How Jurassic Park changed Hollywood and our perspective of dinosaurs

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Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park released in 1993 and changed Hollywood forever. Adapted from Michael Crichton’s best-selling 1990 book, the film starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. It was a true-blue blockbuster. An entertaining popcorn flick with eye-popping visuals and soundtrack.

But Jurassic Park was also a film with a lot to say than the usual summer flick, putting on the screen the high-concept ideas and questions Crichton’s book had raised. The dinosaurs appeared fairly rarely on the screen for a dinosaur movie, but when they did, it was a magnificent experience. It was the classic rule of hiding more than revealing. Also, the technology was cutting-edge. The prehistoric beasts that are as fantastical as dragons, except they actually existed, suddenly came alive thanks to an inventive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and animatronics. Even today, the CGI in Jurassic Park does not feel dated.

After this, the blockbuster cinema changed. Use of CGI increased as filmmakers realised that the possibilities were endless. And voila, CGI is ubiquitous now. The way film was marketed and its franchise and merchandise created (with actual theme park built by Universal Studios) has become a standard now. All the summer blockbusters today that extensively use CGI effects like Avengers series, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and so on owe a big chunk of their success to Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park also changed dinosaurs. No, not the ones that existed hundreds of millions of years ago. But it altered how most humans envisioned them. If you were not a paleontologist then, you had only a vague notion of how dinosaurs may have looked and behaved. Sure, there had been dinosaur movies before (the first one was a silent film in 1914!), but none had the scale, budget, talented crew and realism that Jurassic Park had. For the first time, we had a concrete idea of these ferocious beasts that once ruled the earth. Spielberg consulted famous palaeontologist Jack Horner for accurate representation.

Oh and Jurassic Park also inspired countless young moviegoers to become palaeontologists. Let’s admit it, digging up fossils and painstakingly analysing them in a largely unrewarding and thankless job is not everybody’s cup of tea. But Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s portrayal (Dern played a paleobotanist) gave the career option a certain glamour that the wide-eyed teenagers watching the movie found unable to resist. Many reportedly even changed careers.

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