This past week, movies faced the loss of an icon. I am of course talking about the late, great Roger Ebert. For those of you that don’t know, Ebert was one of the most influential film critics of all time, advocating for low-key art films alongside crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Ebert was never my go-to critic when I was looking for movie reviews, but I remember that I was always impressed that, despite his seemingly highbrow attitude, he was always extremely objective and seemed to love big blockbuster movies just as much as artsy independent films. When I set out to do these reviews, I can definitely say it was for fun, but I also can’t say that it wasn’t because people like Ebert inspired me; Ebert was arguably one of the first to stand up and declare that films were art, something of which I am definitely a proponent. So it was with Ebert in mind that I went and saw the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, one of my all time favorite movies. Here’s the big question: How does it hold up, especially in three dimensions?
Jurassic Park has a plot that should be familiar to pretty much everyone by now, seeing as how it is a nearly 20-year-old movie. Still, for those who have never seen it, I will give you the basic idea: A millionaire has created a state of the art theme park where the main attraction are living, breathing dinosaurs, cloned from fossilized remains after extensive research. The dinosaurs aren’t entirely docile, however, and there have been accidents at the park; in order to get his company’s board of directors off his back, the visionary behind the park agrees to invite three experts—a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, and a chaos theory mathematician—to the park for the weekend so they can sign off on it. He also invites his grandchildren, the theoretical target audience for the park. However, not all of the employees at the park are scrupulous; when the architect behind the park’s highly sophisticated computer system, by which everything is run, decides to shut down the park’s security for his own purposes, all hell breaks loose … literally and figuratively.
I’m probably not going to go into the film’s acting/writing/direction in detail since, well, I’m pretty biased and the film itself isn’t called a masterwork of the genre for no reason. While it may suffice to say that while the characters may be a little thin, Jeff Goldblum still manages to steal the show as the snarky, hip chaos theorist who, very early on in the film, predicts disaster. Spielberg’s direction is top notch, providing thrills and quieter moments in equal measure, resulting in a film that has near-perfect pacing. Finally, the writing is solid, despite the aforementioned skimping on significant character development for a lot of the characters, but it provides strong man v. nature themes and explores the darker side of meddling with science and powerful technology. The film is a very good adaptation of the Michael Crichton technothriller novel of the same name.
I’m just going to come out and say it: the effects absolutely still hold up 20 years later. There was a brief moment at the beginning, when they first arrive at the park, where I was a little worried that the 3D and digital conversion, all rendered on the giant IMAX projector and screen I was watching it on, would show all the cracks in the film’s old CGI and creature effects. Those fears were misplaced; as the film went on I realized that I still absolutely believed that these dinosaurs were real. I don’t think higher praise can be given. Twenty years ago, the effects team for this movie knocked it out of the park. Today, that ball is still somewhere out in the stratosphere. Brilliant.
Speaking of the 3D and digital conversion: Jurassic Park has never looked better. The transfer was excellent, with a very sharp picture, vibrant colors, and excellent contrast and detail in the nighttime scenes. The 3D itself is one of the best uses of the technology that I’ve seen in some time; it’s a very understated effect that merely emphasizes certain scenes, such as the classic T. Rex chasing the jeep scene, while also giving the movie a greater sense of visual scale, thanks to depth effects. Visually, the movie is absolutely stunning in IMAX 3D.
All of this isn’t even counting the aural experience that is Jurassic Park. John Williams’ score for this movie is legendary, up there amongst his classic works like Star Wars and Indiana Jones; it is most certainly one of my favorite film scores of all time. The man is absolutely a master, his music fitting in perfectly alongside the film’s harrowing action scenes and its more reflective moments. The score’s central theme is one of the most popular and recognizable songs in cinematic history, and it sounds absolutely amazing in 12,000 watts of digital surround sound. Honestly, Jurassic Park is worth seeing for the IMAX audio/visual presentation alone.
I love Jurassic Park. I love the novel, and I love the movie. It’s a big reason behind my fascination with biology and genetics. I was only a few months old when this movie hit theaters back in 1993, so having the opportunity to see it in that setting, in IMAX no less, was a privilege and joy. To anyone who loves this movie, I absolutely recommend this experience. It might be pricey, but it’s entirely worth it. And despite some of his reservations on the film, I’d like to think Ebert would have agreed with me.
“If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on the screen.”
“Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”