when dinosaurs ruled my life…

I saw Jurassic Park on the big screen again today and my mind has been spinning with memories ever since.

I was always a movie geek and I think my love of Indiana Jones led me to Spielberg.  I was into the behind-the-scenes stuff so I knew the names of actors and directors and writers and it was hard for me to miss his name next to my then-hero George Lucas when the credits rolled after Temple of Doom (I was scared of the ghosts in Raiders so I only watched Temple for the longest time LOL).  But I don’t really think it was until Jurassic Park that my full on love of Spielberg really hit.

I can’t remember the specifics, but I did want to see the movie and I knew it was coming out.  My mom pointed out that it was based on a book.  At this time, my reading was mostly limited to Star Wars novels and books based on movies, so she knew what she was doing when she encouraged me to read the book before we saw the film.

I remember being so nervous when I went to the theater with my 6th grade friend Tara.  The movie was rated PG-13 and I was only 12 and I was scared they wouldn’t let me in.  I think I might have even asked my mom to write me a permission letter.  I remember clutching my military ID, worried that they would ask for it and I would be sent home.  Of course, that didn’t happen because no one cares who sees a PG-13 movie.  But still, it was a strong enough dread that I remember it.

I also remember this was right when the first stadium seating theater opened up in Laurel AND they had the new surround sound system.  Oh the sound of that T-Rex roar still makes me heart beat faster, I LOVE IT!

I think I dragged every single person I knew to the theater with me that summer to watch it over and over again.  My Mom said she thought it was scarier than Jaws (which I had yet to see…I think this is where I went on my Spielberg binge, renting all of the movies from Channel 3 Video, the local rental store, and rewatching classics like E.T. and digging out our taped-off-of-TV Beta of Poltergeist.  My older cousin was obsessed with dinosaurs, he actually had Robert Bakker’s book (the one that Tim is rambling about at Grant when he slams the car door in his face) and he had spent the summer sketching Velociraptors so when we went up to Maine in August, we had to hit the theater again.  I want to say I saw it at least 6 times.

I bought the soundtrack (even though I had started drafting a letter to John Williams about keeping the dinosaur sounds in the soundtrack because I felt they were part of the music LOL).  I listed to the CD SO MUCH I memorized the music cues for almost all of the scenes.  Especially that moment where Ellie yells “It’s the other car!” …that one was one of my favorites.

My Uncle Jim gave me a cassette copy of the audiobook, which was abridged but I didn’t care.  I listened to it over and over while I played Tetris on my Nintendo in the basement (you know, when I wasn’t dragging people to see Jurassic Park).  And I dragged my copy of the book around with me everywhere (it’s in pretty sad shape but I still have it now, yellowed pages and water damaged back cover…I remember when I spilled water on it, it was in a hotel in Orlando with my aunt, I was so upset).

I got my hands on several action figures included the Explorer (I was convinced that was the car I would get some day, painted just like Jurassic Park), T-Rex that roared when you squeezed him (I wore out the mechanism at some point and my Dad did some surgery to go in and fix it, poor Rex had a scar after that), a little T-Rex who had a bit of “flesh” that popped out on the side ot reveal bone and muscle, a raptor, and a dilophosaurus who screamed when you pressed down on his tongue.  We had raptor hand-puppet too, which made the noise when you pressed the button inside.  And we bought the board game which was just terrible, took hours to read the directions and it made no sense and I’m sure my parents earned all kinds of karma playing that with me when they did LOL.

And, of course, I bought the “Making Of” book and read it cover to cover to find out HOW they made those awesome dinosaurs.  I had such respect for Phil Tippet and Stan Winston.  I really wanted to do that, it was my dream job, to work in movies…and I guess some part of me still wishes I had pursued that career.  And another part of me knows that I would have been eaten alive like Gennaro 😉

Lost World and JP3 never lived up to the first movie.  First they didn’t have the great source material to pull from (the second book had very little in common with the second movie) and Spielberg was just a producer, not directing.  But I’ve always loved <i>Jurassic Park</i> and I watched it so much, cranked up the home theater system my Dad had set up, making the walls shake when the T-Rex roared (until my Mom would roar for me to turn it down).

This also started my love affair with Sam Neill who hadn’t done a lot of movies a 12 year old could see, but I remember watching Billy Zane terrorize him and Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm and also him being the proto-Bond in Reilly: Ace of Spies.  I still adore him.

Which is why it was so good to see it in the theater again.  It holds up so well because of those Spielberg touches.  Say what you will about him, the man knows how to make you care about characters, even when they spend most of the movie being chased by dinosaurs.  Like E.T. and Poltergeist, you can watch this movie at different ages and watch along with different characters.  For so long, I watched with Lex and Tim, but now I watch with Grant and Ellie.  And, joy of joys, the special effects still look GOOD probably because of the fact that Tippet and Winston used enough practical effects mixed with the primitive CGI (which cleaned up nicely too).

So to Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg, the entire cast and crew of Jurassic Park, I want to say THANK YOU!  It might not be the best movie ever (there are some weird edits that still bug me to this day, which is usually attributed to the fact that Steven had gone to work on Schindler’s List by the end and didn’t worry as much about JP…can you blame him?) but it makes me HAPPY.  I could watch it over and over (and I have) and I know it was just an easy way to make money, making it 3D and putting it back in theaters but…I don’t care, it was worth it to see it one last time on the BIG SCREEN.

I ❤ Jurassic Park.

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