It’s Jurassic Park.
I still have my toy T-Rex from 1993 — and it still roars! I know pretty much all of Jeff Goldblum’s lines by heart and am working my way through memorizing Wayne Knight’s. I, like many others, am still pissed that Muldoon gets treated the way he does.
Jurassic Park was the first “big” movie (well, outside of Tim Burton’s Batman) that I saw in theaters. I was too young for Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones, and I remember being at summer camp, talking to my parents on the one phone in the whole place, outside the administration center, hearing my mom and dad describe how amazing it was. Those damn three weeks couldn’t be over soon enough for me to get to the theater.
So it’s a personal, nostalgic favorite.
Unless you’ve been living in a bathtub eating spaghetti for the last 20 years, you already know the plot: eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has discovered a way to clone dinosaurs. There’s an accident, and his investors are concerned about the safety of the park, so Hammond invites paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), as well as even-more eccentric chaotician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) for a weekend stay. They discuss the philosophy of creating such a place, some kids show up, the dinos get loose and so does all hell.
Now it’s been converted to 3D, and pretty damn well.
Spielberg oversaw and approved the conversion by Stereo D, the team that similarly converted Titanic to 3D. And, as the press notes included in the screening invite often point out, a team of over 700 worked on the project, apparently rendering more 3D rain drops than have ever been put on screen. It also puts the bulk of its emphasis on the look of the dinosaurs, which still hold up effortlessly after 20 years. But I honestly don’t think the 3D adds any more to the thrills that were already there, perhaps because they were already there.
Moreso because Spielberg shoots much of the action from the point of view of the humans — when Ellie and Grant first see the Brachiosaurus; when Grant lights the flare to distract the T-Rex; the Gallimimus stampede — these are all iconic moments from the film, and they’re all shot with the animals in the background, from the eye level of a human. Don’t expect to see the T-Rex snap out of the screen at you, because that’s not how the movie was filmed.
And that’s actually a good thing for this conversion. The idea, at least as best we’ve been told, behind 3D is to make you feel as if you’re there, in the flick. And instead of throwing out a T-Rex’s toothy grin all up in your face, the application is more subtle: it’s used to bring out the locations, and excellently so. The opening shots of the Montana Badlands, even Grant and Ellie’s trailer, look spectacularly good. Spielberg learned from John Ford how to shoot locations, adding a sense of depth and majesty to the two-dimensional shot, here to 3D works in service of that, instead of demanding your divided attention. The helicopter drop past the waterfall; the journey into the park on the beige and red jeeps, even the dining room — superb.
Where it does feel forced is whenever any character in the foreground is out of focus. I remember one shot in particular when Hammond and the group are having lunch and Malcolm is sitting to left, his big, blurry, leather jacket jutting out of the screen.
It’s worth it to see Jurassic Park on the big screen, regardless of the gimmick. It works at times very well, and when it doesn’t, it’s not hopelessly noticeable, since the film is so well crafted to begin with. A little subtlety, in this instance, goes a decent way