Jurassic Park, the last good adventure movie made by Steven Spielberg, has been re-released in theaters, but this time in glorious 3D! Actually, I’m not a fan of 3D. It’s gimmicky, it’s annoying, it doesn’t display fast-moving objects in the foreground very well, and (paradoxically) it can be distracting enough to prevent you from feeling as if you’re “in the movie.” However, the 3D transfer of this film is really well done and I actually enjoyed it.
In fact, Jurassic Park does not look like a 20 year old movie at all. It’s sharp and crisp, and since the effects aren’t outdated, this movie genuinely looks like a brand new release. I was surprised with how clean the movie looked and while the 3D didn’t really add anything to the movie, it didn’t detract from the experience, either. It looks like they actually put some thought into the conversion process and took real care in its composition and presentation. It only fails in a couple of scenes where, in an effort to force perspective, the actors appear to have been “cut out” of the picture and then re-pasted in front of a green screen. Other than that, I would call this 3D conversion a real technical and artistic achievement. It’s still a gimmick, but this is the first time I really didn’t care.
It was nice to see the movie again in a theater. I was 20 years old when it was first released and while watching it again doesn’t quite have the same sense of anticipation and wonder, I still found it to be eminently re-watchable. Instead of anxiously waiting to see the dinosaurs for the first time (back then, they never showed a single shot of the dinosaurs in the run-up to the movie’s release), I anticipated favorite moments like Newman’s squee! at seeing the fake Barbasol can:
Or the first Tyrannosaur attack. Watching the T-Rex step over the concrete wall and roar on a flat screen TV, no matter how impressive your sound system or how large your HDTV, cannot compare to seeing it on the big screen with 12.1 surround sound. Our leather seats vibrated in sync to the glasses of water on the screen and the T-Rex’s roar was pants-shittingly loud, clear, and terrifying. It’s the kind of immersive experience and nuanced sound design you don’t get with many of today’s movies, who overwhelm you with mind-numbing explosions and maxed-out bass.
Of course, the most anticipated moment was this one:
Both my son and I turned to each other and grinned when we saw this scene.
Overall, Jurassic Park remains a wonderful movie and a reminder of a time when Spielberg could still make fun, well-paced, adventure movies where you suddenly realize halfway through that you’ve been smiling the whole time. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I miss movies like this, and Jurassic Park was the last of the great 80’s adventure movies (it was released in 1993, but whatever). It’s ironic that the movie that ushered-in the age of CGI was itself the last of the truly great effects-driven adventure films.
Unlike today’s movies, where you never feel any sense of real danger or peril to the characters because you know they’re being chased by a fancy cartoon in a giant green screen room, Jurassic Park’s animals still look like they’re real things occupying real space, because they used mostly animatronic and in-frame effects augmented with CGI, instead of completely replacing everything with CGI.
Combined with excellent sound design, a great score by John Williams, and top-notch camera work, you actually feel tension and excitement when the “monsters” are on screen.
The 3D conversion is excellent, the movie is as good as you remember it, Jeff Goldblum’s naked, glistening chest will not be denied, and seeing it on the big screen in a nice theater can’t be beat. Check it out.
Addendum: I always wondered why Spielberg focused on the flock of pelicans flying outside the helicopter at the end of the movie. It’s an odd inclusion and it seems incongruous with the rest of the film. It doesn’t appear to be a callback or bookend to the beginning of the film, and it’s not just a superfluous shot of some pelicans flying in the light of the setting sun, as it initially seems to be. Spielberg goes back to a shot of a single pelican and lingers on it for several seconds, so there’s an intent there. I’ve never been able to figure it out.
It suddenly occurred to me that the final shot of the pelicans is a coda to one of the main themes highlighted at the beginning of the movie: some dinosaurs evolved into birds. We don’t need to recreate dinosaurs, because in a way they’re still here with us.
The last shot of the dinosaurs on the island featured the T-Rex roaring as the “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” banner fluttered down in front of it. It’s the culmination of a failed science experiment that tried to bring long-extinct creatures back to life and control them, but ended in chaos and tragedy because these creatures do not belong in this epoch.
The final shot of the pelicans reminds us that we don’t need to clone dinosaurs, because they’re all around us and in a form that’s evolved to live in our world. And maybe we should appreciate the world we have instead of trying to resurrect a dead one.