Steven Spielberg was recently named president of the Cannes Film Festival Jury, but something far more exciting is happening to him this spring. On April 5, in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, his landmark 1993 sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park will be re-released in theaters. In 3D, no less.
Let that sit for a minute.
Though it’s more than a month away, I believe it’s not too early to start hyping this historic event. It’s also a good time to look back on why the film was so outright mind-blowing in the first place, the legacy it left behind, and how it came to define the careers of those involved.
It’s easy to forget due to the movie’s success, but it was based on an equally great novel by the late Michael Crichton. For those who are unfamiliar, Crichton also co-wrote the screenplay, and is responsible for the books on which Sphere, Timeline, Congo, and The 13th Warrior are based. I’m convinced we’ll look back on him as a late-20th century Jules Verne someday. You can quote me on that.
As with most Crichton stories, Jurassic Park concerns technology run amok: an eccentric billionaire opens a “game preserve” filled with genetically recreated dinosaurs, and invites a team of scientists to take a look before it opens. Then a power outage renders the electric fences useless. I don’t think I need to say what happens next.
Though the film sets up a familiar “man vs. wild” binary, its quality of execution sets it apart. Like King Kong 60 years earlier, Jurassic Park was at the forefront of special effects technology: James Cameron had used CGI to dazzling effect in The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but Spielberg’s film was the most prominent to recreate living, breathing creatures completely with a computer.
It doesn’t hurt that editor Michael Kahn’s masterful pacing is in full effect. He and Spielberg had already worked together on the Indiana Jones trilogy, and in conjunction with Dennis Muren and Stan Winston’s peerless visual effects tag team, there was almost no way this movie would be anything short of a visual and technical clinic.
To top it off, the actors were at the height of their game. With the exception of Laura Dern, whose performance in David Lynch’s Inland Empire is sorely under-appreciated, none have done work of this quality since. Sure, Sam Neill was great in that Merlin miniseries (I say that in all seriousness) and Goldblum did solid work in The Lost World and his guest appearances on The League, but for many, they’ll always be “the guys who played Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm.” Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight also appear in supporting roles.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
If you’re one of the ten people in the world who haven’t seen this film, do yourself a favor and check it out next month. Save or borrow money if you must, play your bucket drums at Union Square, do whatever it takes.
Because if you’re not there April 5, you’re nobody. “Hold onto your butts.”