JURASSIC PARK 3D: A Quick Review

In the summer of 1993 I was six years-old and unfortunately not old enough to convince my parents they should take me to see Jurassic Park when it opened on the big screen. While I was obviously in love with dinosaurs at the time ( I was six! C'mon mom and dad!) the most my parents could do to appease me was buy one of those National Geographic VHS tapes that was produced around the time of Jurassic Park's release so that they might make some extra dough considering the piqued interest in the subject. I can remember watching the documentary about the archaeologist's countless times and only imagining what the cinematic version of these kinds of stories might entail, but I was relegated to feeling left out when it came to that initial craze around Steven Spielberg's return to the Summer blockbuster. What made this opportunity to see the film on the big screen again all the more exciting is that even after twenty years of being available I never made it back around to sitting down and watching the film in its entirety. I'd certainly seen bits and pieces on TBS time and time again and even tried to sit down and watch the film several times after purchasing the trilogy on blu-ray last year, but despite seeing the third film upon its home video release in 2001 and never before touching The Lost World, I was anxious to sit down in a theater and for the first time watch the film all the way through and on the big screen no less. Suffice to say, it was completely thrilling to see the classic moments I'd always heard about come to life as well as coming to understand the mythology surrounding the film. Seeing these childhood aspirations brought to life on a scale I never thought I'd have the chance to experience it on was nothing short of magical. What was most surprising about the experience though was how little time seemed to have affected the final product. Sure, the technology was rather dated and the effects were spotty in some places, but never enough to take you out of the world and what a world it is to become so entranced with and to so easily want more from.

As the opening credits came across the screen and we were brought into the park that the great Richard Attenborough's John Hammond created the iconic John Williams score felt familiar despite never really investing in the film prior. It was all there-that classic Spielberg technique of being able to not just tell a story but present it in the best cinematic terms a director can. Whether it be the first time that Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) witness the living, breathing dinosaurs as Spielberg's camera dollies in to their highly expressive faces or as the director uses the objects around the characters to accentuate the rising fear as the tyrannosaurus rex approaches in the films most notable sequence. There is a sense of wonder and a sense of pure escapism to the film that is almost incomprehensible in today's movie-going experience. Still, what made this such an exciting movie to even want to see as a child was the fact it concerned dinosaurs and further, that it was a film that did justice to such a grand subject matter. This wasn't just a story of how dinosaurs lived when they roamed the earth and it wasn't even a live action version of the Spielberg produced We're Back that came out that same year (no coincidence there I'm sure) but instead it was the ideas of man vs. nature and how far was too far when it came to science, what became ethical and what became playing God. It was a fantasy without feeling like it had any other-worldly elements. It was a science fiction film coated with the wishes and crazy dreams of every young person in that generation who had a certain interest in this period of time on earth that existed over sixty-six million years before. It is a fascinating thought in and of itself that we as the human race are the second inhabitants of this planet and to bring the two life forms together would inevitably create some kind of tension. Spielberg explores these themes from the source novel by the late Michael Crichton while never losing sight of making the film a fast paced, funny and scary piece of pop entertainment.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex makes his presence known in Jurassic Park.
After watching this in theaters and completing it for the first time I was naturally eager to see what came next and so I immediately went home and pulled out The Lost World from that blu-ray collection and continued on the journey of Jurassic Park. While I was puzzled by the absence of lead protagonists Grant and Sattler I was glad to see Jeff Goldblum back as Dr. Malcolm as he was clearly the stand out of the original. While I had a hard time getting to like Grant throughout much of the film this was obviously necessary for his arc, but it always somewhat detracted from the fact we wanted the park to open and to work the way Hammond envisioned.  Malcolm was the character who held the opposing view of the audience while still remaining likable and thank God Spielberg had someone like Goldblum to juxtapose the sometimes overly-serious Neill. The Malcolm character was able to convey the intelligent viewers ideas to the rest of the characters and eloquently justify the reason the park was a bad idea while simultaneously serving as the comic relief-genius!

While The Lost World was widely panned it seems impossible to speak with someone who doesn't have a certain affinity for the original. It's not hard to see why as Jurassic Park is packed with thrilling adventure and several set pieces that accentuate why Spielberg is such a master of his craft. While it is impossible to critique the film in any effective manner and have no idea or expectation for the film before going in this late in the game, I was still able to enjoy the movie not as an exercise in formulating a written response to the project but simply as an enjoyable two hours in the theater free of thinking, free of worry and with the ability to let go and let that inner child who was never able to experience this film in its intended presentation comprehend the magic of Jurassic Park on the big screen. As for the 3D element, it added a certain depth and ferociousness to the handsomely created animatronics that are almost completely absent in today's special effects features, but overall only somewhat complimented what was already a more than solid thrill ride. It was almost as if I'd built up a false sense of nostalgia for the project given I wanted so badly to see the movie in 1993, but having not been able to made up my own version and so, in many ways, this first true experience with the film was a trip that conjured up reminiscent feelings while giving birth to an experience as fresh and new as I might have hoped it to be twenty years ago.