If you were of a young age, say around nine, during the summer of 1993, then it was one of those defining years that you remember with a lot of love, primarily because of one movie; Jurassic Park. The film’s poster, which proclaimed to be “an adventure 65 million years in the making” promised action and terror in equal measure and it did not disappoint.
Adapted from Michael Crichton’s superlative novel, the central idea was somewhat similar to his feature film Westworld. As was the case with many a Crichton narrative, what was on the surface looked like a gripping thriller but it was as much an exploration of deeper themes that made it compulsive reading, namely the abuse of technology, in this case cloning dinosaurs, and applying it to a theme park setting. It was as much satire as it was an action adventure, but the material was ripe for a big screen adaptation.
As Crichton was developing a movie project which would eventually become the television series ER, itself produced by Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg was in a prime position to direct Jurassic Park and in many ways it would become a companion piece to Jaws.
Dismayed by the law of diminishing returns to the sequels of his famed 1975 shark thriller, Jurassic Park was Spielberg once again crafting a monster thriller and one which he would keep an eye on through its inevitable sequels, this time on an even larger scale compared to the small town of Amity Island.
Whilst the more satirically darker elements of the book would be toned down, especially the character of John Hammond who would become more of a cuddly Walt Disney-esque figure compared to the meaner characterisation in the book, the film has aged gracefully and is still, to this day, one of Spielberg’s best blockbusters.
With a powerhouse score from John Williams, the theme music to my 1993 summer, tight scripting from Crichton and David Koepp and direction the type of which you could only get from Spielberg, Jurassic Park is a masterclass in awe, wonder and sheer terror.
The first half of the movie is all awe and wonder, the second half terror and horror, like a never ending rollercoaster. As a nine-year old, I remember having to turn away when the lawyer got eaten by the T-Rex, on a toilet no less, whilst the raptors menacing the kids in the kitchen was probably the most suspenseful thing I had ever seen in a film up to that point. They may have been smaller, but the raptors were considerably meaner. The use of a door handle has never been more chilling.
I remember the sounds of the movie, it was in DTS at the then newly opened MGM Cinema on the Dublin Road in Belfast, now the Movie House, and the film’s bombardment of awesome visuals, terrifying action and LOUD sound design was the most visceral and intense cinematic experience of my life to that point.
That the film managed to be both magical and scary is a testament to how great Spielberg is. Nobody probably understands the magic of adventure and horror the way he does and Jurassic Park will forever be the greatest example of that.
“Welcome…to Jurassic Park” says a proud John Hammond before the chaos starts. Despite how scary it all could be, you never really wanted to leave and as a thirty-two year old now, I don’t think I ever did.