Jurassic Park is one of the most beloved and respected films of all-time. No one would argue its status as a classic film. What this film was able to accomplish is nothing short of amazing. Up to this point, Director Steven Spielberg was able to achieve great things in film but what he did with Jurassic Park was unprecedented and proof of his cinematic excellence. He brought dinosaurs to life and not in the cheap way directors brings things to life now; Spielberg was able to capture the wonder and amazement that comes with seeing dinosaurs. That is the essence of the films excellence. It perfectly captures how you feel while you’re watching it. By doing this, it feels less like a movie and more like an experience, and experiences are what people connect with. This experience led to critical acclaim, in the form of three Academy Awards and monstrous results at the box office. To date Jurassic Park has grossed over 800 million dollars domestically (adjusted for inflation per Box Office Mojo), which places it 17th all-time. More than all of that, Jurassic Park is great because it feels special. There are countless unforgettable moments throughout this film and some of the most memorable shots in film history. 25 years later this film is still beloved by many and resonates in culture unlike few films. It has stood the test of time and continues to be an incredible experience.
Spielberg has become known for the experiences that he is able to create. There have been countless films where he has seemingly brought the impossible to life. What makes his films so special is that he is also able to capture the emotion and feeling behind the experience. He understands his viewers and what it means to see and experience what he has brought to life. Jurassic Park may be the best example of that. Dinosaurs seem to always resonate with the culture, there is something inherently intriguing and interesting about them. This makes them an incredible subject for stories but is also quite challenging. The challenge lies right where the intrigue does, our unfamiliarity with them. We’ve never been able to experience or see dinosaurs, so it seems impossible to bring them to life. That alone makes Jurassic Park incredible. This is an incredibly difficult film to make and damn near impossible to make it a good one. Spielberg is able to do this because he has a proper understanding of that experience; instead of trying to normalize it, he leaned in to its improbability. Seeing dinosaurs in real life would be an incredible experience and the first half of the film is all about that experience.
The film is told through the eyes of paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neil) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). They are brought to the park to offer their endorsement so the park will be able to open to the public. Seeing the park through their eyes is such a brilliant choice, because who better to properly show the amazement of seeing dinosaurs in real life than two paleontologists? It is an effective choice because both Grant and Ellie have been established as experts and Neil and Dern give great performances. As they gaze upon each dinosaur with the amazement and wonder of a child, it allows you to do the same. Spielberg also gives time to these moments and lets them linger to fully immerse you in the experience. These moments are also when the classic score by John Williams is most effective. When the Jurassic Park theme comes in as the camera pans across to a landscape full of dinosaurs, you can’t help but watch in awe with the characters. This is one of the most incredible and memorable scenes in all of film. It also is wonderfully effective because after this moment you are completely invested in everything that is happening. So when things start to go south and the characters shift from amazement to fear, you shift with them. This shift turns something wonderful into something incredibly thrilling and that is another brilliant aspect to this film.
A part of the wonderment and intrigue involved with dinosaurs is the danger. This isn’t something we always recognize but Spielberg definitely did. Not only did he recognize it but also he captured that fear and danger beautifully. Things start to go downhill when certain areas of the park lose power and some of the dinosaurs get loose in the park. This is where another directorial decision creates a great experience. The first half of the movie focuses a lot on the excitement of the adults, which aides to your excitement but the second half of the movie focuses on the fear of the children and that too aides to your fear. From the T-Rex flipping over the jeep, to the raptors in the kitchen, their fear becomes your own because of the helplessness of those situations. Their helplessness comes through the screen and grabs you and doesn’t let go until the final moments of the film. This is such a crucial element of this film because it needs the thrill and excitement. It shows the other side to these wonderful creatures and provides another element to the experience that makes it so memorable. It was the perfect balance of fear, thrill and excitement, which is exactly what seeing dinosaurs in real life would probably be like.
The experience that Spielberg created was nothing short of incredible but what makes this film a classic is that experience matches with some great filmmaking. As a film Jurassic Park is way ahead of its time. The special effects were incredible and the mixture of animatronics and CGI proved to be the perfect combination to bring the dinosaurs to life. They really felt alive and the park itself felt real. All of the technical aspects of this film are perfect. Production design, special effects, sound effects, music and cinematography all worked together to make the Jurassic Park feel like a real place. The greatness of the technical aspects helped this film last the test of time. 25 years later it still looks great and it’s still believable. This allows for multiple viewings and the film never loosing what made it great in the first place. You never get tired of seeing the dinosaurs for the first time or the look on Dr. Alan Grant’s face when he sees them. Each time the theme starts to play, it gives you chills. And that breathtaking moment when you first see the T-Rex feels the same every time. Jurassic Park is great because it is a mixture of great filmmaking, great acting, memorable moments and an unbelievable experience. No matter how many times you watch it or how many years go by, this stays the same.