Upon re-watching Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park last night, now in THREE DIMENSIONS, I took pause throughout the film to muse on how it has remained relevant in so many ways even twenty years after its initial release. This is one of those few films that left everyone gobsmacked in 1993 from the effects and, of course the sweeping score.
Some were disappointed by the watering down of Michael Crichton's novel, mainly two common themes in science-fiction: meddling with nature and over-zealous technophilia. But considering the extensive transformation that the story underwent in its adaptation to the screen, both issues still found their own poignant scenes along with memorable quips of dialogue.
On meddling with nature, few films of that scale have ever handled the topic without beating you over the head clumsy or worse, lazy metaphors ***cough...Avatar... Jurassic Park had the added burden of explaining the relatively new and still very mysterious science of DNA and genetic engineering. In 1993, we had not yet sequenced the human genome and Dolly the cloned sheep was still three years away. DNA would play a defining role the next summer in the O.J. Simpson trial but we were still dealing in the film with what amounted to the lay person as "magic."
With exposition of gene splicing and the genetic code handled in thirty seconds by an animated floating strand of DNA with a courtly southern accent, the film doesn't dwell on the issue but allows Jeff Goldblum to succinctly register the audience's gut feeling with his quotable quip "Life, uh...Finds a way..."
Fig. 1b The Goldblum.
In the twenty years since then, we've done a pretty good job holding the reins on exploitation of gene-therapies. It's allowed us to make advances in everything from cancer treatments to cognitive neuroscience. When the Monsanto corp seeks to patent genes for their agricultural endeavors, they continually come up against loud criticism that reflects our sensitivity to ensuring these "god-like" powers are used only for good.
The other theme in the film is addressed via an exchange between Hammond and Ellie over ice-cream nonetheless, the danger of becoming "over-dependent on automation." Hammond boasts early on about having "spared no-expense" on the vast systems and spectacles of the park and, as dangers begin to emerge, only laments that the solution is more technological control. The whole meddling with nature and techno-over-zealousness slams head-on in his exchange with Samuel L. Jackson in which he adheres to saving the park systems over abandoning them and leaving the animals to the fate of their built-in lysine deficiency.
In 1993 the fanciest laptop boasted a 200MB hard drive if you could afford it and a cellphone was the size of a Kleenex box. Twenty years one, there is no reversing the ubiquitous role of computers nor limiting one's exposure. There is no off-the-grid, even shunning a cellphone turns you instantly into Ted Kaczynski. The infrastructure of our major cities are completely wired as are the economies of whole nations. In reality we have more back ups and safeguards than Hammond's park but it wouldn't take much to threaten the fragility of our technological ecosystem. Maybe a cosmic event, not unlike that which wiped out the dinosaurs, a solar flare that slams into Earth like a massive EMP pulse, rendering the planet in darkness.
Kinda makes you think. Or not. Whatever, dinosaurs are awesome and even better in 3D!