In our third film which Michael Owen wishes-he-hadn’t-saurus, flea circus proprietor John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) behaves like a billionaire Justin Lee Collins as he sets out to bring back the dinosaurs.
While it may be a rip-off of Norwich’s Dinosaur Adventure Park, at Jurassic Park it’s not just the lizards that are terrible, the security is too. As Hammond comes to realise dinosaurs are harder to contain than fleas, he goes from park owner to dinosaur-loser as his future in theme parks goes extinct. Thankfully Jeff Goldblum is on hand to say I-told-you-so, having already experienced his own scientific abomination in The Fly.
Steven Spielberg is a director who knows how to captivate the public imagination better than any other: Jaws reportedly caused nightmares and when Close Encounters was released, UFO sightings shot up. When Jurassic Park was unleashed the world went crazy with dinosaur fever, with some people becoming convinced that dinosaurs had really been resurrected, thanks in no small part to Stan Winston’s special effects, superb sound design and ground-breaking use of CGI.
It also succeeded in shaping the public perception of dinosaurs. In spite of the fact palaeontologists now suspect many of our scaly friends were actually feathered friends, it’s very difficult for us to imagine them any other way than in Spielberg’s film. And while the four sequels have some good moments they largely serve to show how great the original is, mainly thanks to the superior direction of Spielberg, who brings the skill of a great auteur to popcorn entertainment.
He understands tension, suspense, heart and wonder as well as any director living, and while the film relies heavily on new technology, he keeps it restrained so it never comes loose and devours all else. And while the sequels have focused on action, Spielberg tries terror tops with plenty of genuinely scary moments.
In spite of its Frankenstinian tendencies it does Richard Attenborough’s brother proud by capturing the wonder of nature, as John Williams’ soaring score accompanies grazing herbivores in between assaults from toothy terrors. Jurassic Park was by far the highest grossing film of 1993 – pulling in double its nearest rival, Mrs. Doubtfire, but in spite of delighting audiences the world over, for Michael Owen it still paels in comparison to other forms of entertainment.