Steven Spielberg’s signature monster movies

jaws and jurassic park

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws—the first summer blockbuster, released in 1975—and Jurassic Park—the 1993 blockbuster that made CGI mainstream—are two of the many revolutionary films that are just as important to the medium as they are to many film lovers.

I actually didn’t see the whole of Jaws until late 2014 where I’d already been writing reviews for a few months. Still, Jaws managed to blow me away. What struck me was the human element, small moments like Chief Brody’s young son mimicking his mannerisms at the dinner table that give the film such a human dimension amid its suspense and scares.

Watching it a couple years on, a lot of it is actually really corny, particularly the caricatures that fill the community of Amity Island. And yet, that’s partly what makes it so dang entertaining forty years on. Sure, the film’s subject matter was a shock to audiences back then; now, it could just confirm to someone why they’re afraid to go in the ocean like it did for me. It’s like the film is saying, “Yeah, I want to scare the crap out of you; just don’t take me too seriously.”

Since I first saw Jaws, I’ve paid more attention to the human element in every movie.

The way Jurassic Park has affected me, however, is a bit sillier.

I’ve known Jurassic Park since I was a kid where I thought it was the film that invented CGI, or computer generated imagery. I didn’t learn until I was older that it merely revolutionized CGI after it was used very subtly and sparingly in previous decades and that its first prominent use was in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Still, given my early impression of Jurassic Park, watching post-1977 (Star Wars)/pre-1993 action movies now always give me a sense that I’m, well, watching an action movie that was made post-1977/pre-1993, even though I now prefer practical effects over CGI. Heck, throughout the two-hour Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs are onscreen for fifteen minutes, and for nine of those minutes they’re actually animatronics.

As for the actual movie, none of its characters are as developed or interesting as Jaws‘s Chief Brody, Matt Hooper, and Sam Quint, yet Spielberg still manages to make them feel real enough for us to care for. The suspense is directed as masterfully as it is in Jaws, and the film introduces a line that rings quite relevant, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Jaws is still the better film and would have a higher place on my favorite movies list due to the way it affected how I view movies. Jurassic Park is never a bad choice though, and I hold it along with Jaws as the gold standard for Hollywood monster movies.

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