“For me, Jurassic Park was really kind of my Star Wars.” -Chris Pratt
It was the previous spring, during my family’s summer vacation to Universal Studios Florida, when a small merchandising kiosk caught my attention. Roofed with straw and made to look like some jungle hut, the kiosk was flanked by two small screens running a teaser trailer on an endless loop. I paused as our family passed, thinking I had seen a dinosaur. The teaser began again, and when I saw that beady T-rex eye peering into that Ford Explorer window, I got chills. Actual chills. Apparently, there was a movie coming out, directed by Steven Spielberg, about a theme park populated with actual dinosaurs.
Something called Jurassic Park.
My mom bought me a copy of the novel from the kiosk in question—the first novel I had ever owned or read. All of Universal Studios couldn’t compete with what I had just seen. For the rest of the day—and each ensuing day, week, and month leading up to June 12th—Jurassic Park filled my thoughts. I read the book slowly, retreading my favorite scenes, making it last long enough to sustain me until summer.
Finally, the day arrived.
It’s hard to describe a movie-going experience like that one, let alone the all-out cultural phenomenon that followed. I saw Jurassic Park six times in theaters in 1993. I owned every action figure, every piece of merchandising I could acquire, regardless of it’s pragmatic relevance to a ten-year old (my dad used the coffee mug more than I did). I had a full Jurassic Park wardrobe, school supplies, the soundtrack on cassette and CD, models, lunchbox, glasses, bedding, posters… I taped every interview, every Entertainment Tonight special, even an entire week of Jurassic Park themed Regis and Kathy Lee episodes.
Like any child of the 80’s, I had grown up watching and loving all three installments of the original Star Wars trilogy, playing with the toys, the whole deal. But I wasn’t around in 1977 to see the world change, to line up at the theater, to buy a ticket again and again and again.
Jurassic Park was my Star Wars.
When the VHS finally arrived in October of 1997, I kept a paper on my bedroom wall with which I tallied the number of times I had seen the movie (you know, for bragging rights). When the tallies exceeded 26 viewings, I decided the effort was no longer necessary.
For me, every moment, every frame of Jurassic Park is loaded with not just nostalgia, but with a personal history that endures more than two decades later. A day in June when, for two hours, the incredible capacity to enter into another world—disbelief not just suspended, but bypassed altogether—to experience a movie.
The incredible power of movies, of fiction, to impact and influence, to capture and steer and shape the imagination, to frighten and inspire, to compel thinking and dialogue again and again, across years, generations, and repeated viewings (even long after screening number twenty-six has come and gone).
As much as I loved The Lost World, and as much as I tried to love Jurassic Park 3, I no longer hope to capture the same magic I stumbled upon back in 1993, at least not in the same way. Next Friday, I don’t want to “top the original,” I just want a little bit of what makes the original Jurassic Park so enduring, and it isn’t the inexplicable spell that dinosaurs cast on children, it isn’t something buoyed by memories alone. It’s the beauty of a great movie.
Just a great movie.
Mr. Trevorrow, I am confident you can and did create a great movie, my mind, my love of the franchise you are stewarding, and of movies themselves are all-systems go. I am ready to visit the park another time, 22 years later.
May life always find a way.
Josh Porter, June 3, 2015.