PLOT: A tour of a state-of-the-art theme park featuring living, breathing dinosaurs goes awry when the park is sabotaged from within and the creatures are let loose.
REVIEW: I’m not often prone to exaggeration, at least not in movie reviews, but it isn’t a stretch to say that seeing JURASSIC PARK 3D in the theater after all this time made me feel like a kid again. The pure excitement, wonder and surprise inherent in Steven Spielberg’s movie have not dissipated in the 20 years since its release. In fact, those things are enhanced by the fact that we’re so used to nonstop CGI-extravaganzas these days, we’re rarely moved by a film’s grandeur. But it’s impossible not to be moved by JURASSIC PARK, which is being released now in 3D form; it is a beautiful piece of popcorn entertainment, and I doubt I’ll have a better time at the movies this year.
Just so we’re clear, I’m extremely familiar with the film; this wasn’t a rediscovery. I know JURASSIC PARK so well I can quote it, know every scene like the back of my hand. So it’s a testament to the power of the theatrical experience that I was so swept up. You can have the largest, most badass home theater system on the market, but there is still no substitute for watching a big movie like this with a full house of people eager to enjoy themselves. And when the brachiosaur makes his first appearance, with John Williams’ gentle theme guiding Alan Grant (Sam Neill) - and us - into a new age of movie magic - it seemed to me that my audience was glued to the moment the way we were when the film first came out. I was, at the very least, I can assure you.
But you know it’s splendid; you’re probably wondering about the 3D conversion. I must admit that I have not seen a ton of post-converted movies in the theater; except for the mediocre work done on TOP GUN, I don’t have anything to really compare this to. But that won’t stop me from saying that a very good job has been done here. Some sequences look made for the format: the helicopter’s arrival to the island, or the traversing of the perimeter fence; the T-Rex’s attack on the cars looks fantastic, although oddly enough, it’s the rain that I noticed more than anything. (Water comes off really well in 3D.) When there’s a lot of CG on the screen, the visuals can get a tad fuzzy, but the practical effects look just fine - and thankfully there are more practical effects in this movie than you’re likely to remember. Let me put it this way: I’m more eager than anyone to brush aside the converting of movies, especially older movies, into 3D, but the work done on JURASSIC PARK is highly commendable.
Truth be told, the 3D is incidental. It’s seeing it in the theater again that matters, with brilliance of ILM’s work unfolding before your eyes on a large scale and sound effects so loud you can feel every thump in your feet. You’re apt to notice things that you don’t pay attention in the hundreds of times you’ve seen it on your TV: I’ve never really given much of a look at Alan Grant’s trailer in Montana; how many times have you actually studied his workspace when John Hammond surprises him and Ellie? Or the details of the laboratory when Alan and the group watch the raptor being born? (Which is a terrific little scene; the baby raptor is a fantastic creation.) These environments we take for granted because we’re so familiar with the film, we’re probably not paying close attention to them. But when seeing JURASSIC PARK on the big screen, you have time to let your eyes roam and take in details you’ve long forgotten.
It’s likely that we take JURASSIC PARK for granted on the whole. We recall the big moments - the T-Rex’s epic entrance, the raptors on the prowl in the final third - but Spielberg’s entire movie is such an exciting rush and filled with plenty of minor enjoyable set-pieces. The scene where Grant rescues Tim in the tree and their mad dash to avoid the falling car, for example, is a nice little morsel of suspense that has nothing to do with chomping lizards (it also looks rather wonderful in its 3D state). And the race-against-the-clock perimeter fence climb is a wild little trip with a great punchline. Then there’s Nedry’s (Wayne Knight) funny/freaky encounter with the initially cute, ultimately horrifying dilophosaurus. (How the hell does it get into the car? Who cares!)
It’s really Spielberg's show from start to finish; he is at top form during JURASSIC PARK, tugging at our heartstrings in that effortless way he does, just to snatch those serene moments away to scare us to death. How lovely is the scene when the group finds the sick triceratops? Notice how subtly nasty is it when Hammond gleefully demonstrates how the raptors are fed. The adorable little meeting between the brachiosaurus and Alan and the kids has an easy snot gag at the end of it, and makes us laugh despite ourselves. But then how much fun is it to watch those two small kids live out a nightmare scenario as the devilish raptors (don’t they seem to smile?) come this close to eating them alive in the kitchen?
I realize now that much of this review is simply a fond recollection of my favorite moments. Well, that's just what seeing JURASSIC PARK 3D brings out. How many movies have so many memorable shots, sequences and pieces of dialogue? (Won't even list off all of those, but I'm still partial to "Hold onto your butts.")
It's a film like this that makes you glad you're a movie geek to begin with. Simply put, it’s a true roller-coaster ride of a movie; the ultimate thrilling summer blockbuster with ample doses of heart and majesty. I’d be a jerk if I ignored some of the other key players in the film’s success: John Williams’, whose score was an instant-classic as soon as you heard it; Dean Cundey, whose camera is always gliding and surveying, putting you right in the thick of it without overwhelming you; Michael Kahn, Spielberg’s longtime editor who corrals the action on the screen and molds it into something both dizzying and comprehensible (if only mega-budget movies nowadays were so well put-together.) So journey back to JURASSIC PARK as soon as you get a chance. You won't regret it.