When John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) investors become jittery following a fatality, they request that the billionaire’s dinosaur theme park be signed off by a series of experts. Recruiting dysfunctional palaeontologists Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), along with chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Hammond and lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) initiate an all-expenses-paid tour of the island in the hope of clearing Jurassic Park for visitors. When head computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) betrays his employer and attempts to smuggle dinosaur embryos off of the island, however, he shuts down the park’s defences and inadvertently unleashes Hammond’s star attractions on the tour group – which now includes the entrepreneur’s own grandchildren, Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards). Did I mention that they spared no expense?
It’s easy to be cynical about the studio’s motives for re-releasing Jurassic Park on a non-adversarial, really rather arbitrary date, some eighteen years after it was initially released. With a new trilogy touted, this is the perfect opportunity for Universal to kick-start brand awareness in time for the next instalment, 65 and a bit million years in the making. On taking my seat in the cinema, however, two things quickly become clear: I had completely forgotten Samuel L. Jackson was in this, and, if the price to pay for a fourth film is a return ticket to 1993’s original in all its big-screen glory, then I for one am all eyes.
But what is it that makes Jurassic Park so resiliently timeless? While there are those who might feel propelled to point out that it is far from Steven Spielberg’s best work, it is certainly his most accessible and entertaining. Boasting a winsome John Williams soundtrack and creature effects from the late Stan Winston which – largely – stand the test of time (the scene in which the ceiling patterns are reflected onto the Veloceraptors – to this day – fills me with astonishment), Jurassic Park is a veritable melting-pot of filmmaking talent, shaped by professionals at the very top of their game. For me, however, it is the sound design that really flabbers my gast; when that Tyrannosaurus opens its mouth, you just know that that’s what it must have sounded like all those years ago.
Jurassic Park is everything you could possibly want from a summer blockbuster: it’s action-packed, funny, scary and in the grandest possible sense, awesome. From the aerial approach to Isla Nublar to the first glimpse of the Park’s prized T-Rex, the tantalising glimpse of claw to the big, water-rippling reveal, Jurassic Park is awash with iconic moments, remastered for your ongoing enjoyment. While the newfangled cosmetic work fluctuates throughout, bringing a sharpness to some scenes and exactly nothing to others, it is nevertheless nice to know that such lengths are being taken to preserve such a truly momentous film. Just like artists maintain and restore prized paintings, so is it necessary to tend to the imperfections of important movies so that they can continue to have the same impact on successive generations.
The truth is, however, that Jurassic Park manages this on its own, quite despite the studio’s tinkering. The moment in which our heroes catch their first glimpse of a grazing Brachiosaurus is every bit as mind-blowing as it was in 1993, overcoming the clearly dated effects thanks to a indelibly Spielbergian sense of wonder and delight. The performances may waver, the plot may wander (that ending. Really?) but this is why we go to the cinema: to be entertained. With dinosaurs.