By David Mayne
Starring: Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazello
You had to see this one coming. I mean, you had Star Wars 3D for shit’s sake, what was next?! Now, the powers that be at Universal, as well as the heavy hand of the beard himself have brought the (now) dino-classic, Jurassic Park straight out of 1993, slapped a decent 3D treatment on it, and re-released it for fans both new and old. How does Dr. Grant and gang, not to mention 20-year old special effects stack up against a battle-hardened and insanely fickle 2013 viewing audience? I am happy to report: very well!
In 1993, everything was Ninja Turtles, and I mean EVERYTHING. Not until Steven Spielberg and company released an island full of bloodthirsty, long extinct dinosaurs had audiences had much reprieve from the aforementioned heroes in a half-shell. When Michael Crichton wrote the original novel in 1990, millions picked it up, sending the novel soaring to the top of every book chart from here to Timbuktu. Consistently on the New York Times Bestseller List, few could have been surprised that it would be adapted to the silver screen. Even fewer could have predicted what would happen next. While the book was indeed a critical and commercial success, the use of CGI in films was shoddy at best, and the notion of another “dinosaur” movie, based off a hit book or not, would be a huge gamble. Thanks to George Lucas’ legendary special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic, any and all fears were put to rest as the first Brontosaurus strolled on-screen in what most JP fans will never forget as “utterly jaw-dropping”. Combined with the above average performances of Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, and Sam Neil; along with the magnificent score by John Williams and the masterful touch of one Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park truly leapt from the pages of Crichton’s novel and securely cemented itself as a cinema classic, not to mention the ushering-in of mainstream CGI.
When I first heard that Jurassic Park was going to be “3D’d”, I rolled my eyes. I’ll throw this out there Amigos: I am not a big fan of 3D films. While most made-for 3D movies do in fact look terrific, the added effect doesn’t do much for me, and from an immersion standpoint, it can be distracting. That said, I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy such 3D flicks as Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’. While Avatar was made with 3D in mind, Titanic was not, and it showed. Here’s the catch: I enjoyed Titanic’s 3D more than I did Avatar’s. Sound crazy? When I said that 3D can be “distracting” during a movie, I mean exactly that. I was so caught up in Avatar’s spectacular 3D that I actually spaced out quite a bit and missed a lot of dialogue and other subtle themes that I would have caught if I had been watching a normal screen. Going back and watching it a second time, 3D-free, I was able to enjoy the movie much more. On the flip side, since Titanic (1997) wasn’t made for 3D, the re-release used a much more subtle application to achieve said effect, resulting in a layered and refined use of the technology. Nothing was “overdone”, and I was able to enjoy the movie as well as the added “depth”.
Jurassic Park 3D goes the Titanic route, thankfully. If you were expecting Velociraptors to be jumping off the screen and into your lap while 20 foot tall T-Rex’s sniff around your ears, you’re going to be disappointed. While indeed 3D, the idea that Spielberg was going to go back and spend millions to make this a theme-park thrill ride is absurd. Instead, what you get is a subtle use of depth and three-dimensional visuals, with beautiful vistas and just the right amount of 3D. While one or two scenes do indeed “pop” a bit more than others, the 3D application used in this 20 year anniversary release of Jurassic Park seeks only to compliment an already amazing film.
The fact that Jurassic Park is now, as pointed out, 20 years old, only goes to show the amount of effort and talent that went into it’s making. While elementary by today’s CGI standards, what ILM was pulling off in the early 90’s is nothing short of ground-breaking. I was half-expecting a Star Wars-esque CGI “makeover” when I sat down in my seat. Having seen Lucas, for better or worse, insert brand new effects and improvements into Star Wars, the idea of a re-done Tyrannosaurus Rex or a digitally remastered Stegosaurus wasn’t out of the question. None of this was the case aside from an obvious digital remaster, which looked terrific! While Jurassic Park features both CG and physical “puppet” dinosaurs, they all stand their ground, shining just as well as they did back in ’93; a testament to the effects and craftsmanship of ILM and Spielberg.
Jurassic Park has a simple premise and a complex undercurrent. Billionaire John Hammond (Attenborough), CEO of the mega-corporation ‘InGen’, has discovered a way to clone dinosaurs from preserved DNA found in the amber-encased remains of prehistoric mosquitos. Together with a large team of scientists, botanists, and the money to build his ultimate dream park, Hammond reaches out to famed paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant (Neil), and paleobotanist, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) in the hopes that they will visit his new “wildlife preserve” and wholly endorse it, thus ensuring paying tourists. After agreeing to see what Hammond has to offer, Grant and Sattler are dumbstruck to realize that the park is home to living, breathing, biologically engineered dinosaurs. Dr. Ian Malcom (Goldblum), a mathematician brought in to analyze the impact and probability of unforseen problems, immediately voices his concern that bringing long-extinct dinosaurs back to life could indeed backfire. Lex and Tim, Hammond’s young grandchildren, also join the group for the tour and “unveiling”.
“Shit hits the fan” is an understatement in Jurassic Park. As Malcom’s worst fears are realized, the tour immediately takes a turn down poop street when the power is cut by Dennis Nedry (Knight), the park’s IT programmer who is attempting to steal and sell several dinosaur embryos for sale to a rival corporation. With the park’s electric fences and security gates disabled and unlocked, the dinosaurs begin to wander freely around the park, with Grant, Sattler, Malcom, and the kids stuck out in the middle of it. Oh yeah, and there is a tropical storm approaching. Shit storm sandwiches.
Sam Neil is great as the almost Indiana Jones-ish Dr. Grant, an aging and old-school paleontologist who is good to have around when all manner of bad things start happening. Sattler, though the compassionate paleobotanist who seems to care just a little too much about sick dinosaurs she’s never met, eventually steps up and becomes one of the day-saving heroes of the movie. Jeff Goldblum is ALL Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, with witty one lines, suave acting, and a head of hair that oddly seems to stay combed while being thrashed by 65 million year old dinosaurs. His character, Ian Malcom, is excellent comic relief without being annoying, and to think of anyone other than Goldblum in this role would now be considered blasphemy. You’ve been warned.
See Jurassic Park 3D, if for no other reason than to SEE Jurassic Park again on the big screen. For those of you that have never seen it, don’t be fooled by its 20-year old expiration date. Jurassic Park is just as fresh and just as relevant as it was back in 1993, and in some ways, even more so. The 3D is wonderfully done and not distracting, the CGI is gorgeous (the T-Rex is cinema GOLD), and John William’s timeless score is one for the ages. With an endearing story and engaging characters, Jurassic Park stands to be watched 100 year from now.