It is the summer of 2020, and a blockbuster film tops the box office. Whilst that may not sound unusual, after all every summer sees a different blockbuster dominate the box office, this particular film is twenty-seven years old and has already topped the box office three times previously. The film in question is of course Jurassic Park.
Marking the inception of the Jurassic Park franchise and spawning various merchandise, games and even theme park rides, the dinosaurs are not the only things that are colossal about Jurassic Park. The film is also credited with paving the way for computer generated effects and has frequently been called one of the greatest films of all time.
Directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel of the same name, Jurassic Park was a massive hit upon its release and became the highest grossing film of all time, a record it held until the release of Titanic. Four further films followed with the fifth sequel, Jurassic World Dominion, set to be released in June 2022. Audiences have always flocked to see the Jurassic Park films, but what is it about them that makes them so popular and so longstanding?
Perhaps the most flippant answer to that question is simply – the dinosaurs. Humankind have always been fascinated with the ancient reptiles that once roamed the earth and that fascination is universal. Whether it is a child playing with a dinosaur model or an adult proudly displaying one, dinosaurs capture our imaginations. Their evolution and ultimate extinction is one of science’s greatest mysteries and our curiosity and interest in them has never been fully sated. To see the great beasts brought to life so effectively on the big screen is something that has had audiences eager to return to the cinema for each subsequent film. Is there such a thing as too many dinosaurs? For audiences it appears not.
The Jurassic Park films are not the only films that have brought dinosaurs to the screen, however where Jurassic Park differentiated itself is in the ground-breaking way that it managed to do so. The first film saw the use of revolutionary computer generated effects that marked a subsequent change in the film industry. Suddenly what many had deemed unfeasible, too expensive and impossible became possible and a whole new world of potential was opened up to filmmakers and audiences. The success of Jurassic Park can be attributed to influencing many other films such as the Star Wars prequels, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jurassic Park not only gave audiences a world of dinosaurs, it gave them access to any number of cinematic universes.
Of course, these days computer generated effects are ten a penny, even in low budget films, and so future films set in the Jurassic Park franchise could not rely on being the only ones using that technology. Yet even with audiences comfortably familiar with the very best visual and special effects that the industry can offer, the Jurassic Park sequels have still managed to attract audiences to every instalment. This popularity can also be accredited to the storytelling and direction of the films. The films had already brought the dinosaurs back and so they needed more to the story than just dinosaurs running amok to keep audiences invested.
The release of Jurassic World in 2015 imagined an already up and running theme park that had a constant stream of visitors. This was something that would never have seemed possible in the original Jurassic Park and fit in perfectly with the idea that technology had advanced exponentially. The advancements of technology and science in the films, whilst obviously still out of reach of real life science, matched the advancement of audiences’ expectations. In this way the films were still able to capture audiences’ imaginations.
The Jurassic Park films also present interesting and challenging concepts for the audience. Whilst the films may be predominantly considered as action blockbusters, they provide far more than just action. A theme throughout all of the films in the franchise is that of ethics and morality. From the very first film, we are constantly challenged with whether the manipulation of DNA in this way is ethical. Jurassic Park, and later Jurassic World, is an attraction that consists first and foremost as a way to make money. Not only that but the films also question the idea of ‘zoos’ as a whole. Now that the dinosaurs exist again, should they be kept caged up, controlled and used at man’s will? Do men play god in the film? Or do all the scientific advancements negate that? There is never a clear answer given to any of these questions and the films let the audience ponder and reach their own conclusions. Simultaneously, the films never stray into a disquisition on the subject allowing them to remain fluid, fast moving and engaging.
Jurassic Park was the very essence of what a big screen experience should be. Awe inspiring, jaw-dropping and most of all great fun. The same audiences that found themselves wowed by Jurassic Park in 1993 found themselves once again wowed by it in 2020. Similarly the sequels have seen great success and upcoming film Jurassic World Dominion looks set to be no different. Both Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom have surpassed the one billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office, and it will be no surprise if Jurassic World Dominion manages to do the same.
The most enduring film franchises are the ones that stay in your mind and keep a special place in your heart and the Jurassic Park franchise fits neatly into that both of those categories. Whether you find yourself quoting “clever girl,” tensing up when you see the vibrations in a glass of water or simply eagerly prebooking your ticket to the next instalment – Jurassic Park is a longstanding and popular franchise for a reason. Life, uh finds a way and so does an action packed dinosaur blockbuster.