If it hasn’t left your local multiplex, go see Jurassic Park. If you’ve seen it already, go see it one more time. Yes, I know. There’s that stupid 3-D gimmick. It’s slick and moneyed and front-loaded with a marquee friendly cast. If you’re young enough (or old enough) to remember when it first came out in 1993, you probably had at least one Happy Meal toy and your dad probably bought a JP logo t-shirt and the tape to keep you happy. You associate Jurassic Park with garage sale artifacts and the faded covers of VHS copies that are barely watchable. It’s just… overdone and old and not in a good way, either, and… Just stop. I get it.
You might be rolling your eyes at the idea of seeing a movie by Steven Spielberg. You might see him as yet another cynical Hollywood suit. After all, Spielberg is more often an eminence grise than the driving force behind the camera. Let’s be fair. For every Gremlins 2 and 1941 and Always and A.I., there are labors of love like cinematic memefest that is The Animaniacs. He bought the freedom to make shows like that by dint of nearly every movie that packed a theater from the mid-eighties to the end of the twentieth century having his thumbprint on it somehow, somewhere.
Okay, you are probably thinking, that’s all fine and good but still, why the fuss over Jurassic Park? Why in the world, with summer coming up and all of the shiny new toys, would you want to see a twenty year old movie full of CGI megafauna? The simple answer is the storytelling. This is a chance to see Steven Spielberg do what he does best, give you a viewing experience that almost makes you forget you’re safe and sound in a theater instead of running for your life from a shark or the FBI or a dinosaur.
Jurassic Park represented a return to form for Spielberg. Almost two decades before that, he had directed Jaws, a big, screamworthy campfire yarn of a movie that dared to be fun at a time when cinema was all about relevance and making a statement, often at the expense of telling a good story. In the intervening years, audiences had seen plenty of movies produced by Spielberg that seemed to fit his brand and yet they always managed to fall to the side of the near perfection of Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. or Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Because of that twelve-year stretch from Raiders to Jurassic Park, the latter was initially dismissed by many critics as “yet another Hollywood product”. The excessive cross promotion didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. In fact, the flurry of swag nearly overwhelmed the movie.
That was then, this is now. We are not suffering from any sort of irony deficiency that requires us to miss out on Sam Neill getting weak in the knees at the prospect of seeing a tyrannosaurus. We need the shared experience of holding our collective breath as dinosaurs walk past and yelping when they seem to pop out of an unexpected corner. We really, really need the fun of Jurassic Park, a movie that truly fits the overused trope of being a thrill ride on film.
The acting is pitch perfect, the script and art direction are amazing, and the direction is tight. Have I mentioned that this movie is devoid of a single F-bomb? Yeah, you can take older kids to this one without worrying about them repeating something to Grandma that leaves you with a lot of explaining to do.
So go before it’s off the marquee and before the usual juggernauts blast through and drown out this treasure of an adventure film.