Going back to the Park, 25 years later
Groundbreaking special effects, iconic performances and the quintessential roar of a T-Rex rocked movie theaters across America 25 years ago last Monday when Steven Spielberg unleashed “Jurassic Park.”
It started as a book by author Michael Crichton, known for his science fiction novels laced with detailed science and constant mistakes made by smart characters that think they know best. “Jurassic Park” had those same grave errors by scientists and otherwise smart people when it debuted in 1993, but that’s not what made it a classic. That starts with Spielberg’s dream team of special effects masters.
In 1993, nobody had brought dinosaurs back to life on the silver screen at this scale. Spielberg enlisted Stan Winston, a legendary make-up effects creator with credits who had already won his first Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1986 for “Aliens.” Just look up some of your favorite creature movies and odds are he or his studio had a hand in them.
There was also Phil Tippett, a stop-motion animator who helped refine the fantastic, animalistic movements of the dinosaurs. Tippett was with Spielberg when Dennis Muren, an effects guru with Industrial Light and Magic, helped changed filmmaking forever.
Muren showed Tippett and Spielberg his test reel of dinosaurs using the same CGI technologies that ILM used for “The Terminator.” Spielberg was impressed, and according to the story, when Tippett was asked what he thought of the footage, he simply said something like “I think I just became extinct.”
That quip, of course, got worked into the script as another piece of dialogue for Jeff Goldblum’s charismatic Dr. Ian Malcom, who along with Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill and Richard Attenborough as the cane-holding, flea-circus-talking Dr. John Hammond delivered one-liners that I still quote to this day (“must go faster, must go faster”).
Famed composer John Williams produced a soundtrack that ramped up the stakes and spectacle of each scene. His themes are among the film’s unforgettable aspects, just like the iconic logo that designer Chipp Kidd originally conceived for Crichton’s book cover and the velociraptors brought to life by stuntmen in suits and awkward contortions.
Not to mention the 12,000-plus-pound T-rex animatronic that needed to be dried with towels between each take in the pouring rain.
I watched the movie again on Monday, and it still holds up. The action still moves like a theme park ride from scene to scene and all of the special effects have the same impact, as do the characters.
Do yourself a favor and rewatch it this weekend, and if it’s your first time, then welcome to “Jurassic Park.”