Jurassic Park

1993, Amblin Entertainment

In the same way George Lucas's Star Wars reinvented outer space science fiction, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park forever changed the landscape for dinosaur films, launching an enduring franchise and inspiring countless imitations. That it was done in 1993 is quite the technical accomplishment as well, since CGI was in its infancy at the time. Spielberg pushed the boundaries of what's possible in the process of crafting what can only be described as a perfect film, fulfilling the dreams of many filmmakers and theatergoers alike. Jurassic Park was criticized by some for the departures it made from Michael Crichton's book, but I cannot see how Spielberg could have possibly made something so broadly appealing without significant changes, since the book was borderline horror, containing considerable blood and gore—including a vicious attack on a child. Making John Hammond a more likeable protagonist also worked in the film's favor by cutting back on cynicism and keeping things a bit lighter. But the most brilliant change was likely the cartoon explaining the cloning process: it was a clever and entertaining way to deal with a large chunk of exposition. In short, Jurassic Park showcased Spielberg's formidable filmmaking skills, winning more than twenty awards, including three Academy Awards.

       

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

1997, Amblin Entertainment et al

Even Steven Spielberg's vast filmmaking skills weren't enough to maintain the momentum for the first Jurassic Park  sequel, although this is not to say it was a flop by any stretch of the imagination; Lost World simply lost the spark of the original. Part of this may be due to the fact that we're familiar with the main characters, who were not allowed to develop any further than they had on their introduction; instead, the focus was maintained on the dinosaurs. Even Spielberg can fall into the "more is [not] better" trap. That said... it's still an awesome dinosaur movie.

       

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Jurassic Park III

2001, Amblin Entertainment

Regrettably, what was once a promising franchise sputtered, stalled and began a fiery plunge. Director Joe Johnston couldn't hope to fill Steven Spielberg's shoes, although to be honest they'd shrunk a bit after the disappointing Lost World. And bringing the dinosaurs to the mainland was, IMHO, a huge mistake, although I'll also admit it was inevitable, since the stakes can be upped just so far on a tiny island. We must all accept Jurassic Park III for what it is: adequate entertainment, versus inspiring art.

   

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Jurassic World

2015, Amblin Entertainment et al

After almost fifteen years of absence, and a complete change in cast and crew, the franchise was resuscitated. Several factors worked in its favor—in particular a nostalgic return to the ruins of the original park, the charismatic Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the lead, and awesome new CGI technology. Working against it was a predictable plot to breed smart dinos for use as weapons by the military, as well as the requisite glut of frenetic action for action's sake. Despite its shortcomings, it sold well over a billion and a half in popcorn. And there is, naturally, another sequel in the works—like that's a surprise...

     

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