Thursday 15 June 2023

Jurassic Park at 30

30 years ago, director Steven Spielberg (Jaws) unleashed Jurassic Park! Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero didn’t stand a chance against a T-Rex.

Jaws for Generation X!

Jurassic Park was adapted from Michael Crichton’s bestselling book about a malfunctioning theme park. A theme Crichton previously explored in his influential sci-fi movie: Westworld.

Spielberg’s dino blockbuster franchise (with an assist from George Lucas (Star Wars)) captured the imagination of cinemagoers worldwide and conquered toy aisles - I have Kenner’s electronic stomping T-Rex and an assortment of memorabilia including collectable drinking cups from McDonald’s in the attic!

JP (as it was fashionably known) is a groundbreaking theatrical experience my friend Professor Michael Williams and I will never forget! We still talk about it (over tea and cake).

It was the first mainstream movie with a DTS soundtrack, which was an issue for theatres that didn’t support the upstart competitor to Dolby. The dialogue kept ‘clipping’, but we were soon swept away by the lush live-action/CGI vistas and John Williams’ soaring soundtrack (available on Apple Music, etc).

For budgetary reasons and to build anticipation, Spielberg deftly kept the dinosaurs off-screen for almost an hour. This would probably be met with derision in an era of streaming and instant gratification - a theme director Colin Trevorrow explores in Jurassic World - with folks taking to social media with their instant hot takes.

The reveal of a herd of Brachiosaurs heralded a seismic change in cinema, and the T-Rex attack cemented it - the audience (myself included) collectively gasped much like when the shark struck in Spielberg’s Jaws almost two decades before.

“I hate computers!”

CGI had come of age and would pave the way for the Star Wars prequels. Decades later, AI-generated content is a thing and not without controversy.

Jurassic Park inspired the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs documentary series in the late nineties, and Prehistoric Planet continues the tradition on Apple TV+.

Visual effects and how we view and consume media may have radically changed from when dinosaurs ruled the box office in 1993. However, Jurassic Park remains a seminal moment in pop culture history.

A billion-dollar blockbuster forever preserved in amber…

This originally appeared on Stellar Scribes.

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