Back in 1993, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ marked the beginning and the end of an era for the modern blockbuster. As ‘Jurassic World’ roars into cinemas, we assess the legacy of a multiplex masterpiece.
How ‘Jurassic Park’ changed cinema
1. Hello to CGI
Spielberg’s film may have employed a blend of practical special effects and newfangled computer technology, but it was the latter that got everyone talking. Never had computer-generated imagery been so fluid and lifelike – you could almost feel the T. rex’s hot breath snorting against the cinema screen. What’s even more amazing is how well those effects hold up today.
2. Farewell to limits on a director's imagination
In the years after 1993, countless directors began work on their own CG-heavy projects. James Cameron launched ‘Titanic’ (which would grab ‘Jurassic’s box-office crown in 1997); Peter Jackson embarked on ‘Heavenly Creatures’, whose fantasy sequences would pave the way for ‘The Lord of the Rings’; and for better or worse, George Lucas headed back to a galaxy far, far away. Even Stanley Kubrick got in on the act with his long-gestated ‘AI’ project, which he ultimately passed on to Spielberg.
3. Hello to no stars, just talent
Even Spielberg admitted that the real star of ‘Jurassic Park’ was a 40-foot flesh-eating lizard – caring not a jot for the feelings of his leading human, Sam Neill. ‘Jurassic Park’ marked the moment where special effects officially trumped star power as the main selling point of a movie – handily, this also gave Spielberg licence to pack his film with serious thespians like Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Yorkshire legend Bob Peck and an unknown character actor called Samuel L Jackson.
4. Farewell to Arnold Schwarzenegger
In the summer of 1993, the biggest showdown in Hollywood wasn’t up on the screen, but behind the ticket counters. It was fully expected that Arnie’s postmodern pastiche ‘Last Action Hero’ would crush the competition, starting with ‘Jurassic Park’. But after Spielberg’s dinosaurs gobbled up his box office, the Austrian Oak’s film career never fully recovered.
5. Hello to marketing mania
Readers who were around when the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy came out will know that mass movie marketing is hardly new. But ‘Jurassic Park’ took it to another level, with over a thousand tie-in products available including figures, video games, pinball machines, backpacks, lunchboxes and McDonald’s ‘dino-sized’ meals, which sadly didn’t include raw goat.
6. Farewell to cute kiddies
It would be hard to argue that the blockbuster grew up after ‘Jurassic Park’ – but movies with kids up-front have seen a definite decline. We aren’t saying the young ‘uns in Spielberg’s film are annoying – God forbid! – but as the multiplex audience aged from geeky teens dragging their parents off the sofa to geeky fortysomethings dragging their kids away from their smartphones, so young heroes have fallen out of fashion.
Two decades on from the original ‘Jurassic Park’, we’re heading back to the island of Isla Nublar, now the site of a functioning dinosaur attraction. But for how long? Original director Steven Spielberg had bigger things on his mind, so it’s fallen unexpectedly to newcomer Colin Trevorrow, director of cheerful if unspectacular time travel indie ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, to take the reins.