We here at Vulture have gone hard on Jurassic Park coverage this week, partly because it’s being rereleased in 3-D but mostly because it remains one of our most memorable childhood big-screen experiences. Here are three reminiscences. Please leave yours in the comments below.
Jurassic Park is probably my No. 1 movie of all time, and it might be the movie I’ve seen the most. It’s definitely the movie I’ve seen the most in the theater — because I saw it seven times when it came out. My mom was pregnant that summer, and my dad took me and my sisters to the movies. A lot. And seeing Jurassic Park over and over was great because I was completely obsessed with it. I had both the hardcover and paperback versions of the book (where I learned the word iteration). I had hundreds of the trading cards (not that I would have ever traded them; I loved them and loved organizing them in different ways). I had every making-of/behind-the-scenes book, booklet, or magazine article that was out there. I went to the special Jurassic Park exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. Obviously, when the VHS tape came out, I got it immediately. To watch, certainly, but also to add to my shrine.
I can separate everything in the world into two categories: Things That Remind Me of Jurassic Park, and Things That Remind Me of The West Wing, but the Jurassic Park category is probably a little more fun. Any can of Barbasol, obviously (I didn’t know it was a real brand; I remember seeing it at CVS after I’d seen the movie and assuming it was a tie-in). But also any time someone opens a bottle of Champagne, I think of Mr. Hammond stealing Drs. Grant and Satler’s special stash. “We were saving that!” “For today!” Whenever I say or write DNA, which admittedly comes up less now that I don’t cover crime, I think daaah-no dee-eun-aay! like from the little film reel. And when I type in a password incorrectly, I feel like a computer is saying to me, “Ah-ah-ah, you didn’t say the magic word!”
My conservative estimate is that I have seen Jurassic Park 150 times, but it’s probably more than that. And over the years, my devotion has not faded. I was watching Jurassic Park videos on the Stan Winston School YouTube channel earlier this week. And if you think I don’t still wear the tyrannosaurus necklace I bought myself the summer the movie came out, well … think again.
My mother made the coolest decision of her life on June 11, 1993, when she pulled me out of my seventh-grade math class because of a “family emergency” … which was just an excuse for the two of us to play hooky from work and school to go see the first matinee of Jurassic Park together. I would have loved the movie anyway — it was based on the first “adult book” my parents had let me read on my own — but coupled with the irresistible feeling that I had just gotten away with something audacious, I was an even easier mark.
It helped, too, that Jurassic Park goes from sci-fi to full-on horror movie sometime around the halfway point: I watched as characters were stalked by savage beasts intending to slash them to bloody bits, and I felt the giddy rush of sneaking into the sort of genre movie I was normally too young for. We forget those scares now that we see them coming — the rerelease plays more like a roller coaster, with most of the thrills derived from the anticipation of a coming drop — but at the time, there was no moment more indelible than that slasher-movie scene where Laura Dern turns the park power back on and then a raptor literally comes out of the wall to attack her. I screamed as loud as Dern did on that first afternoon I saw the film; the three subsequent times I went, I would turn around in my seat to watch the audience shriek instead.
I first saw Jurassic Park opening weekend at a multiplex in the Bronx and the thing I remember most is the volume. It might be the thing that actually made me realize how important sound can be to a movie, how pleasingly overwhelming a film can be if it’s loud in the right places. The T. rex scream that occurs at the end of that long sequence where it attacks the jeeps (having seen the movie dozens of times since its release, I’m still always shocked by how long it goes on) is etched on my eardrums. In college, I lived near a guy who had purchased a DVD player and a new soundsystem for his apartment, and when it was time to test it all out, we just had to put on Jurassic Park and jump ahead to that scene and play it as loud as possible, and when the T. rex screamed, I was a child again.
But that wasn’t the only audio component I couldn’t shake. I mean, that John Williams theme, right? I would ride the city bus to school every day and listen on my Walkman to a tape of the Jurassic Park score, rewinding and forwarding to my favorite parts over and over again. Not only the main theme, which lives in all of our hearts and minds and will possibly survive longer than the dinosaurs did, but the uplifting “Journey to the Island,” which runs approximately from when we first see Alan and Ellie and Ian on the helicopter headed to Isla Nublar through when they first see that brachiosaur to when they sit down to watch Hammond’s DNA video. I can match sections to individual shots. Given a prompt of a few notes, I can probably still hum most of it off the top of my head.