’m sure I don’t really need to go into detail about how much I enjoyed myself when I finally did earlier this week.
It’s interesting that, even accounting for the nostalgia factor, Jurassic Park is still a great film. The pre-credits sequence, where delivery of a new raptor goes horribly wrong sets the tone for the film perfectly, and watching a man being eaten by an unseen monster, while Bob Peck screams “Shoot her!” certainly hasn’t grown old in the 18 years since the film’s release. In fact, all of the tense moments hold up well, and in spite of now living in a world where jump-scares and gore are the norm, the slowly ramped up tension of Jurassic Park remains as effective as ever.
The effects work has also stood the test of time well. A few of the CGI shots look a little ropey, particularly when Alan stands in front of the Brachiosaurs, and in the scene where the Gallimimus* are running from the T-Rex, but most of it either looks great, or passes without being at all noticeable. What’s particularly interesting, and something of a surprise now, is how much of the effects work is practical. Nearly all the close-ups feature parts of, if not whole dinosaurs built by Stan Winston’s SFX team, leaving only 6 minutes in the whole film that relied upon digital dinos. Unsurprisingly, these practical effects are as stunning now as they ever were – perhaps more so given the rarity of physical creature effects in modern filmmaking.
Looking more dated than the tech used to make the film is the science and technology used in the film. Apart from the non-existence of the internet, mobile phones and satellite phones, the big, chunky computer monitors, and DOS-based computer displays seem very odd now, although not as odd as Lex’s excitement when she finds out that the Jeeps have “an interactive CD-ROM” – a moment that elicited nostalgic sighs from everyone in the audience over 25, and confused whispers of “what’s a CD?” from everyone younger.
What’s really surprising is how the quaint the scientific ideas seem. In the two decades since the film’s initial release, we’ve had somewhere in the region of 2,976,342 documentaries on the possibility of reviving dinosaurs using cloning, all spurred by Jurassic Park’s massive success first time round. Consequently the on screen explanations of the idea have lost some of their impact. It’s also worth noting that, since the film’s release, Alan Grant’s contention that dinosaurs evolved into birds has now become much more accepted among palaeontologists, which makes his character seem a bit less of a maverick scientist, and a bit more like the smartest man in the room. That said, regardless of the current scientific orthodoxy, I refuse to believe that Velociraptors were anything other than 9 foot tall scaly monsters.
Regardless of all of this, though, the film really is excellent, and the cinema is absolutely the best place for it. Jurassic Park may well look OK on DVD, and maybe even stunning on Blu-Ray, but the only way to really get the full effect of watching a 40 ft tall dinosaur brought back to life is to see it on the biggest screen you can possibly find. Take this chance to do so, you never know when it’ll come round again.
Jurassic Park is back in cinemas throughout the UK now.
*I’m not sure of the plural form of Gallimimus, if anyone knows, please feel free to advise me in the comments.