Jurassic Park is my favorite film. This isn’t an unusual choice for folks my age, but I’m sticking to my pick. The film premiered at just the right time where I was old enough to see it with parents but young enough to be highly impressionable. Watching the film, that first time in the theaters, is something I’ll never forget. It isn’t surprising that there is now an entire Jurassic Park film franchise. But no film in the series quite captures the magic of Jurassic Park like the original.
Jurassic Park Isn’t About Dinosaurs
A bold statement to make? Perhaps, since a film simply titled Park wouldn’t be that exciting. What would that even be about? Just a family on a lovely stroll? Or perhaps some sort of documentary on the challenges of parking your vehicle?
Jurassic Park is not about the action or the dinosaurs, although those are both central components that make the film great. No, Jurassic Park is about the naivety of man to attempt to control nature and the dramatic consequences when nature pushes back.
Nature is the most powerful force on the planet. It cannot be controlled by us. When we try, we are punished. Jurassic Park perfectly encapsulates all of these things. While it is a film about man versus nature, the fight is very one sided. It’s more about man being overwhelmed by nature, with escape being the only option for survival.
I was 9 years old when Jurassic Park was released in the theaters. I remember there being a lot of buzz around the film. People were saying how good it was, but also how scary. There was debate among families as to whether or not they should bring their kids. Some of my friends were not allowed to see it. I wanted to see it, but grew concerned my parents wouldn’t take me.
Oh yeah, my parents took me to the film.
It was at a theater where you could order food and drinks for your table to go along with the movie. I remember waiting in the lobby before the film, excited but also a bit nervous. How scary was this film going to be? How many people were going to be eaten by dinosaurs? Would I be able to eat food while all this crazy stuff was happening on the screen!?
As I sat down with my family and the film began to roll, my fears slowly melted away. This film didn’t seem too scary, albeit I hadn’t seen any dinosaurs yet. “Now eventually you might have dinosaurs on your, on your dinosaur tour, right?” And then Hammond brings the characters into the park for what has to be one of the most memorable scenes in film history.
I remember the scene like it was yesterday. As a child, I react similarly to Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler. It was a dinosaur! I couldn’t believe it. Much like the characters were in disbelief at what Hammond had created (“You did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.”) I felt the same way about Spielberg and the film. This wasn’t some corny special effect with claymation or puppets, this was something that let me forget I was watching a film. I was fully immersed. I was watching dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park is a smart film. I don’t mean that you have to be an intellectual film buff to understand it, but that the film is never lazy and rarely superficial. Yes, there is action, but the film incorporates it perfectly with the awe and fear of dinosaurs, science, and nature.
When I think of my favorite scenes from the film, many of them are purely dialogue. There are just so many amazing lines, like the egg hatching scene (“Life…Uh… finds a way”) and the dinner scene (“Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”). Many of the films greatest strengths are the characters philosophizing about what the hell is going on.
And while the many themes of the film, such as the powerful force of nature, aren’t hidden, you aren’t beaten over the head. Sure, you don’t have to delve too deep to learn the morals of the story, but it never feels like an after school special. Even as a kid, I understood the themes and what the film was telling me, while still getting to enjoy a dinosaur-centric adventure.
As much as the film has amazing dialogue and themes, it truly does have some iconic action and suspense scenes. I’ll never forget watching two kids close to my age holding a piece of glass between them and an angry T-Rex. Or having to watch them climb over an electrified fence before it becomes operational again (although it sure looks like they could have fit through the wires). And of course, the raptors in the kitchen was probably the most terrifying thing imaginable to me.
Hold on to your butts
I would argue that none of the subsequent films were ever able to recapture the magic of the original Jurassic Park. But why?
Maybe because Jurassic Park was the first film, able to explore new territory and establish the baseline. The film was revolutionary in terms of special effects, had amazing storytelling, and was a cultural phenomenon. It’s hard to top that.
The sequels either feel like retreads of the same thing or merely focus on the action and forget the thoughtfulness of the original. I believe that some of this is hard to avoid, because how do you top Jurassic Park? You can try to upstage it with bigger set pieces, but that rarely works. And you can try to mimic the original’s themes, but that rarely feels as satisfying.
At the end of the day, Jurassic Park simply can’t be recreated. Many films have tried, but I doubt we’ll ever see a film with “Jurassic” in the title that ever recaptures the feel of the original. The film has the right mix of philosophy and dinosaur spectacle to create a perfect film. It’s my favorite film and I can’t see anything else topping it.