It started with a book, and a single concept that Michael Crichton had been mulling over for some time. Throughout the 1980s, the qualified medical doctor-turned-author of fiction pondered the idea of a Pterosaur being successfully cloned from fossilised DNA material. He then discussed this idea with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, during time spent planning the screenplay that would eventually become the long-running television phenomenon, ER. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Spielberg was hooked on the premise, and became the director of the film adaptation after Universal finally emerged victorious from a lengthy bidding war for the rights to the 1990 novel.
Just as this Spielberg-Crichton partnership was about to play a huge role in the transformation of dramatic television, so it also took cinema by the scruff of the neck and propelled it into a brand new era. Of course, we had all seen big-screen spectacle before – but not like this. This was next-level stuff. Audiences were witnessing a celluloid-based evolutionary jump the like of which had not been seen since George Lucas took us to a galaxy far, far away. Jurassic Park was the Star Wars of a whole new generation.
This comparison may sound cheesy, but it is entirely appropriate. In its time, Star Wars was a cultural phenomenon that changed every aspect of film – from creating new effects to breaking the character moulds of the time; from shattering box office records to literally creating the modern way in which tie-in merchandising is used. Star Wars also generated a fan base so vast and dedicated, that the films became something to be passed on to younger viewers over time.
While we may not see Jurassic Park conventions – with people wandering around dressed as Doctors Grant, Sattler and Malcolm, or even dressed as the Tyrannosaurus Rex – the franchise holds its place in the cultural firmament as a seismic cinematic event. It generated incredible technological advancement in the medium. It challenged character norms and stereotypes. It made box office history, and the merchandising opportunities practically wrote themselves. Most importantly, it inspired a generation of would-be filmmakers and story-tellers, and continues to be beloved by successive generations.
But the comparisons do not end there. Just like Star Wars, initial success was tempered by later disappointment – leading audiences to wonder whether the franchise should simply be left alone. Now, like Star Wars, a true fan has swooped in, seeking to recapture the sensation of that early, breathless wonderment. Twenty two years after those first goosebumps, we are returning to Jurassic Park in cinemas with Jurassic World, and here, with an in-depth look at the iconic franchise as a whole.