I was ten when I saw Jurassic Park in a dingy cinema at Kolkata’s (then Calcutta) Dunlop market; in Hindi. Accompanied by my Massi, we kids grabbed on to our seats in exasperated wonderment as the Dinosaur magic unspooled on screen. Big giant Dinosaurs captivated my mind then, the science awed me, and we walked back to our house discussing how life could be brought back from the dead, asking incessant questions to my botanist Massi on the way. It was one of those definitive childhood experiences that stay alive in the subconscious mind forever, fueling ambitions and dreams alike.
Today, twenty years hence, as I saw Spielberg’s Jurrasic Park in Imax 3D, I was awestruck all over again.
Cinema has moved leaps and bounds in the ensuing twenty years since Spielberg gave my generation its first brush with CGI spectacle on screen. Avatar, Life of Pi, Hugo, LOTR and the Harry Potter series are undoubtedly far more superior work of art; Jurassic Park itself has had two sequels (though none a patch on the first). Yet, Jurassic Park 3D manages to leave you dumbstruck and amazed.
It is a fine example of a film that has aged graciously, Jurassic Park has ripened in appeal, almost ready to enter the hallowed list of cinematic greats of our times. Yet surprisingly, the film is a revelation when watched as an adult all these years after on the big screen. What works most importantly for this re-release is the fact that while the sequels to the first part- the ingloriously underrated sinister Lost World and the irritatingly boring part three- have been doing regular runs on TV, the first part itself has been missing from the idiot box. With the third dimension added this time, one cannot but wonder how made-for-3D this film already was. Dinosaurs snapping at the feet of the hapless humans, car running down a tree right on to your face, the spectacular kitchen chase sequence with the kids, and the sweeping shots of the park with herds of the gentler monsters, Jurassic Park is a textbook case for justifying the extra efforts in adding a third dimension. Does the 3D work entirely is debatable, but more on that later.
Jurassic Park is a study of a filmmaker on the verge of maturing into a master storyteller. Spielberg here is just about mastering the art of churning out money making mega blockbusters that also have a nuanced amount of art and dark edginess missing in monster flicks before it. In many ways the director’s tribute to Godzilla and other such tacky Hollywood obsessions with monsters on screen, Jurassic Park is also, in hindsight, surprisingly dark.
Nonchalantly thrown in between the stunning appearances of the Dinos, are portions that question the very fundamentals of human nature and his tendency to reach beyond the limits nature has set for him. Through the story of an audacious tycoon who seeks to bring back to life an extinct species in his quest to leave a legacy behind, Spielberg belies his own ambition of being an audacious filmmaker ready to take ridiculous risks like this one, and many more after it- to trail blaze with never before CGI that seamlessly merged the real with the make believe to give you a masterpiece that till date is fresh. To believe in a story idea by Crichton, even before a word of the book it is based on was written. To make dinosaurs a part of dining table discussions worldwide.
Crichton, in his adapted screenplay, dilutes much of the gross violence that the novel had, adding in ample changes to the story to almost make this a standalone script, and in the same breath managing to retain the menacing quality of the whole plot. Spielberg uses this wonderful adaptation, avoiding deftly the broad strokes of black and white used to paint the monsters and the “victim” humans with in films of the genre before and even after. The dinosaurs are at no point made into absolute villains- Alan the expert makes it a point to explain to the kids, that the “meatosaurs” do what they got to do and are not monsters- while at the same time don’t make humans the innocent victims of nature’s evil side. Enough fingers are pointed at the innate need of the human kind to outdo and outrun nature at any cost. Together, the writer director duo create a stellar piece that has gimmickry and spectacle covering a very intriguing dark and brooding question on the human psyche- all the while sticking firmly to the typical Hollywood potboiler framework.
Today in 3D, much of the film’s original surprises and thrills get retained. Understandably a few portions do not work anymore- the 3D separates the dinosaurs out from the rest of the scenery breaking the illusion, while in some parts, 3D adds to the menacing urgency of the thriller. At its core, the film is perfectly paced adventure with measured dollops of morals, science mumbo-jumbo, emotions and comedy- a mix that works to perfection even today.
At ten, Jurassic Park kindled in me the love for biology and genetics. Twenty years hence, a Masters in medical genetics and innumerable hours spent in state of the art labs with DNA later, the film brought out that child back in me. Some things just never get too old or dated. This is one such classic.