Whereas Steven Spielberg's three Indiana Jones films in the 1980s were all winners (as, to a lesser degree, was the belated fourth installment), his Jurassic Park series suffered the same dip as most movie franchises. But the first film, now returning to the screen as a 3-D event on its 20th anniversary, has lost none of its ability to dazzle and delight.
Indeed, 1993 was an exceptional year for Spielberg, scoring critical and commercial kudos with both this summer blockbuster and his year-end awards contender Schindler's List. The hype surrounding the dinosaur film upon its original release was deafening, and yet the movie largely managed to meet expectations.
Based on Michael Crichton's bestseller, it centers on the efforts of various characters — including scientists charismatically played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum — to escape from a theme-park island that's crawling with genetically recreated dinosaurs. Spielberg treats us much as he does his characters, leading us into a strange land and then expecting us to make it out with all our faculties intact; it's a tall order, given the heart-stopping, bloodcurdling, limbs-numbing excitement packed into the second hour.
The effects work is astonishing — then again, when the team members' credits include the likes of Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the original Star Wars trilogy, that's to be expected.
While Schindler's List was sweeping most of the major Oscars, Jurassic Park went 3-for-3 in its technical bids, winning for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Even more impressive is its phenomenal box office: At close to a billion dollars internationally, it still ranks among the all-time Top 25 grossers.
After this latest go-round, look for it to crack the $1B mark and sprint over a few titles in the process.