Welcome back to my daily jaunts through various Lost Worlds. The next stop on our Lost World World Tour is a more modern example. Life will find in a way as we get isolated in Isla Nublar, the subject of Michael Critchon’s 1990 book and the 1993 Steven Spielberg movie Jurassic Park.
I’m sure you don’t need me to rehash the premise for one of the most famous books and movies of the recent past. I’ll try and give the cliff notes version — Isla Nublar a lovely tropical island off the coast of Costa Rica that was chosen as the site of a dinosaur-packed theme park. All the famous dinosaur species make an appearance, most notably a T. Rex and some (misnamed and very lethal) velociraptors. Because Jurassic Park is a, um, theme park, it’s designed to look like a theme park version of a Lost World, complete with décor that would be right at home on King Kong’s Skull Island, as Dr. Malcolm points out. Of course, it all goes wrong, the dinosaurs gobble up a bunch of people and then, at least in the book, the military drops napalm over everything. Luckily, there’s the neighboring Isla Sorna — Site B — where the dinosaurs can still roam free.
Again, Jurassic Park is pretty famous. You can read the books and you can watch Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park II: The Lost World, and Jurassic Park III (don’t watch that one). You can also read about rumors for Jurassic Park IV. Will it be the one with dino-human hybrids? Or maybe it will take place in a functioning Jurassic Park with aquatic prehistoric reptiles and trained velociraptors? Why not discuss your theories for Jurassic Park IV in the comments below?
I suppose I could write about how Jurassic Park’s astounding special effects still hold up today or how clever the writing is, with so many great lines that have now become geek culture standards (‘clever girl’ and Dr. Grant’s famous raptor description), how great the score is or how that cartoon DNA guy keeps saying Di-No-SAWRRS. I could talk about how, back in the early 90s, it was a massive advertising juggernaut that stuffed countless toy stores and how it’s probably the most successful dinosaur property ever. But instead, I think I’ll talk about my personal reactions to Jurassic Park.
The film came out in 1993. I guess I’ll be dating myself when I say that I was very young when this happened — and, like a lot of little kids, I was absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs. I had tons of dinosaur toys, I read about dinosaurs and I memorized the species and their traits. So you might think Jurassic Park was right up my alley, that I would watch it over and over again and memorize all the classic lines. This was not the case. I was a very frightened little boy and Jurassic Park scared the shit out of me. I re-watched it recently and it’s easy to see why. The film is, like Jaws, ultimately a horror movie, with its predators as stalking, unstoppable killing machines that massacre cows, a goat and Samuel L. Jackson off screen in the most horrifying way possible. The raptors and T-Rex are terrifying and merciless. It doesn’t matter if you’re a scumbag lawyer or an innocent kid — they’ll still come after you. And do you think human technology will protect you? Bad luck, incompetence or outright villainy will screw you over every time and then the dinosaurs will come and eat you. I watched it with my parents and for a long time after that I kept imagining raptors were creeping around in my shadowed house or expecting Samuel L. Jackson’s severed arm to reach out and touch me. Strangely, the movie didn’t turn me off dinos in all. Maybe it even made me like them more, but putting some enticing danger into all of my toys. I did like the Jurassic Park toys (I remember I had this raptor/archaeopteryx hybrid that was really cool) and I even braved the ride at Universal Studios — but I did not revisit the movie.
I think what Jurassic Park really did was restore a kind of awe to dinosaurs. The predators are dangerous, the plant-eaters are majestic (even when they’re sneezing on that poor girl) and all of them inspire sheer amazement in both the viewers and the movie’s characters. The dinosaurs are fantastic creatures, like something out of myth, only, of course, they really existed. Jurassic Park reminds us of that and, for that reason alone, it’s got to be counted as a classic of Lost World and dinosaur art.