Friday, April 05, 2013

JURASSIC PARK 3D Doesn't Quite Pop

Opening today at a multiplex near you:


(Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1993)

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, and to create franchise awareness for the big ass IMAX 3D event spectacular JURASSIC PARK IV set for Summer 2014, Steven Spielberg’s action adventure epic has now been outfitted in 3D for a theatrical re-release opening today.

That’s all well and good, but at the advance screening I attended, the image looked faded. 
The colors were much more vibrant in a revival screening I saw the same week of THE MUPPET MOVIE (part of the Cool Classics series at the Colony Theater in Raleigh), and that was an original 35 mm print 15 years older than JURASSIC PARK! 

I know, I know, it's digital and I can only speak for how it looked at the one screening I saw, so I’ll be curious to know if any other movie-goers experienced such a dim image. When I see TV spots for the film, the color looks over-saturated, as if to make up for the faded picture. But anyway, on to the actual movie.

I could tell from the feel of the packed auditorium (and overhearing some random chatting) that many there had not seen the original JURASSIC PARK before. It has been a long time since I’ve seen it in full, but it has been on television so often that I’m very familiar with large chunks of it.

The Spielberg sense of otherworldly awe, that shined blindingly in such classics as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND , RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and E.T., takes its last glorious gasp here.

The scene where Richard Attenborough introduces Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and the less famous kids (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) to the wide landscape of cloned dinosaurs still has jaw-dropping impact, but the 3D-ness present this time is only intermittently effective throughout the film (the shot with the T-rex roaring into the jeep mirror with the disclaimer “Objects may seem closer than they appear” is one effective in-your-face instance). But most of the time, I didn’t even notice it.

The storyline (based on the 1990 novel by Michael Cricton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Spielberg cronie David Koepp) hasn’t really aged well - i.e. billionaire Attenborough brings a team of paleontologists and scientists (Neill, Dern, Goldblum), and a blood-sucking lawyer (Martin Ferrero) to inspect his new cloned dinosaur island theme park, but things go wrong (thanks to the conniving ways of Newman from Seinfeld) and they spend the rest of the movie being chased by CGI dinosaurs - but does it matter with so many genuine thrills on display? No it doesn’t.

It also has a number of entertaining elements such as a pre-PULP FICTION Samuel L. Jackson (“hold on to your butts!”) as the park’s chief engineer, the before mentioned Newman (actually Wayne Knight) providing snotty comic relief (Goldblum provides the more egg-headed kind), and a great suspenseful sequence with the kids trying to escape from a few raptors in the lavish kitchen in the visitor’s center, so the film still largely holds up.

It’s not even that dated - I only noticed Knight drinking a Jolt Cola, and Richards identifying herself as a “hacker” reminded me how new a term that was 20 years ago.

However, over and over I could tell that in this new 3D presentation, the things that got rises from the audience (many of whom were kids) came from Spielberg’s film making drive being in fifth gear, not the 3D enhancement, which, as I said before, didn’t look very good.

If your kids haven’t seen it, or only seen it on TV, a matinee may be in order of Spielberg’s crowd-pleaser, but contrary to Attenborough’s repeated boasts throughout the film, it looks to me like they did spare some expense with this re-tinkering, so brace yourself for a picture that doesn’t quite pop.

Sigh. If only a 2D 20th anniversary re-release was an option at the multiplexes.

More later...

1 comment:

Chris Santucci said...

Cool call on the colors. I was lucky to see "Jurassic Park" in 35mm just two years ago for a fundraiser for the Nevermore Film Festival in Durham. Not only did the colors seem muted (even when compared to blu ray copy) but the films was dark. I was under the impression that 3D films were purposely brightened to compensate for the dimming effect of 3D glasses. But I guess I was wrong.