Happy 25th Birthday, Jurassic Park! On this day in 1993, Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking blockbuster classic was released. All these years later, it’s still one of the best summer movies ever released and remains arguably the best example of how blending practical effects with digital can provide something truly amazing that can stand the test of time. This is the movie that spawned one of the most financially successful franchises ever and at least one of the most disappointing sequels of all time, depending on who you ask. This isn’t just a movie in many ways and it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate its legacy of greatness.
I personally count Jurassic Park as my favorite movie of all time. I have a difficult time writing about it in any capacity with any level objectivity for that reason. So, I’m not going to celebrate its birthday by doing some deep dive analysis on why it’s so great and why it holds up. There are a great many reasons for that, but plain and simple, it’s a fantastic movie from top to bottom. The cast is excellent, the characters are memorable, it has quite possibly one of the greatest action set pieces in movie history, it has enduring themes, it still looks fantastic and I mean, come on, it’s a movie about a dinosaur amusement park gone wrong as directed by the guy who made Jaws. What’s not to love?
Prior to the release of Jurassic Park, CGI wasn’t really a thing. It has been used a few times before, like in Young Sherlock Holmes, in in Terminator 2, but never on this scale. Sure, some of the CGI doesn’t hold up perfectly, but what’s truly amazing is how movies made even just a handful of years ago sometimes don’t look as good as Jurassic Park does now. And these guys made it happen with a fraction of the computing power than can be found in your Fitbit. At the same time, Spielberg and his creative team dedicated millions of dollars and ridiculous amounts of manpower to creating actual, real dinosaurs. That’s what makes the T-rex breakout sequence so terrifying even today. That thing is real and it really broke the glass in that car. Lex and Tim are freaking out for good reason.
It’s this tangibility mixed with groundbreaking digital technology, a technology that has come to define the blockbuster movie experience, that makes Jurassic Park work. Much like the overarching theme of the movie, it’s a blend of the old and the new. What is also helpful, and what may surprise some to learn, is that there are only six minutes worth of CGI dinos in the movie and, all told, 14 minutes of prehistoric creatures on screen. In a movie with a two hour and seven minute runtime, that’s pretty amazing. But it’s this sparse use that makes everything so impactful. It’s a brilliant example of limitations ultimately serving the story being told.
Jurassic Park, unadjusted for inflation, made just over $1 billion at the box office and remains one of the most financially successful movies ever. To date, the franchise has made $3.8 billion worldwide and, once Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom arrives in theaters on June 22, that number is going to increase substantially. Just for fun, to celebrate, have a look back at Universal Pictures’ original Jurassic Park teaser trailer, which serves as a nice little time capsule for this very special, still excellent, wonderful movie. Happy birthday, JP.