On its release in 1993 I gushed about Jurassic Park, blaring “Everything you’ve heard is true”.
Twenty years on, nothing has changed. The film remains a benchmark in modern cinema and its CGI wizardry – you’ll believe a dinosaur can run, roar and chomp – holds up remarkably well.
Michael Crichton’s story – a millionaire discovers the method for sourcing dinosaur DNA and uses it to clone the terrible lizards of our prehistoric past – is brought sympathetically to the screen and an inspired ensemble cast works hard not to be outshone by special effects.
Steven Spielberg’s movie – Crichton wrote the screenplay with David Koepp – is a remarkably spare affair. Having set up the story with archaeologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) reluctantly being dragged from his dig to John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) hi-tech theme park, Spielberg embarks on a pell-mell chase through dinosaur country as humans are pursued by predators from their nightmares.
Yet even as the tension is cranked up to level 10, we are reminded that Alan and partner Ellie (Laura Dern) are unfulfilled: she wants a child, he does not.
Maverick mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) morphs from sceptic to believer in one glib moment, courtesy of a rampaging T-Rex – and who wouldn’t? Hammond learns not to meddle with nature.
And perhaps most importantly – certainly constantly referenced in popular culture ever since, ad infinitum – the cinema welcomes a new villain in the shape of the wily and terrifying Velociraptor.
As a rollercoaster ride Jurassic Park is matchless.
It is peppered with moments of brief calm betwixt high-power sequences that rewrote the rulebook of what can be achieved on film.
Spielberg can lay claim to a handful of films that changed the face of the movies. Jaws was the first.
ET was another, as was Saving Private Ryan. Yet Jurassic Park should be top of the list. It is a triumphant blend of artistry before and behind the camera and proves that special effects, when treated as a tool to aid story and performance, can create real magic.
As a 20th anniversary treat the film has been re-released in 3D.
And it is a real treat.