At the time of writing, I am watching Jurassic Park on AMC. Good thing, too, since it’s the first time in ten years when I have seen the movie in widescreen. John Williams’ beautiful score never gets old, the CGI is still photorealistic, and Sam Neill is as awesome as ever. And beside the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite films again, it serves as a powerful reminder of how majestic dinosaurs must have been.
Sure, some of the traits Hollywood gave to the animals are purely speculative, like the poison-spitting capabilities of the Dilophosaurus, or are outdated, like the Velociraptors we now know were mostly coated in feathers. But something I will always be thankful for is how Jurassic Park made it “cool” to love dinosaurs again. Beforehand, these dragons of prehistory, these works of biological art, were mostly relegated to museums and paleontology departments, or were innocuous fantasies children would love, then outgrow. Then, when Michael Crichton wrote his novel, and Steven Spielberg took on the massive challenge of bringing it to the screen, dinosaurs raced back to the public consciousness. Thanks to Crichton and Spielberg (and paleontologists like Jack Horner and Robert Bakker before them), we started to look at dinosaurs as something more than voracious monsters. We started to see them as the animals they were. Even more than that, we sensed there was something transcendent and mysterious about them. Of all prehistoric creatures, they are the ones that captivate us the most.
May we never lose that awareness. I pray that we will always see these creatures in a light of reverence, as beautiful and strange as they were frightening and powerful. No matter how extinct they are, dinosaurs will always be alive in our imagination. I never grew out of that love for these animals, because it wasn’t something to outgrow.