Saturday, May 19, 2007

Those Summer Nights: Jurassic Park (1993)

Ahhhhh, Jurassic Park. The definitive summer blockbuster of my childhood, and still #12 on the all-time domestic chart (and #8 on the all-time worldwide chart), despite inflation. At the time of its release in 1993, it was the #3 film of all time behind Star Wars and E.T., and had the biggest worldwide box office of all time. Needless to say, it was an EVENT. Even my little 9-year-old self knew it was a really big deal. And I loved it so much that I subsequently became addicted to Jurassic Park trading cards and even read the 399-page novel (still perhaps the longest novel I've ever read... small print, too).

As I recall, I saw it the night before the last day of 4th grade (I was turning 10 in the June of that summer, so it had to be 4th grade). Whether this was the opening night/weekend, I don't recall. But it had to have been very early in the film's run, cause it was still white-hot, with all the kids at school talking about it, but only a few having seen it. I remember feeling very cool for having seen it before school let out.

They may seem pretty standard now, but the effects at that time were groundbreaking. In fact, they're still better than a lot of the straight-up CGI crap you see now. I remember seeing lots of featurettes on the creation of the dinosaurs, but now I can't remember how they did it. The CGI revolution was of course just starting, with another giant leap the following year with Forrest Gump. But what was great is that I think the dinos were part real live model and part computer, which is what made them seem so real. Wow, it's obvious that I'm more actor than visual F/X guy, isn't it? Oh well.

But the acting was really good, too! Surprise! This was back in the day when the actual quality of a blockbuster-wannabe was directly proportional to its box office. This film actually had a good story (straining credibility at times, sure, but still good) and solid actors in all the key roles. Sam Neill made a good male lead, as he usually does, and had a great year between this and The Piano. And though it's on record that the role of Sam's love interest, Dr. Ellie Sattler, was originally offered to Juliette Binoche (can you imagine?), it ultimately went to the immensely capable Laura Dern. She may be oscar-nominated for Rambling Rose, critically lauded for Citizen Ruth, and frequently toyed with by David Lynch, but Jurassic Park will always be the film for which she's most widely known. The well-rounded supporting cast featured oscar-winning director Richard Attenborough, the always cool Jeff Goldblum, and two very charming kids, among others, and together, the ensemble was quite formidable.

And all those classic moments! This film was genuinely thrilling and terrifying, and chock full of scenes I'll never forget. Sure there was the occasional low-brow misstep, like when the lawyer is eaten while sitting on the toilet, but there's also the T-Rex-mauls-the-car sequence, the electric fence, the disembodied arm, and that final thrilling scene where the T-Rex saves everyone from the raptors. Brilliance. Why are there no more blockbusters like this? I guess there's the occasional Spider-Man 2, but those are few and far between. The closest we usually get to Jurassic Park now is this Night in the Museum shit, or (god forbid) Jurassic Park 4.

Can they PLEASE stop making all these sequels/ripoffs? Whoever's responsible is just spitting on the memory of one of the great populist entertainments of our time. And one of the highlights of my childhood.

In summation: Jurassic Park rules.



Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

Seriously, this is still one of my favourite movies ever. It totally holds up outside of the realm of pure nostalgia.

Why don't I own this on DVD? I really wanna watch it now...

3:29 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

I don't think it's GREAT (I'd say as a film, it's B/B+ material), but it is a GREAT example of populist entertainment done right. It fits in its particular niche really, really well. Kind of like Freaky Friday (another fave of yours, if I recall).

Maybe the reason you don't own it is cause it's always on TV anyway. I've seen this many times on the telly in the past few years, which is part of why my memories of it are so clear.

3:47 AM  
Anonymous crazycris said...

This one really freaked me out when I saw it! First time I'd ever been so scared in the movies!
And enjoyed it even more when school started 'cause it was the subject of discussion in several classes! Some classmates brought an "illegal" vhs which we saw in English class (as a foreign language) after their presentation on dinosaurs; and then there was my Biology teacher who basically ripped it apart by pointing out all the obvious scientific flaws! (DNA in blood cells? hello!!! red blood cells don't have a nucleus so no DNA, and white blood cells -which do- are extremely rare; not to mention the whole sex change thing). Made for some very lively discussions in class!

And oh yeah, I was in high school! ;o)

My favourite summer childhood movie was The Goonies! Must have seen it 3 times on the big screen! :o)

11:15 AM  
Blogger JA said...

Ahh, I so identify with this post! I was a little older than you - 15 to be exact - when it came out (on June 11th, 1993, still got the date memorized) and I saw it 10 times in its initial run.

LOVE this movie. Was the first movie I allowed my inner geek to devour my sanity for... obviously all downhill from there.

6:40 PM  
Blogger J.J. said...

A seminal moviegoing experience from my childhood, too. But I happen to believe that its visual effects are 100 times better than anything released today.

11:45 PM  
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