Snappy birthday! Why Jurassic Park is no movie dinosaur

Steven Spielberg's classic has spawned five sequels and counting in the three decades since its release

A scene from the 1993 motion picture Jurassic Park. Photo: Universal Pictures
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“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”

It's a line that feels as pertinent today as it did 30 years ago, when Jurassic Park was first released.

It was spoken by Jeff Goldblum's Dr Ian Malcolm to John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the creator of the park, after being shown the lengths they had gone to to make dinosaurs walk the Earth again.

It also serves as something of a mission statement for plenty of theses about the film.

Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough
Rating: 5/5

Directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from a 1990 novel by Michael Crichton, best known for Congo, Sphere and The Andromeda Strain, as well as writing and directing the original Westworld, the film was released on June 11, 1993.

Thirty years on, the story is ubiquitous in pop culture and film commentary. It has also paved the way for five sequels.

Set on a tropical island inhabited by dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, the beasts quickly prove that it's not in their nature to be caged, inevitably wreaking havoc.

'Life finds a way'

Another famous Dr Malcolm line is "life finds a way". He is told that park’s scientists have decided the best way to control the dinosaur population is to make them all female, to which he retorts that life, as it always does, finds a way to grow.

The technology and reasoning could sound far-fetched but is presented in a way that makes it completely plausible. This level of straight-faced explanation delivers a level of seriousness that lends to the thrill of the film.

My jurassic experience

I was two years old when the film was released and on a strict cartoon-only regiment for most of the '90s.

The first time I was made aware of the film was through dinosaur toys that a friend had been given for his birthday. To a child of that age, dinosaurs seemed like the coolest thing in the world.

The first Jurassic Park film I was allowed to watch was the third one, which was released in 2001 when I was turning 10.

I watched it in the cinema and what ensued was a thrill unlike anything I had ever experienced. Afterwards, I became obsessed with the franchise.

I watched the first and second film on VHS at home, and while the experience would have been enhanced on a cinema screen, I still loved every second of it.

I got the opportunity to watch the first Jurassic Park film on the big screen in 2013 when it was re-released worldwide to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary.

To add a different level to the experience, Universal decided to add 3D screenings, which gave me a chance to watch the film in a whole new light.

It's undeniable that the 3D technology was not as clean as modern films. But ultimately, that didn't matter as the thrill and exhilaration of watching the film on the big screen for the very first time made it an unforgettable experience.

The true magic of the film lies in its ability to capture the wonder and majesty of dinosaurs, and make it appeal to people of all ages.

You can see it on the faces of the characters, from the young kids to the seasoned specialists, they were all in awe.

The movie poster for the 1993 motion picture Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park's lasting impact

The success of Jurassic Park was felt in many ways. Not only did it advance the technology of computer-generated image use in cinema by using a combination of animatronics and CGI, it also set the standard for what can be achieved when melding new technology with tried-and-true techniques.

Entertainment site Film Stories estimates that the total amount of time we see a computer-generated dinosaur on screen is only six minutes of the two hours, which shows how meticulously Spielberg chose to use the technology to achieve the realism.

The largest film releases today do not quite maintain the same ratio of CGI to practical effects.

According to executive producer Victoria Alonso, the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War had “3,000 shots in the film and a whopping 2,900 visual effects shots".

Jurassic Park won three Oscars in the 66th Academy Awards in 1994, winning Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects, three categories it holds when watched through a modern lens.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 6:25 PM
Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough
Rating: 5/5