“Jurassic Park” was released in 1993 and directed by Steven Spielberg with a script by Michael Crichton and David Koepp. It starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough.
After nearly 30 years since its release, what makes “Jurassic Park” remain so enjoyable is that it has all the elements of an intelligent blockbuster that are generally absent from modern big-budget releases. In many ways it represents the last cinematic event of its kind, with a strong focus on character over mindless spectacle, a clever plot that treats its audience like they have an IQ over 20, and a sense of wonder. Wonder in particular is absent from modern entertainment. Movies no longer take time to pause and let the audience calmly take in the visuals and epic concepts, instead rushing us along from generic plot point to generic plot point. No longer do studios find new ideas for major blockbusters. No longer are these massive event films just as good, if not better, than independent movies.
As many critics have pointed out thousands of times, the characters are the true standout of “Jurassic Park.” Whether we’re following Alan Grant as he learns to unwind and bond with children or Ian Malcolm explaining the clear dangers of having a dinosaur amusement park or Ellie Sadler help a sick stegosaurus, these terrific characters make us connect with every scene. We care about them due to their humor, wit, and competence (another thing missing from modern blockbusters), and therefore when the dinosaurs show up, we’re more focused on the characters’ survival than the spectacle. This creates an emotionally resonant and engaging story.
The performances in this film are phenomenal. Obviously Jeff Goldblum’s Goldblumisms are on full charming display here, but Sam Neill is also terrific as Alan Grant. He’s perfect at showing the gradual progression of his character as he moves from being a distant, introverted person to a caring father-figure just through his eyes and the shift in the tone of his voice. It’s great to see these actors take such outlandish material so seriously and bring gravitas to the film. I also adore the dialogue of this movie. “Jurassic Park” is packed full of snappy and clever lines, many of which have become some of the most iconic in movie history such as “hold on to your butts,” “must go faster,” and “life finds a way.”
Spielberg’s direction here is on another level of filmmaking. He’s a master of making these wild concepts feel realistic and investing, brilliantly combining the (then) new development of CGI with animatronics. Spielberg and company knew to only use CGI to enrich the practical effects, making for visual effects that largely hold up, save for some shots of dinosaurs running around and some obvious green screen. Whenever dinosaurs are on screen, the camera is positioned in ways that put the audience in the characters’ shoes, making us feel the imposing scale of these powerful creatures. There are plenty of standout action sequences, most notably when the T-Rex attacks Lex and Timmy in the car and when the raptors are hunting them in the kitchen.
We need more films like “Jurassic Park” today. The soulless and incompetent blockbuster franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Fast & the Furious films are tiresome. We need new big concepts and some actual risk-taking from studios. Hollywood is so bent on keeping the superhero movie-making factory running that I fear it’ll never bring us new concepts from competent writers and directors. I’m terrified that we’ll never get another “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” or “Jaws” ever again. Therefore, “Jurassic Park” remains an incredibly important film in cinema history due to its technical achievements and intelligence. It has its flaws here and there (namely how Ian Malcolm spends the entire third act of the film lying on a table doing nothing), but it’s still a great, rewatchable experience.