As Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hits the screens in 3D today in celebration of its 20th anniversary, a look at the adventure 65 million years in the making
When Richard Attenborough says, “Welcome to Jurassic Park,” in that well-remembered trailer shot, you are in for a ride of a lifetime. While shock and awe is on the lower side, as we see the dinosaurs fairly early (20 minutes into the film, if you discount the evil, cold eye right at the beginning of the film) the movie delivers on its promise of showing us dinosaurs. From egg or rather DNA to lean mean fighting raptors, T-Rex and sundry others, they are all there and unfortunately like the Bard wisely commented one gets sick with surfeit.
That is however beside the point as Jurassic Park went on to become a ginormous hit spawning two sequels—The Lost World (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001). Based on Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel of the same name, Jurassic Park was already in pre-production in 1989 even before the book was out in 1990.
While the film broadly follows the book, the tone of the film is lighter and more kid friendly. The screenplay is by Crichton and Spielberg regular David Koepp and tells the story of John Hammond (Attenborough), a billionaire who sets up a dinosaur-themed amusement park with cloned dinosaurs — yes, the science is goofily iffy at Isla Nublar, an island off the Costa Rican coast. When one of the workers is attacked and killed by a dinosaur (the opening shot of the cold, reptilian eye) the investors get nervous. They insist on having independent experts certify the place is safe before putting any more money into the project.
Hammond gets eminent palaeontologist Alec Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) a paleo-botanist to spend a weekend at the park and see for themselves how safe it all is. Hammond also has his grandchildren Lex and Tim. Gennaro, the lawyer brings chaotician Ian Malcolm (a divine Jeff Goldblum) to judge the project. Things rapidly spiral out of control as a tropical storm and the system architect, Dennis Nedry’s treachery let the dinosaurs out on a rampage.
When making the presentation of the theme park with mention of merchandising and dinosaurs on lunch boxes make one think of a presentation to studio heads — the fact that it was actual merchandise for the film only reinforces the idea. Even though Spielberg handed over post production to good friend George Lucas and hurried off to make one his pious magnum opuses — Schindler’s List, once Jurassic Park shifts gears and moves into chase mode, it is great fun.
There are scenes that one can remember forever—the ripples in the glass of water (how often has it been spoofed!), the T-Rex’s attack on SUVs and the lawyer, the graceful herd of Brachiosaurus, the scarily changeful dilophosaur and the sick triceratops.
While the characters are hopelessly wooden and uninteresting, Goldblum as Malcolm is a happy exception. Dressed in black, he is the rockstar mathematician smoothly reeling out quotable quotes with his eyes wickedly glinting behind his glasses. Samuel L. Jackson has a little role as the park’s chief engineer.
In India, the film was released in 1994, and was a smash hit. We are great fans of creature features and never before did dinosaurs looked so real. After James Cameron’s Terminator 2 all animators worshipped at the shrine of Jurassic Park for the technical advances made in the field. In the city the film was released in Plaza and ran for the longest time. In Hyderabad, the film was screened in the eminently happening Sangeet with super cool dinosaur models for an added thrill. Jurassic Park also paved the way for dubbed Hollywood films — remember laughing hysterically at dinosaurs being called bhayanak chipkali? It is a translation though of the Greek terrible lizard.
While the 3D release is ostensibly to celebrate 20 years of the film’s release, one hopes it would pave the way for other Spielberg movies in 3D. Raiders of the Lost Ark would be great fun in the extra dimension — that bouncing boulder will totally kill it and Jaws in 3D would be gobsmacking good. Then there is Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET the Extra Terrestrial… the possibilities are joyously endless!