Saturday, 6 April 2013

Jurassic Park 3D (1993) Review

This week, I got together with some old friends and new and went to see a classic from my youth that's been re-released to the big screen with a 3D conversion attached. Jurassic Park 3D (1993) stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum and it's directed by Steven Spielberg. 

Do I really need to do a summary for Jurassic Park? Sigh. Ok, here goes;


Moving right along. I know the title of my blog is The Bitter Critic and I know I tend to rant and rage about movies. It's kinda my thing. This, however, will be the exception that proves the rule. This, my friends, is nearly the perfect movie. 

First off, the movie is gorgeous. The island where the film is largely shot is rich with colour and vibrant with life. More importantly, Spielberg and cinematographer Dean Cundey do an amazing job giving you the exact shots you need to bring you right into the movie. Whether it's wide sweeping shots of the dinosaurs herding or claustrophobic shots inside a battered Ford Explorer while a T.Rex tries to chew through it, the movie doesn't waste a single opportunity to make you feel like you're a part of the story.

The soundtrack is pure John Williams and pure 90's fun. It's meant to be large and grandiose and it largely succeeds. Spielberg shows off why he's the progenitor of the modern blockbuster with his use, and sometimes lack of use, of the score. In particular, one of the best action/suspense scenes ever put on film is the initial T.Rex attack on our intrepid heroes. I didn't notice it 20 years ago, but there's no music playing in the background during this scene. In most films, the soundtrack for a scene like this would be there to prep you for dramatic, funny or suspenseful moments. It's just not needed in this scene and, in point of fact, would have detracted from it. Everything is accomplished with some rippling water and an insanely loud roar.

This movie may represent one of the best cast films of all time. Sam Neill is Dr. Alan Grant. It's difficult to imagine anyone else even attempting this role. His lines are delivered flawlessly in what had to be a very physically demanding role. He takes charge early in this movie and never really lets up. As an audience member, you totally buy it. This movie cemented Neill as a bankable Hollywood heavyweight. 

Laura Dern is amazing as Dr. Ellie Sattler. She's cheeky when the scene calls for it and deadly serious when the action does. More importantly, she never gets lumped into the "Damsel in Distress" category for Goldblum or Neill to come save. In fact, in a poignant scene late in the film when someone has to go turn the power back on, Ellie volunteers and Hammond objects, stuttering over the fact that she's not suited for such due to her having lady parts. Ellie gives him a quick dressing down and proceeds to go get the job done. There's never a time when she's relegated to second fiddle behind Neill. She holds her own and does it very very well.

Richard Attenborough is equally fantastic as John Hammond. At the time, Attenborough hadn't acted in a film in over 15 years. If there was any rust on the man, I sure didn't see it. His iconic line " Jurassic Park" will live on in cinema history as one of the best of all time. The line itself isn't all that iconic. Attenborough's delivery of it, is. Gives me goosebumps just writing it.

The child actors really nail it as well. Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards bring that innocence and wonder that's needed through a lot of the movie. While they spend a good chunk of the film tagging along behind Neill and Dern, they get to show off some acting chops during the kitchen/raptor scene. They carry that scene all by themselves and they do a superb job of it.

Jeff Goldblum is....well, he's Jeff Goldblum. 

I'd be remiss as a reviewer if I didn't touch on the special effects in Jurrasic Park. The use of dinosaurs in the movie was a mix of animatronic models built to full scale and computer graphics images, or CGI as it's more commonly known. If I had to nickpick anything about this movie as it was originally shot, it's that the mix between these two is very apparent on screen. CGI from 20 years ago was only so good. Proper shadows and texturing was difficult to render. As a result, you always know when you're looking at a CGI dinosaur or an animatronic dinosaur.  The scene with the brachiasaurus sneezing on Lex is the best example of this. While they're feeding and petting it, it's clearly a model. When it rears back and sneezes, it's clearly CGI. Having said that, the CGI actually holds up very well for a movie made over two decades ago.

That does lead me to my only real complaint for this movie and it's one that didn't exist 20 years ago; the 3D conversion.

I'm not sure the 3D really added anything to the movie. Sure, it helped bring better depth and life to the creations on screen, but it also became incredibly distracting at times. The conversion process usually works by leaving the background in 2D and bringing what's at the forefront of the screen into 3D. You can see this for yourself by taking off your glasses while the film is playing. This works great when you want the forefront images to be the focus of the shot. It works lousy when you don't. Some examples of this are:

  • The actors heads shot from behind as they watch the DNA cartoon when they first get on the ride.
  • Alan Grant's boot while they climb the electric fence.
  • A leaf right in front of Muldoon's face as he stalks the raptors.
  • The log Grant, Tim and Lex are hiding behind while the T.Rex attacks the gallimimuses.

These are just a few examples of what I'm talking about. There were times where I actually found myself moving my head to try to see around the object blocking my view. Not the best use of 3D I've ever seen but, let's face it, current 3D technology wasn't in use 20 years ago. This film was never intended as such. Were I to go to the cinema a 6th time to watch this, I'd want to watch a 2D version as it was originally intended.

That's it. I love this film. It's easily one of the best movies of all time and a cherished memory for me. I loved seeing it on the big screen one more time. It's going to lose half a star for the 3D conversion, though. Don't hate me. Hate technology.

4.5 out of 5 stars 
Jurassic Park 3D (1993)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Apr 06 2013
Rating: 4.5

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