Twenty-five years ago an awestruck J.A. Bayona watched Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and was transformed. That experience sent the young creator on a path that led him to the director’s chair of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Read his homage to Spielberg below.
We all remember the moment we saw Jurassic Park for the first time and marveled at how all those dinosaurs had been re-created with computed-generated visual effects.
Personally, when I saw that Brachiosaurus come alive thanks to Industrial Light & Magic, I knew that I was witnessing a moment that would stand the test of time.
For me, it was proof that from then on, whatever idea I imagined, no matter how crazy it might seem, it would be possible to capture it onscreen in a realistic way.
Even so, when I think about that Brachiosaurus almost coming out of the screen, beyond the virtuosity of the visual effects, I think about its ability to move the audience.
There is no empty image in Steven Spielberg’s cinema. Each frame is linked to an emotion. Spielberg handles modern filmmaking techniques with the expertise of the finest magician, but above all he knows that the real potential lies in the ability to deal with stories from a human perspective. That is the power of his cinema. That is why we continue to remember Jurassic Park today with the same astonishment and affection as we had 25 years ago.
Drawing from the compelling novel by Michael Crichton, Spielberg knew how to surround his dinosaurs with memorable characters: a pair of paleontologists, a mathematician, a multimillionaire visionary who finances studies in the world of genetics and his grandkids…. On the one hand we feel through them the fascination of seeing these creatures parade before our eyes 65 million years after their extinction, and on the other hand we feel the terror of what it is to be in front of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Like other Spielberg films, Jurassic Park reflects on the attitude that mankind has toward science and the pace at which new technologies advance far beyond humans’ ability to assimilate them. It is worth pointing out that Spielberg never blames science but the use we make of it.
On that logic, the villains in the story are unscrupulous lawyers or corrupt employees guided by greed or excessive ambitions. As in fairy tales, Spielberg tells us a moral tale about the dangers of breaking the fragile balance between nature and mankind while trying to guide us toward the right path.
But beyond all other considerations, Jurassic Park is part of cinema’s history and part of the collective memory for bringing back the myth of dinosaurs to film. In Spielberg’s hands, the dinosaurs become the perfect metaphor for mankind’s dreams. On the one hand they symbolize the culmination of the desire to take over God’s place. The possibility of being able to bring back from extinction those majestic and beautiful creatures still mesmerizes audiences worldwide, and in that sense the film has many similarities with Frankenstein’s tale. But on the other hand Spielberg reminds us that dreams can also turn into nightmares.
And here is where the Tyrannosaurus emerges, taking the place of the monster as the image of our sins, as the reminder of those red lines that should never have been crossed.
This duality is one of the main reasons the dinosaur is still so attractive, because of its ability to seduce and terrorize us at the same time. In this contradiction lies the humanity of these creatures.