This seamless integration of practical effects and CG is one of Spielberg’s most elegant constructions. Also: dinosaurs chasing humans.
Nearly three decades later, there’s not a lot left to say about Jurassic Park: Like Jaws, it’s a clockwork entertainment that revolutionized cinema, its seamless integration of practical effects and CG dinosaurs changing the way visual effects were regarded as storytelling tools, and influencing a generation of kids to grow up and become moviemakers themselves. But it’s also one of Spielberg’s purest and most elegant constructions, a return to the visual storytelling he perfected in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial — two other films that featured non-human characters prominently, if you’ll recall.
While both of those films are about fear of the unknown giving way to awe, Jurassic Park goes the other way, starting with the wonder of seeing dinosaurs walk the earth once more, and then descending into terror when they get loose and start hunting the people who’ve come to see them. It’s a rollercoaster ride, playing out as a series of exquisite set pieces and always cutting back to the cast’s terrified faces so we understand the stakes. That initial T. rex attack might be Spielberg’s finest hour, using all the lessons he learned in Jaws about not showing the monster in the first movement only to throw them away when the beast makes her first, entirely convincing appearance. Of course those kids are screaming: there’s a freaking dinosaur trying to eat them.
Content advisory: violence, frightening scenes