June 11, 1993 is the date that Jurassic Park originally hit theaters. I know this date by heart and didn’t even need to look it up, I swear. Vividly imprinted in my mind with that date was a cardboard 3D-style cut-out of Sam Neil running with the two kids during the now famous stampede scene. I was 9 years old when I saw the JP cut-out at my local the-A-ter (twas’ staring daggers at me) as it showed up in the theater lobby after I watched the end credits of Aladdin for the 6th time. Seriously, as an overweight kid whose claim to fame was the innate ability to always get cold cores in the winter, I decided to back my swagger with a half-dozen viewings of Aladdin in the theater! I even remember my Dad asking me nicely, “are you sure you don’t want to come see Jack the Bear with me and your brother instead? It’s PG-13, could be cool!” Uh, no thanks Dad. Just give me money for a large butter tub with a little bit of popcorn and I’ll back-row fart my way through Aladdin again. However, my Jurassic Park “burning-bush” moment would come to transcend me into a more grown-up appreciation of the movie world. Prior to this I was Disney. But thanks to Jurassic Park, I was now learning about Earth’s history and that books were worth reading!
I was ENTHRALLED with this movie, trying to soak up all of the information surrounding it, including reading about these Spielberg and Stan Winston fellas. I read the review in the Akron Beacon Journal written by Mr. Mark Dawidziak on Thursday, June 10th. 20 years later, I still remember that that jerk gave it a B- as opposed to an A+.
Stegosaurus led the pack as my absolute favorite. Probably because he was short, wide and had spikes to protect him from negativity (a deep metaphor of my childhood obesity, replacing spikes with fat-kid humor). It also helped that like most kids that didn’t have the internet growing up, I was already obsessed with dinosaurs (Land Before Time and Dinosaurs set the bar pretty high from the get-go). Opening night came, so I cancelled my usual Friday night plans of bologna sandwiches and playing Uniracers, and had my Dad take me to this movie. Although he hated crowds, especially opening night movie crowds, he was over the moon that I wanted to see Jurassic Park and not a cartoon musical. So off we went, and my world-view on film was shattered. With the re-release of Jurassic Park in 3D and IMAX coming this weekend I have compiled just a few reasons why Jurassic Park is one of the best movies ever.
1. John William’s Score
Besides a mean desk drum, I am not that musically trained or talented. Aside from “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, I can play a grand (pun taking off…) 3 things on a piano (pun landed): “Heart & Soul (Big),” the Halloween Theme Music, AND the score to Jurassic Park. Thanks to a piece of sheet music and a cheap electronic keyboard at my neighbor Brandon’s house growing-up, I learned a skill I still use today. When at house gatherings (translation: adult parties), my unwarranted renditions of JPs famous score has the ability to spark conversation like you wouldn’t believe. One, it’s relatively easy to play. Two, it’s from Jurassic Park which everyone knows. Side-Bar: Jurassic Park should replace talking about the weather as the go-to when you’re in an elevator with someone. And three, people then tend to believe I am lot more talented than I really am. Thank you to John Williams for striking many cords in my heart and creating this orchestrated masterpiece.
2. Ariana Richards & Joseph Mazzello
Thanks to the Disney Channel, child actors have evolved into human caricatures of actual children, emoting over-the-top feelings and extremely weird hair-cuts. But Jurassic Park gave us two of the best. Joseph Mazzello (playing Timmy) was no stranger to dark material after teaching us about childhood abuse AND alcoholism in 1992s Radio Flyer.
He would then go onto to graduate from dinosaurs to psychotic white water rafters and AIDS. Either way, I can remember cracking up when he finally got to “3” post fence-electrocution and then being in awe of his WWE-level strength as he locked a Velociraptor in a freezer. Only knock on Mazzello here is that…why didn’t he grab Dr. Sattler’s (Laura Dern) gun while Lex was hacking Newman’s virus? Instead, he stood there like a normal 8 year-old freaking out. Bonus here: he grew up to look kind of like my friend Bill McDonald (scroll to very end).
Ariana Richards is the lovely co-star of 3 of my favorite movies of all time: Jurassic Park, Tremors and Angus. She turned a terrible hat bend into preteen hotness with her computer geek character, Lex. She then proceeded to give all future scream queens a quick clinic on how to shriek and genuinely be scared of things that, you know, would actually scare people in real life…like dinosaurs chasing you.
3. The Special Effects
Jurassic Park was made 20 years ago yet still holds up against the test of time. While movies today film most of everything with CGI, turning action movies into a Pixar-style video game features (see Wrath of the Titans for further explanation), JP decided to make its monsters look, sound and feel real (thanks to Stan Winston). With a real foot hitting the mud and making an indent, to an actual eye looking in the soon-to-be busted Jeep, the audience gets to not only see and hear the realistic creatures, but feel them as well (I know that sounds artsy, but its true). When was the last time you experienced an action sequence as slowly paced as the “T-Rex getting out of it’s fence for the first time” scene, that was able to keep your knuckles white and your butt on the edge of your seat that much? That action all unfolds in Kiefer’s 24-style real-time and is backed by no soundtrack, just screams and rain; also unique.
The reason Speed is still fun to watch is because we are watching an actual bus drive around. Regardless of how great CGI gets and regardless of how many people are now deciding to wear glasses (we can thank Jeff Goldblum for introducing my generation to what it means to be a hipster), us humans can still tell the difference.
Some Honorable Mention Talking Points
- Steve Irwin got inspiration for his future iconic wardrobe.
- “Sam Jackson,” not Samuel L. Jackson, was still a person and not a Kangol infused brand.
- Richard Attenborough’s famous line gave me a joke I have been using for 20 years now:
Me: Hey ladies, what movie is this from?
Ladies: Okay, go ahead.
Me: Welcome to Jurassic Park.
Ladies: Jurassic Park (laughs). Let’s go make out now. We’ll pay you money.
Jurassic Park re-opens nationwide in 3D & IMAX this Friday, April 5th. Go see it…..and then watch Angus so we have something else to talk about.