Steven Speilberg's Jurassic Park is 20 years old, and to commemorate it's getting a 3D high definition theatrical re-release (bonus: it's also in IMAX for those who live close to that type of theater). Is the film as good as you remember? How do the special effects hold up 20 years later? Is the 3D here a quality transfer or a rushed, money-grabbing hack job? Most importantly, is it worth spending money to see in theaters a movie you can watch at home?
JURASSIC PARK 3D REVIEW (GRADE: A-)
I'm going to proceed on the assumption that everyone reading this has seen Jurassic Park, one of history's biggest moneymakers and among the most influential films (as pertaining to visual effects) ever made. For those who've somehow never seen it before, I'll keep this simple: you should go see it in theaters, preferably in IMAX. Your first experience with this film really ought to be on the big screen. Now, for everyone else, instead of a standard review, this one will proceed by simply answering the questions above.
1. Is the film as good as you remember? It's better. Time has been kind to Jurassic Park, a film criticized (upon its release in 1993) for having groundbreaking effects but weak characters. Turns out, compared to the soulless excesses of the Transformers and other CGI orgies of today, JP has a slew of well-written, well-performed, and memorable characters. Sam Neill's dino-loving, but child-phobic, Dr. Grant has a nice arc as he turns protector for the film's two children (both of whom are put to good use here). Laura Dern adds spunk and courage as Dr. Sattler. Richard Attenborough resonates as eccentric billionaire John Hammond; he gives a funny, but ultimately bittersweet performance as a man whose hopes are destroyed by disaster. Jeff Goldblum gets all the best one-liners as “rock star” chaotician Ian Malcom, and who can forget the lawyer, the big game hunter, and early performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Seinfeld‘s Wayne Knight (“Newman”)?
As for the story, there's just enough psuedo-science about dino-cloning for audiences to suspend disbelief and the screenplay actually offers some profound insights about balancing scientific advancement with humility and morality (even if these scenes today feel a tad over-written). It's true, some of the dialogue falls flat and some of the jokes don't connect. There are pacing issues during the first hour, especially for those raised with the instant gratification of today's popcorn movies. The film drags from time to time here, as it's mostly putting the chess pieces in position for the second half.
Fortunately there's enough humor, genuine wonder, and (gasp) actual character development to carry audiences through the slower patches. Plus, the payoff of that second hour is phenomenal, as Spielberg unleashes one unforgettable nail-biting scene after another and reminds us that, in his prime, nobody did thrill-ride movies better than he. The sound design is rich, creative, and dynamic. John Williams once again proves his inestimable worth as a film composer with a robust score. In short, Jurassic Park rocks.
2. How do the special effects hold up 20 years later? Remarkably well. In fact, the nearly-seamless combination of computer-generated images (CGI) and animatronic puppetry by the legendary Stan Winston is far more realistic than much of what passes for visual effects today, even if it's not always perfect. Plus the high-definition transfer and use of 3D, which I was worried would highlight flaws in the decades-old effects, actually improve the experience.
3. Is the 3D well-done? I'm rarely an advocate for 3D. Usually it seems to be a money-grabbing gimmick and is often done poorly. In rare cases it can actually enhance the experience. Jurassic Park, to my surprise, is the latter. Absolutely see this in 3D. Spielberg shoots his movies with a marvelous use of space that lends itself well to 3D conversion. Rather than gimmicky, “coming atcha” 3D moments, the added dimension here helps add to the sense of scale, especially with regards to the big dinosaurs like T-Rex and the brachiosaurus.
4. Should I see it in theaters instead of at home? Absolutely. No matter how good your home system is, Jurassic Park looks and sounds better in a modern theater. Plus, there's nothing quite like introducing your kids to it with a theater full of screaming, jumping, and laughing people. Our almost seven-year-old loved it.
CONTENT OVERVIEW:Jurassic Park 3D is rated PG-13. It has a few mild and moderate profanities, a mild drawn image of a bikini-clad woman on a computer monitor. A woman examines a huge pile dinosaur feces. A man is eaten onscreen by a t-rex. Others die offscreen, screaming, by various dinosaur attacks. A man's bloody arm is discovered. There are plenty of frightening and startling moments.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: The quest for knowledge and progress must be tempered by a commitment to morality and respect for nature (2 Nephi 9:28-29). Children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3). “Among the life forms God created were apparently many species now extinct…The sequence of the creation of life on earth as recorded in Genesis—first plants (Gen. 1:11–12), then animals (Gen. 1:20–23)—is duplicated in the fossil record: plant fossils precede the appearance of animal fossils…The different roles science and religion play is illustrated in a study of the dinosaurs. From the fossil record we learn that the dinosaurs were the dominant animals on earth between 225 and 67 million years ago. Some were carnivorous, others herbivorous. Some were small, while others were gigantic, weighing up to eighty tons and growing to lengths of more than ninety feet. The existence of these animals is indisputable, for their remains have been found in rocks all over the earth. What eternal purpose they played in the creation and early history of the earth is unknown. The scriptures do not address the question, and it is not the realm of science to explore the issue of why they were here. We can only conclude, as Elder Talmage did, that ‘the whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.'” (“I Have a Question,” Ensign, September 1987).